John McCluggage calmly plucked his guitar Friday afternoon at Mark Arts, accompanied by the percussion of sharp shattering sounds.
Once his work had been smashed to bits, McCluggage instructed the smasher to drop the pieces into a large urn. After lighting a stick of incense and ringing a bell, the two shook hands and went their separate ways.
It wasn’t vandalism – he provided the hammer.
McCluggage, a 36-year-old Wichita ceramist, directed guests at Mark Arts’ Spring Art Fair on Friday to smash 57 of his pots – for a freewill donation – as part of a “collaboration with anyone who’d like to help,” he said. He’s calling the project “Reconciling Correlations and Contradictions Between Ego-Mania and Principle (Part 1).”
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“This is all work that I made a year ago for the last Art Fair, and I needed to bring the work to completion in a way that was more fulfilling than selling it, and this idea happened,” McCluggage said. “So far it seems to be going well. I’m surprised that it feels OK.”
All the pots smashed Friday represent “a couple months of work,” McCluggage said.
What about the lost revenue from not selling them?
“If my brain worked that way, yeah, you could think of it like that,” he said. “I don’t really think of it like that. I think of this as a way to finish the work, and that’s really all I’m concerned about is resolution and reconciliation.”
When a willing participant wandered into McCluggage’s booth, he would direct the would-be smasher to pick a piece from the shelf.
Then he would direct the smasher to an array of hammers, give the smasher an old-school welding mask, and encourage him or her to pound his work into tiny pieces.
After the pots were thoroughly pounded, McCluggage instructed the smasher to drop the pieces in a large urn, light a stick of incense and ring a hand bell – “but don’t put it down until it’s finished its song.”
Passersby who were unaware of his project looked visibly distraught to see and hear the intricate pottery being broken into tiny bits.
But McCluggage almost seemed happy to watch the process. All the while, he played an original guitar song, inspired by “listening to my peacocks squeal and howl and yelp,” he said.
By 1:30 p.m., about 40 pots had yet to be smashed. McCluggage said he would destroy the remainder of the pots himself if they were not taken care of by the close of the Mark Arts fair at 7 p.m.
At next year’s Mark Arts faculty show, McCluggage, who teaches ceramics at Mark Arts, said he will bring back the urn for Part 2 of the work. What exactly that entails has yet to be determined.