At home with artist Michael Landy: The artist who destroyed all his possessions

Updated 14th March 2016
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At home with artist Michael Landy: The artist who destroyed all his possessions
Written by Malaika Byng, The Spaces
This article was originally published by The Spaces, a digital publication exploring new ways to live and work.
You would be forgiven for thinking that artists Michael Landy and Gillian Wearing had just moved into their home in London's Shoreditch. Only the bare minimum of furnishings -- beds, a table and a few chairs -- pepper the spacious former warehouse.
This sparsity is no surprise given the artist famously destroyed all his worldly possessions in 2001. Break Down -- a performance piece inside an empty store on Oxford Street -- saw all 7,227 of them reduced to pulp.
We quizzed Landy about his four-storey home, where he is busy plotting his upcoming retrospective at Basel's Museum Tinguely.
What does a home mean to you?
Michael Landy: All I really wanted was a space to think, which is hard to come by in the city. I do most of my thinking in the studio downstairs. The "making" happens in our other studio on Vyner Street [also designed by Marta Nowicka], which is the messy space. I say "messy" but I mean messier. Gillian and I like order.
My mum is an avid cleaner -- she's a Catholic, which probably has something to do with it. She likes to clean until she erases things and I've definitely picked up some of that trait.
Has your attitude to possessions changed since you destroyed all your possessions?
Yes, because it becomes a big weight around your neck if you're going to traipse around in Western society without any possessions. I needed the basics to carry on living and working. But for me, bringing something into the house is a big psychological and intellectual issue. Which is absurd, I know. That's why we don't even have a barbecue set and we have to sit on the ground if we go out onto the terrace...
If you could inhabit any space in any building across the world besides your own, what would it be?
I like ruins (if you can call them buildings). That's partly to do with my attraction to destruction and also because I like waste and leftovers. I'm intrigued by what we think about waste and the value we attach to it. I find broken concrete and bits of wire protruding from walls really beautiful.
'"Michael Landy: Out of Order" opens at Basel's Museum Tinguely on 8 June.