Monica Bonvicini BUILTFORCRIME 2006

Monica Bonvicini
Built for Crime 2006
Toughened glass and lights
Approximately 1200 x 13070 x 350 mm
Courtesy of the artist and Emi Fontana Gallery, Milan
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial International 06
Photo © Tate 2006 © Monica Bonvicini

Spelling out the phrase ‘BUILTFORCRIME’, Bonvicini’s imposing sculpture of glass and light tests the functional remit of the material from which it is constructed – safety glass. The inner layer of each letter has received impacts causing it to shatter while still retaining its form. The statement of the text and the mode, or act, of production/destruction is a contradiction of the intended use of the material – not, of course, to be smashed.

This is not the work’s only paradox. Glass was the material of choice for great Modernist architects such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe and has become synonymous with the utopian visions presented by their buildings. Cracking it, Bonvicini has obliterated these ideals and the patriarchal underpinnings many have seen beneath them: the rectilinear quality of Le Corbusier’s windows has been read by feminist critics as strongly patriarchal. Yet the elaborate, fractured glass inside each of Bonvicini’s letters conflicts with its smooth, polished outer layers that have been left intact. The logic of the inner, smashed glass operates beyond the Modernist frame suggested by the outer surface, decentring it just enough to offer a critical toughness within the works’ sensual appeal.