A View from John Maeda

A Goal of Impermanence

Michael Townsend creates large murals with masking tape. And when he’s done, he removes all traces of his artwork.

  • September 21, 2008

The other day I had the opportunity to sit with RISD alum Michael Townsend, whose medium of choice is … tape. Yes, tape. And not just one roll of tape. He uses thousands of rolls of tape to create his sidewalk constructions. What’s especially elegant about Townsend’s approach is that the goal of his “tape art” is to be entirely temporary. The tape goes up. The creative act is manifest. And then it’s completely removed.

Not unlike a sand mandala, Townsend’s tape murals represent a kind of activity for the sake of the activity and not the outcome. Most art seeks to last forever–to be completely permanent. By being permanent, monetary value can be ascribed. How does one attach monetary value to something that once existed, and then disappeared? I’m curious what an economist might say about all this.

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