Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

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.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Print + All Access Digital.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    The MIT Technology Review App

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.