Art, by Tonka

Posted November 15, 2007 in

A man, a building, a bulldozer: now that is my idea of art.

If kids aren’t interested enough in art, perhaps it’s because we don’t show them enough of it that looks like Jason Middlebrook’s “Live Building,” an interactive performance installation currently underway on Riverside’s Main Street. Over a two week-period which began December 4, Brooklyn-based artist Middlebrook and his team will dismantle the Wurms Janitorial Building—by hand. Best of all, their He-Man/She-Ra-like efforts will culminate in a big bulldozing finale Saturday, December 16. 

The Wurms building, long a fixture of the Main Street landscape, was slated to be torn down in order to make room for the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts. But it took the imagination of an artist like Middlebrook, whose work has appeared in New York, California, and London, to envision a wreck site as his canvas, a bulldozer as his brush. Dozers are—obviously—most often associated with destruction, wreckage, and sometimes environmental degradation. But “Live Building” is generative rather than destructive, and, like much of Middlebrook’s oeuvre, has a distinct environmental consciousness. During the building’s slow demolition, the artist will recover the rubble and fashion the usable pieces into functional furniture to be sold or given away. Comfort-wise, this stuff is only fit for a Flinstone’s ass, but you can’t beat it for uniqueness, or eco-friendliness. Part of the artist’s stated purpose is to reuse as much of the building as possible, transforming what would be automatically tossed off as “junk” into art, preventing it from becoming fodder for landfills. 

As its title indicates, “Live Building” also reminds us that architecture is a living aspect of the community. By giving the rubble “new life” Middlebrook has contrived a way for the building to literally “live on,” and, equally cool, for the Tonka kid in all of us to live on, too. Rock on, Middlebrook.

“Live Building.” Wurms Janitorial Building, UCR ARTSblock 3800 block Main Street. Free to the public daily through Saturday Dec. 16; bulldozer finale Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. For more information call 951-827-1467 or visit


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