Box Sized DIE is a public installation in a London banking district by Portuguese artist João Onofre. It’s a soundproofed, airtight black box. Inside, UK band Unfathomable Ruination will be playing death metal until they run out of oxygen, every day for most of July, starting on Sunday. The installation is part of the Sculpture In The City public art program by City of London.
This is the first time that João Onofre’s work, Box sized DIE featuring Unfathomable Ruination, 2007 – 2014 has come to London, having toured extensively through Europe at venues including Palais de Tokyo and MACBA. Influenced by Tony Smith’s pioneering minimalist sculpture Die (1962), the steel box serves as a mobile location for performance. In each location the sculpture travels to, Onofre invites a local Death Metal band to play, on this occasion Unfathomable Ruination. The box is soundproofed, determining and restricting the performance’s duration to the length of time in which the oxygen is expended. Outside the cube, viewers observe its strange vibrations, only viewing the band’s entrance and exit to the performance space.
ArtWeekly points out that the work mimics the exact proportions of Tony Smith’s 1968 minimalist work Die (right), with the band playing inside.
Bankers and other local Londoners will not be able to hear anything. Art F City argues that this is one of London’s “worst public art projects,” because “Passersby can’t hear them play, so what’s the point of choosing death metal over anyone else?” But there are many things we can’t see or hear directly from a sculpture. Onofre is charging the invisible core of the object with the specific force and drive of death metal. It’s black. It’s claustrophobic. It’s all angst. Of course it had to be black metal! Unlike most conceptual public sculptures, we know exactly what’s “inside.” Maybe it’s not the most subtle form of compacting tension and placing it into a public space, but I’m biased, so… \m/