How to break a stone – in five easy steps.
1. Move your mind ... example:
i. Is the breaking of stone (or any material or space, for that matter) catastrophic or transformational? How is the view of the break changed when – additionally or solely – labeled "creative,” or "purposeful,” or "random,” or "predictable,” or "warranted,” or "gratuitous,” or "liminal,” or "signified?” (… to list a few common viewpoints) What are the criteria to judge such a label?
ii. What is the level of tragedy that is depicted in a specific break; or is the depiction a revolution, a rupture, or a salvation – however necessary, temporary or unexpected? How mediated would these outcomes be?
iii. More generally, what is the characteristic of the conflict that sustains the action, allowing it to be carried out – or is it really about an emergence of cooperation among various forcings?
iv. How can an initial read of the basic forms and actions that I deal with be reconciled with the deep geologic time and the wide historic import of stone and be brought into an epistemological rather than just a phenomenological discussion – and, really, how can the seriousness of these questions include a comic and humorous framework because of the unique demands of the human psyche?
v. How does one move beyond the break – and beyond the tragic, the revolutionary, the ruptured, or the saved; the label, the criteria, the judgment: and to what end? Is there even an end (!?) and, if so, how strategic is it?
2. Move your body ... examples: HERE
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 … until the right stone presents itself.
4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with chosen stone … until the method becomes clear.
Samuel Nigro is currently on step 3, and presents a selection of work below, ending with one of his earliest breaks from a performance in 1996 called Moving Stones:
I incorporate a 7-ton granite block into the Socrates Sculpture Park by embedding my legs into the block. Splitting off the top two-fifths and breaking this part in two, I carve out depressions so that, when I stand on top of the large piece and place the parts back together, the granite conforms around my legs, locking them in place.
Harnessed with only a rope and a plywood and stainless steel structure, I drag the boulder with camera in tow approx 3.5 miles from the Sculpture Center’s old location in Manhattan across the Queensboro Bridge to its new location in Long Island City. Whether using sophisticated tools or urban streets, the beginning process of polishing a piece of stone is the same: grind the surface down.