The phase of the lifecycle of any project that we refer to as “depart” considers the final resting places for the materials used in the project. Departure attends to the sites where materials from projects go when they are no longer of use, value, or interest.

The moment of departure is inevitable for all projects. Whether a project is thrown away, acquired by an institution and then deaccessioned, or destroyed as a political act, in war, or in a natural disaster, every project will depart at some point. When an artist dies, their family members must confront the departures of all of their projects that have not been acquired. In this case, the projects might be taken to a landfill where, if they are biodegradable, they will decay. We ask that you consider this final departure in relationship to the whole life of any project.

Leigh Claire La Berge recounts the story of a willful departure by two artists who determined that the life of their project needed to come to an end:

Along with the Italian artist Blu, [artist Lutz] Henke produced two of Berlin’s most famous murals. As murals that have graced a thousand postcards and social media posts, these site-specific pieces had begun to star in a well-known story of urban spatial availability transformed into displacement.

As the Kreuzberg neighborhood has begun and no doubt will continue to host a revolving slate of ex-pats, as apartments have been transformed into investment properties and remediated back to an international, culture-consuming public through biennales and Airbnb, Henke and Blu made the decision to withdraw their images from public circulation. They covered the building-wide murals with black paint, all the while being booed by onlookers who were unaware of their identity and who no doubt thought they were real estate developers. One of their images (left) presents the so-called golden handcuffs of bourgeois existence. Here those handcuffs are accentuated by the capitalist temporality of the wristwatches. Too discomfited to be satisfied with their lot in life, yet too comfortable to risk changing it, those wearing the golden handcuffs wait and hope passively for a different scenario.

The pieces were created in 2008 as an antagonism and provocation; by 2014 Blu and Henke understood that their art anchored “a [Berlin] art scene preserved as an amusement park for those who can afford rising rents.” As anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the avant-garde knows, the path from artist-based rejection of commodification to artistic commodity is a well-worn one, and Henke describes perhaps the only available assurance that their murals would not continue to travel down it: the work concludes through its destruction, and who better to conclude it than its creators?

Download the full chapter: Depart as a PDF

Download Teacher/Facilitator Guides

  1. Future Project: Depart (worksheet)
  2. Past Project: Depart (worksheet)
  3. Historical Consciousness (worksheet)
  4. Every Project Deserves a Good Death (activity)
  5. Departure Event (activity)
  6. Honorable Harvest (assignment)
  7. The Final Departure Dictates Work (assignment)