It's been a criminology commonplace for three decades: if a broken window isn't mended quickly enough, others will soon follow, eventually leading, the theory goes, to the building's dereliction and an increase in local delinquency. Moral: tackling small crime prevents more serious offences.
For his piece "Telling The Truth Through False Teeth," Alex Chinneck has now turned the tables on the idea, creating a beguiling piece of public art composed of 312 broken windows. Having located an abandoned factory at the corner of Mare Street and Tudor Road in Hackney, East London, the Chelsea College of Art and Design graduate spent four months removing every single glass pane making up the ten windows at the front of the building. He then replaced them all with the identical reproductions of a smashed glass panel he had found on site.
"There is something mesmerizing about the way light catches a broken window pane," said Chinneck, "not only is the glass shattered but so is the reflection." He added: "This project always evolved with consideration to sculpture, architecture and engineering but ultimately I like the simple idea of performing a magic trick on such a scale."
Although local residents are said to have dubbed the artist the "Banksy-14779">Banksy of Glass," Chinneck's intervention, with its grid motif and stubborn seriality, has more to do with the visual lexicon of minimalism. Yet it's a humanized kind of minimalism, infused with the reality of a post-industrial cityscape, and the rampant social discrepancy coming in the wake of the East End's rapid gentrification.
Like Rachel Whiteread's legendary cast of an abandoned Victorian terrace, "House," demolished the year of its construction, Chinneck's intervention has the charm of the ephemeral: the piece will exist only until the factory is demolished next November. But even after then, it could well remain as a fictional landmark. "Telling The Truth Through False Teeth" has the potential to become the stuff of urban legend.
"Telling The Truth Through False Teeth," Alex Chinneck in association with Sumarria Lunn Gallery, corner of Mare Street and Tudor Road, Hackney, E9 7FE, until November 2012