Fragment / Part / Whole: Matter and Mediality in Michael Landy’s Break Down

Crisp, Lindsay Polly. 2018. Fragment / Part / Whole: Matter and Mediality in Michael Landy’s Break Down. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Fragment / Part / Whole: Matter and Mediality in Michael Landy’s Break Down)
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Abstract or Description

This thesis investigates Break Down by Michael Landy (2001), in which the artist’s 7227 belongings were systematically catalogued, dismantled and granulated. Break Down, it is argued, opens up alternative modes of engaging with materiality and mediality; this thesis explores an array of related concerns arising from the work. Landy’s process of fragmentation elicits an inquiry into concepts of part and whole, single and multiple. The granulated material produced during Break Down provokes an account, via Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of affect, of the fragment as narrative matter. Further, Break Down is considered in terms of its operations between the textual and the material. With reference to Friedrich Kittler’s account of media as distributed and multilateral entities, this text explores the conventions pertaining to two textual forms deployed by Landy in relation to Break Down; the instruction manual and the inventory. Finally, Landy’s father’s sheepskin coat, the final object to be shredded during Break Down, is the fulcrum for an appraisal of the thing as an extension of personhood, and of human subjectivity as in some sense ‘thingly’.

In this text, Break Down is constructed as an assemblage that operates at the intersection of a complex, mobile massing of currents and specificities; a framing that informs both the structure and the methodology of this thesis. Written, photographic and audio-visual source material is deployed here alongside close analysis of two important texts published by Landy in 2001 as accompaniments to Break Down itself: Michael Landy / Break Down, and Break Down Inventory. In addition, drawing upon Jane Rendell’s strategy of ‘site writing,’ passages of close observational writing are used intermittently throughout this text to relay what might in Deleuzo-Guattarian terms be called the becoming of the texts and subjects under discussion.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

This is an edited version of the thesis, with third-party copyright images removed.


Michael Landy, Break Down, belongings, materiality, mediality, assemblage, site writing

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


30 June 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 Aug 2018 15:45

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:13


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