Erasures. (Not Erasure, much as I love synth-pop.)
October 22, 2015 8:09 AM   Subscribe

For something I'm writing, I am looking for examples of erasures. I already have literary erasures taken care of (like Mary Ruefle's A Little White Shadow). I am not interested in historical redactions sometimes called erasures ("the erasure of slavery from history books"). I do want examples like the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum and the blank spaces on the walls where stolen paintings were. Architecture, audio recordings, scientific anything, art, and other fields are welcome.
posted by mermaidcafe to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can't get much more erased than Robert Rauschenberg's Erased de Kooning Drawing.
posted by pullayup at 8:15 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Watergate tapes?
posted by Melismata at 8:48 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

This might be too historical, but Stalin and a bunch of North Korea dictators were very fond of removing people from history. Usually by editing photos, histories, etc. Similarly, back in Ye Olde Past, it was not uncommon for Romans and Pharaohs to attempt to change the past by removing inscriptions, statues, etc.

Infamously, the BBC has destroyed several early episodes of Dr Who. Also, a lot of the early films were destroyed, since the silver content was worth more than the movies.
posted by Jacen at 8:50 AM on October 22, 2015

What about Gordon Matta-Clark.
posted by brookeb at 8:51 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure whether this would fit your criteria, but here are a couple interesting Medici overpaintings
posted by bq at 8:53 AM on October 22, 2015

Also you should do some research into South Asian miniatures. When Islamic rulers took over medieval Persia and India they had the faces erased in many of the miniature paintings.
posted by brookeb at 8:59 AM on October 22, 2015

How about reverse graffiti where instead of painting or marking the artist selectively cleans to create an image? The references section on the Wikipedia page has some media coverage and Google Image Search has plenty of images of both wall/street art as well as the "clean me" drawn on a car variety.
posted by metaphorever at 9:04 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

there was an earlier question here about ghost buildings - i can't find it now, but the image search has some examples.

edit: maybe also, the disintegration loops.
posted by andrewcooke at 9:04 AM on October 22, 2015

The photographic work of Taiwanese artist Yuan Goang-Min -- City Disqualified where the people, cars, etc. have been removed.
There's also Jenny Holzer's War Paintings, including some shown in Venice this year.
I also remember artists in the late 80s making photocopies of photocopies until nothing is left (in this vein I think there are works made with Google translate -- translating until the original is gone).
As well there's the meme-type removal of men from images of world politics (this one for example, though there's better ones).
posted by bwonder2 at 9:29 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here's a silly artistic erasure.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:35 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

The meta-animation of Looney Tunes' 1953 "Duck Amuck" has some notable erasures. This is the highest-quality video found in a cursory search. Wikipedia, TCM writeup.
posted by mean square error at 9:45 AM on October 22, 2015

The old Penn Station in New York, erased by the erection of Madison Square Garden on top of it?

It used to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Now it's like a grim basement.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 10:32 AM on October 22, 2015

Also, The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, an early Miranda July classic.
posted by pullayup at 10:38 AM on October 22, 2015

This might be too historical, but Stalin and a bunch of North Korea dictators were very fond of removing people from history.

And putting them in. It's widely accepted that this photo of Stalin and Lenin is doctored.
posted by Melismata at 10:45 AM on October 22, 2015

Jetpens Eraser Guide, includes eraser tests with erasures.
posted by Rob Rockets at 11:00 AM on October 22, 2015

oo, here's a good graffiti one
posted by bq at 11:09 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

The online resources produced to accompany the recent Tate Britain exhibition, Art Under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm, might be of interest. On artistic erasure, see for example: The missing figures in Canterbury's stained glass.
posted by verstegan at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2015

Porn Interiors

Porn with the people removed. It was done better by amateurs years ago on a blog as primarily a funny way to look at horrible design choices, but their work is sadly gone and you have to settle for this "artsy" version
posted by bobdow at 2:29 PM on October 22, 2015

In his book called The Library at Night, Alberto Manguel has a chapter called Library as Oblivion, which talks about libraries that have been destroyed for various reasons.
posted by Buddy_Boy at 3:49 PM on October 22, 2015

The everyday erasures of the past by ordinary progress. This is obvious as relates to structures and neighborhoods (my childhood home was torn down), but also relates to organizations, traditions, etc.

Places can be erased by storms or fires.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:55 PM on October 22, 2015

Best answer: This is exactly what you are looking for: the "voids" in the Libeskind Building at the Jewish Museum of Berlin.
For Libeskind, "The new design, which was created a year before the Berlin Wall came down, was based on three conceptions that formed the museum’s foundation: first, the impossibility of understanding the history of Berlin without understanding the enormous intellectual, economic and cultural contribution made by the Jewish citizens of Berlin; second, the necessity to integrate physically and spiritually the meaning of the Holocaust into the consciousness and memory of the city of Berlin; and third, that only through the acknowledgement and incorporation of this erasure and void of Jewish life in Berlin, can the history of Berlin and Europe have a human future."

A line of "Voids," empty spaces about 66 feet (20 m) tall, slices linearly through the entire building. Such voids represent "That which can never be exhibited when it comes to Jewish Berlin history: Humanity reduced to ashes."
They are very arresting and deeply memorable.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:27 PM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

Jacen: This might be too historical, but Stalin and a bunch of North Korea dictators were very fond of removing people from history. Usually by editing photos, histories, etc.

I could have sworn there was a word for this revision of records, most notably seen with this photo of Stalin with fewer and fewer people as they fell out of favor with Stalin's regime, until Stalin is alone, but the Wikipedia page is called Censorship of images in the Soviet Union, which has more before and after examples. This is something of a dishonest sanitization of information.

Similarly, back in Ye Olde Past, it was not uncommon for Romans and Pharaohs to attempt to change the past by removing inscriptions, statues, etc.

Ah, and here's the term: Damnatio memoriae, or "condemnation of memory", which is a term used both for historic and modern erasures, as done by Soviets.

Infamously, the BBC has destroyed several early episodes of Dr Who. Also, a lot of the early films were destroyed, since the silver content was worth more than the movies.

Old film had it rough. Wiping, where recorded media was cleared to be re-used, was fairly common for decades because people who kept that media didn't see a value in retaining the recorded images and sounds. Then nitrate film was recycled for its silver content, and at other times spontaneously ignited, especially in the abnormally hot summer of 1949.

Sir Richard Burton's wife burned much of his papers, and manuscripts following his death on October 20, 1890, so countless records and writings by the notable explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat were lost.

After a series of traumatic events, Eliza Hamilton, wife of Alexander, burned her writings and stripped her narrative from history.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:57 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Richard Galpin's work, including this essay, Punctuation Series, excised photographs, and Eddie's legacy.
posted by recklessbrother at 9:52 AM on October 23, 2015

Marie Antoinette's daughter that died as an infant was erased from a portrait. Her brother is kind of urging you to look in this now empty bassinet.
posted by ReluctantViking at 11:12 AM on October 23, 2015

On the low-brow popular/web culture side of things, there is "Unnecessary Censorship". Perhaps popularized most by Jimmy Kimmel.
posted by Kabanos at 12:17 PM on October 23, 2015

Canadian artist Nadia Myre has two related works that might interest you.
First, Indian Act:
Indian Act speaks of the realities of colonization - the effects of contact, and its often-broken and untranslated contracts. The piece consists of all 56 pages of the Federal Government’s Indian Act mounted on stroud cloth and sewn over with red and white glass beads. Each word is replaced with white beads sewn into the document; the red beads replace the negative space.
From the Washington Post:
The beading gives some sense of a crossing out, of a denial and repudiation of the content of the act. You could see it almost as a turning back of the clock, transforming a legal document into a traditional decorative textile, and asserting the power of Indian craft over European law. But meticulously decorating the document also evokes a certain sense of respect for it. You tear up a text you hate, you don't spend vast effort making it more beautiful. There's some sense that, in their beautification, Myre and her collaborators have decided to make the Indian Act their own, for better or worse.
She re-purposes these pieces again in a later, even more dramatic work, Orison. Photographs of the backs of the pages reveal the threads that tie the concealing beads together. From an exhibition essay [pdf]:
On these black plates that melt into the surrounding space, white thread materializes the beaders’ impassive gestures. The marks are the signs of a primordial language, of words yet unspoken. It lets out an orchestrated whisper of voices chanting the scars’ written secrets. They are the sound and breath needed to exult. Breath out.
posted by Kabanos at 1:03 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a stretch, but is John Cage's 4′33″ a kind of "performance erasure" given that the composition is preformed by a group of players not playing.

In SpongeBob Squarepants, the episode Frankendoodle involves a drawing which comes to life by magic pencil and can be fought with the eraser. It is a worthy successor to Duck Amuck, already mentioned.

Agrippa, The Book of the Dead, from 1992 was expressly a work of literature which would erase itself as it was read.

Native American sandpainting has the ephemeral nature -- they are temporary, and will be destroyed -- as part of the ritual.
posted by artlung at 4:22 PM on October 23, 2015

It's a sub genre of fan edits to remove everything but the wordless bits of movies and tv shows. Some examples from LOTR, Twilight, James Burke documentaries, and the news.
posted by ardgedee at 6:39 PM on October 23, 2015

The most recent Black Mirror is about that. Extra bonus Jon Hamm.
posted by mrfuga0 at 9:12 PM on October 23, 2015

Removing the patina from the scrota of bronze horse statues might count.

Similarly, but not involving testicles, well meaning folk sometimes clean the patina off of silver pieces, including the stuff that's meant to be there.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:04 PM on October 23, 2015

As mentioned, the photographic erasures in official history comes to mind. Before the recent era of digital photo editing made it seem normal, it was always rather shocking and complete proof of an evil government.
posted by Brian B. at 10:51 PM on October 23, 2015

There is the Nasothek, the collection of replacement noses first added and then removed from sculptures with bused noses. (I'm personally against removing noses from sculptures.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:01 PM on October 23, 2015

An interesting comment from Eleanor Roosevelt.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:57 AM on October 24, 2015

Erasure of Amenhotep/Akhenaton, husband of Nefertiti, from art, walls, obelisks and papyrii

Following Akhenaten's death, change was gradual at first. Within a decade a comprehensive political, religious and artistic reformation began promoting a return of Egyptian life to the norms it had followed during his father's reign. Much of the art and building infrastructure created during Akhenaten's reign was defaced or destroyed in the period following his death, particularly during the reigns of Horemheb and the early Nineteenth Dynasty kings. Stone building blocks from Akhenaten's construction projects were later used as foundation stones for subsequent rulers' temples and tombs.
posted by infini at 8:54 AM on October 24, 2015

In terms of architecture, there's a flickr pool of medianeras photos, which document the sides of buildings where traces of demolished neighboring structures are exposed and visible (marks remain showing the location of stairwells, interior room colors, wall and ceiling connections, etc.). I believe it was started by a single artist 8-10 years ago, whose name escapes me.

There's also the rather famous erasure of the failed modernist Pruitt-Igoe housing projects in St. Louis. Whether you consider this one a redaction or erasure depends on how you think about the site itself, which is now an vacant lot / informal urban wilds.
posted by marlys at 11:24 AM on October 24, 2015

Oh and there's also artist Bill Morrison's film Decasia (somewhat akin to The Disintegration Loops music mentioned above).
posted by marlys at 11:32 AM on October 24, 2015

Matthias Fritsch's documentary about Technoviking has a significant erasure of the protagonist (previously). Similarly, Doug Aitken's music video memoriam for LCD Soundsystem's "Someone Great".
posted by progosk at 6:59 AM on October 25, 2015

Though perhaps black-out (used in the two videos above) doesn't map precisely to erasure?

Elsewhere: erasure poetics, meta-erasure poetry; Schönberg on the eraser (as recorded by John Cage), and some instances perched between music and poetry; colonizing erasures in toponymy.
posted by progosk at 7:22 AM on October 25, 2015

On Picasso's The Old Guitarist:

Recent x-rays and examinations by curators found three figures peering behind the old guitarist’s body. The three figures are an old woman with her head bent forward, a young mother with a small child kneeling by her side, and an animal on the right side of the canvas.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:37 AM on October 26, 2015

posted by dizziest at 5:36 PM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

China Miéville's political thriller with murder mystery interruptions, The City and The City, takes place in a divided city (such as Jerusalem or Sarajevo) where each ethnic group "unsees" the other. Two societies develop selective visual and auditory gaps sufficient that each group can believe it is in control.
posted by Jesse the K at 6:33 PM on October 26, 2015

I am always fascinated by palimpsests (a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain) , like the Archimedes Palimpsest . There's lots of examples of architectural palimpsest, too.
posted by readery at 9:19 AM on October 27, 2015

I was going to mention 'palimpsest', too.

In the early days of television, videotape was expensive, so television producers erased a lot of shows and recorded other shows over them. It is difficult to find old recordings of Romper Room because they reused the tape after every broadcast. Wikipedia has an article about the 97 of 253 episodes of Dr Who have gone missing that Jacen mentioned.

There's the memory hole in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. And the firemen who set fires to books in Fahrenheit 451.

The wikipedia article about the burning of the Jaffna Library led me to a broader article about biblioclasm, the destruction of books.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 5:46 PM on October 27, 2015

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