Inhabited for a Survey (First Floor Plan from Self-Portrait as a Building)


Writing materials, erasers, painting tools, scissors / 8 x 267 x 90 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago (gift promised by Donna and Howard Stone)

MM: I made this floor plan in 1986 from all the writing tools I had at the time. These served as the basis for a written self-portrait, which was to be formed collectively by seven imaginary persons in a building. It was to be a book without a beginning or an end, one that I would always have to keep working on. I thought it was interesting that it was a dry, formal floor plan, in which no movement whatsoever could be observed. I wanted to project a mental self-portrait into this floor plan, one in which everything would take place only in language. Making a self-portrait seemed to me the most fundamental thing to do. However, while writing it I found I did not like the idea of using written sentences to dictate to the audience exactly what they should think. I did not want the self-portrait to become really personal—it had to remain abstract. I became more and more fascinated by the physical manifestation of the floor plan: how I stood there before it as a human being; how tall I was in relation to the things on the ground; how the changing light transformed a ballpoint pen so dramatically; how I could bring my eye closer to an eraser and what then happened inside my head. This zooming-in created a breathtaking cinematic experience: I could move over these objects, and they dictated my thoughts with their color, language, form, and their indescribable physical coherence. I concluded that making a self-portrait in language was not the right thing to do. The world itself is more complex than the world of language which has been embedded in it. I decided to write the book not with words but with objects, and to embed the self-portrait in reality as an imaginary building.... If you write a self-portrait using objects, it will be read in a totally different way. Viewers—or readers—of the objects construct their own new thoughts, and the result is a self-portrait that is suspended between the maker and the viewers.
This floor plan was never really meant to be an artwork, it was more like a strange kind of writing machine. Now it is a work of art. It is used as an artwork.