[Image: The window through which JFK was shot, recently purchased for over $3 million on eBay].
Leaving aside for now whether or not this is the real deal, the window through which JFK was assassinated has been purchased on eBay for more than $3 million.
“The starting price was just $100,000,” the BBC reports, “but bidding was brisk and the item eventually fetched $3,001,501.”
Why was it available for purchase at all? Well, apparently, “the window of the Dallas building was removed shortly after the assassination because people were stealing bits of it.” They presumably then took those bits home as macabre souvenirs – latter-day relics, perhaps carefully enshrined in secret temples to American history, next to devotional photographs of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.
No one is entirely sure, however, if this particular window is authentic; for instance, the BBC mentions a few “conspiracy theorists” who say that it cannot possibly be the real window – after all, they claim, “a man from Tennessee bought the building years ago and took the window with him when he left town.” What he did with it next just adds to the mystery.
Perhaps you’ve even looked through it, whilst visiting your parents’ neighbors in Memphis; or perhaps you saw a man with a Southern accent hanging out at a gas station in New Mexico, and he was transporting a large window in the back of his minivan. Looking closely, you saw that it was secured with several padlocks, and the man was carrying a stun-gun…
Perhaps this mysterious dealer in architectural fragments is actually amassing items for his future Museum of Assassination, in which pieces of architecture, historical documents, and associated weaponry will be put on display. A complete, hyper-realistic simulation of Dealey Plaza is being constructed out back.
[Image: A “building cut” by Gordon Matta-Clark, along with two “Bronx Floors”].
In any case, what all this actually made me think of was New York artist Gordon Matta-Clark‘s project “Bronx Floors.”
To produce artworks like these, Matta-Clark “would chainsaw large circles or other shapes in abandoned buildings and exhibit both a photograph of the building after the operation and the parts that had been removed” (emphasis added).
In other words, many of the “objects” that Matta-Clark displayed in New York City art galleries were really decontextualized fragments of existing buildings – including, of course, several Bronx floors. These mobile pieces of real architecture – a fever of walls and floors on the loose in New York City – became instant works of sculpture, somewhere between a readymade object, archaeological remains, and a kind of experiment in found architecture.
So what’s interesting about the JFK window, at least for me, is that it seems to exist – purposefully or not – as a Matta-Clark-like sculpture, a “building cut” if there ever was one.
Perhaps we may even find that Gordon Matta-Clark did not die of cancer at all – in fact, he moved to Tennessee, only to purchase, years later, a certain building in Dallas, Texas…
On the other hand, the auctioning off of JFK’s fatal window also opens up the possibility that we could chainsaw, chisel, or otherwise reclaim – i.e. steal – historically important bits of architecture, removing them from their original contexts and exhibiting them elsewhere. The balcony over which Michael Jackson dangled his baby in Berlin; the terrace from which Juliet addressed Romeo; the windows through which administrators were defenestrated in Prague.
Perhaps we could even re-assemble all these into a complete, if eclectic and quite controversial, new building – add the JFK window as the coup de grâce – and you’ve got a 21st century version of Sir John Soane‘s Museum in London.
But, of course, archaeology is full of such acts of structural burglary. Whole temples and friezes and doorways and rooms have been removed and transported elsewhere. Just ask Lord Elgin – or, for that matter, ask the Getty.
In light of all this, then, are we witnessing some new Lord Elgin of the 21st century, raised on the novels of J.G. Ballard, as he or she begins a new quest to collect pieces of architectural morbidity?
The sale of JFK’s window would thus be the opening salvo in this death-obsessed archaeology of tomorrow.