Gianni Pettena

Tumbleweed Catcher, 1972

From April 1971 to March 1972, Pettena gave three performances with his architecture students from the University of Utah, where he was teaching as a guest professor: Clay House, Tumbleweeds Catcher and Red Line. Entitled The Salt Lake Trilogy, this project was envisaged as a “trilogy to be read as a metaphor for the contradictions of the contemporary city” (Gianni Pettena).

The artist performed Tumbleweeds Catcher in February and March 1972. Tumbleweeds are the bushes that dry up and break loose from their roots, rolling about pushed by the wind sweeping across the Great American West, and notably making many haunting appearances in the films of John Ford. In Tumbleweeds Catcher, Pettena was able to capture them thanks to a tower of scaffolding he had built in the middle of a vacant lot in the middle of town. Here, Pettena was once again pointing out “the work of the territory”: the tumbleweeds caught in the recesses of the tower immediately “naturalize” it, thus embodying nature’s revenge. Pettena would define this installation as a “strange skyscraper, a place of ambiguity as well as one of physical and conceptual clarity.”

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