In May 1972, Gordon Matta-Clark installed an industrial container between two galleries in New York’s SoHo district. In it, he created an interior divided into three spaces and consisting of scavenged wood and discarded doors. An accompanying Super 8 mm film documented the happening: Matta-Clark and several other artists and visitors occupied the labyrinth of small rooms, which served as a multipurpose staging ground for unscripted activities and performances. Meanwhile on Fifty-Third Street, the Museum of Modern Art staged an exhibition curated by Emilio Ambasz titled Italy: The New Domestic Landscape. Nearly 200 manufactured objects such as chairs, tables, and light fixtures (categorized as “conformist,” “reformist,” or “contestatory”) were placed outdoors in the sculpture garden, while twelve commissioned “environments” were situated in the galleries.2

As a curator in the museum’s Department of Architecture and Design, Ambasz was undoubtedly aware of Matta-Clark’s work, as he was of the trend...

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