Artist Walead Beshty Shipped Glass Boxes Inside FedEx Boxes to Produce Shattered Sculptures

FedEx® Large Box ©2005 FEDEX 139751 REV 10/05 SSCC, Priority Overnight, Los Angeles-New York trk#795506878000, November 27-28, 2007

In this intriguing sculptural series spanning 2005 to 2014, LA-based artist Walead Beshty packaged his artworks in FedEx boxes and shipped them across the country to exhibitions and galleries. But unlike most artists who utilize every bit of care to protect and pad their artwork from the inevitable rough handling of mail carriers, Beshty designed his pieces to break. For his famous FedEx works he constructed laminate glass objects that fit seamlessly within the dimensions of standard size shipping boxes. Through the “normal” handling the objects would inevitably crack and shatter and it was up to curators and gallerists to carefully remove each piece for display. The fragile volumes were then given titles that specifically mention the date, tracking number, and box size of shipment.

Not only was Beshty fascinated by obtaining a “fingerprint” of sorts that documented the journey of each package to its destination, but he also found it curious that a corporation has the ability to copyright the exact dimensions of a box, essentially owning an empty shape. He shares in a 2011 interview with Mikkel Carl:

The FedEx works […] initially interested me because they’re defined by a corporate entity in legal terms. There’s a copyright designating the design of each FedEx box, but there’s also the corporate ownership over that very shape. It’s a proprietary volume of space, distinct from the design of the box, which is identified through what’s called a SSCC #, a Serial Shipping Container Code. I considered this volume as my starting point; the
perversity of a corporation owning a shape—not just the design of the object—and
also the fact that the volume is actually separate from the box. They’re owned
independently from one another.

Furthermore, I was interested in how art objects acquire meaning through their context and through travel, what Buren called, something like, “the unbearable compromise of the portable work of art”. So, I wanted to make a work that was specifically organized around its traffic, becoming materially manifest through its movement from one place to another.

Here’s a brief video of Beshty explaining the project during the 2008 Whitney Biennial. (via BoingBoing)

Fedex, 2005.

Image courtesy Arts on 5

FedEx boxes (various), 2008. Installation view, Signs of the Time, The Whitney Museum of American Art.

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