The Caseros Prison Demolition Project -- 80,000 Tons, which contains 16 Tons and Aparecidos is the work of artist Seth Wulsin. It uses the defunct Caseros Prison of Buenos Aires, Argentina and its demolition as raw materials.
Sixteen Tons, the name of a popular song written in the late 1940s, referred to the amount of coal a miner was expected to load in a day, but in this context may refer to the amount of glass broken out through the installation, or de-installation, process.
80,000 tons is the approximate weight of the entire building, and the debris that the demolition produces.
According to an early press release on the project, "The focus that the art work activates opens forward in time through the future of the place, backward in time through the history of the place, and laterally through its present. But it really engages more than a three-dimensional coordinate system as it functions through the consciousness of the human observer. Thus, in some sense, anything that happens there, ever, now happens through the context of the art work. The artwork opens to function on every magnitude of human activity and consciousness in relation to the place."
The window grids on the north end of the former prison provide the locus and point of entry for the work. Each grid is approximately tall and wide. Breaking out certain windows, the artist has created faces in each of the 48 outer grids on the building. Each grid consists of 11 x 19 (209) circular semi-opaque windows, eight inches (203 mm) in diameter. The windows that remain reflect the light of the sky, the sun and the moon, producing images from certain angles that are completely a function of space and light -- the dark interior space of the prison, and the light shining through the optically reflective space of the remaining windows.
The pictorial space of each image is directed at different points on the ground where the sun reflecting in the windows is visible. The viewing angles change throughout the year as the sun's elevation in the sky changes.
In addition to the 48 outer window grids, there are also 48 grids facing inward, directly opposite the outer grids. They don't reflect the light of the sun from any possible viewing angles on the street, but the artist has worked with them as well.
The window grids were already in various stages of decomposition when Wulsin found the building, with almost a third of the total number of windows already broken out by inmates during various prison riots when the jail was still in use.
The cycle of appearance and disappearance that takes place according to the daily, monthly and yearly lunar and solar cycles, and the position of the potential viewer is underscored at a larger magnitude by the demolition process, which consists in the removal of the building from the top down, floor by floor. The demolition is expected to last until March 2008.
After discovering the prison in January 2006, while exploring the neighborhood of Parque Patricios, where he'd recently moved from New York, Wulsin spent four months navigating the bureaucracies of the national and city governments of Argentina and Buenos Aires, respectively, to gain authorization to enter the building and carry out the onsite work. The resolution authorizing the project was finally signed on Friday, June 16 (Bloomsday), 2006 by Minister of Public Works of the city of Buenos Aires, Juan Schiavi. The security tarp made by Wulsin to direct broken glass back inside the building was blue and white (the colors of the Argentine flag), and painted with the hot air balloon logo of the local Parque Patricios soccer team Huracan. "The Huracan banner is as important to the content of the piece as anything else", says Wulsin. "The combination of the team name Huracan with the logo of the hot-air balloon could be one of the most successful unintentional works of 20th century art." The five weeks of onsite work were completed on Marcel Duchamp's birthday, July 28. But the project itself is ongoing through the entire demolition process of the building.