Installations are hard to destroy. I believe the primary function of installations is, not just to occupy a space, but to redefine it. Over the summer, I destroyed two installations, and it was immediately obvious that their mark on space/time is hard to erase.
Actually, unlike destroying other kinds of work, the act of destroying an installation is closely related to the act of creating one. When an installation is taken down, the space reverts from what it had been back to what it was. The effect is jarring (just like walking into a familiar gallery, only to find it has been transformed by an installation).
I think this can be contrasted with removing a painting from a wall. Hung art has some sense of portability in its nature (even big paintings; we’ve all seen a huge painting and thought “how are they going to get this thing out of here?”) Hung art has something of decoration built in its nature, which is clear from the fact that we all use paintings/prints/sculptures as art in our houses. When you take a painting out of a room, the room is still the same. Maybe it’s emptier, but it is still the same room. Likewise, even the most over-bearing of paintings/photographs don’t change the essential nature or function of a room. An installation does.
So, how does destroying an installation help our understanding of the function of the work? By destroying an installation, you are actually participating in a transformative act. This transformation is returning the space to its original state. It is completing a cycle. The existence of an installation cannot be completely understood until it is gone. Only then will its effect be fully and completely evident. The destruction of an installation opens the door to is creation.