Earth Art Via Satellite

[via land+living]In the wake of Google Maps’ release, a few sites have started collecting coordinates and satellite images of various earth art works, including Spiral Jetty, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, James Turrell’s Roden Crater, and Walter deMaria’s Lightning Field.
Here’s my own contribution, a Google Map view of The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX. You can see Judd’s large concrete sculptures lined up in the field, the twin barrel vaulted warehouses with milled aluminum boxes inside, the arcing row of converted barracks-installations, and the Judd-altered gymnasium on the left.
Looking for Earth Art With Google Maps [petermorse.com.au]
Monumental Land Art [daringdesigns.com]
Chinati Foundation [chinati.org]

Bring The Spiral Jetty Into Your Home!

Do you ever wish you still had those Matisse Cutout posters from freshman year? Well, the good old days are back, my art advertising-loving friend.
BetterWall will sell you an actual, cleaned up, polyvinyl street banner from your favorite museum exhibition–or, if that one’s sold out, from some other exhibition you chose to make yourself look sophisticated– that’s ready for hanging right in your own home!
They’re cheaper than art, but hella more expensive than posters. But if you’ve got $300-1800 to spend, and you don’t want to buy actual art for some reason, BetterWall is for you.

Buy one of 30 Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty banners from the 2004 MoCA retrospective, $549
[betterwall.com, via nyt]

Don’t Book That Spiral Jetty Trip Just Yet

Recent record flooding in Utah has raised the water level (elevation, that is) of the Great Salt Lake to a five-year record high of 4,198 feet, enough to submerge the Spiral Jetty and scuttle any art world latecomer’s summer pilgrimage plans.
With mountain runoff, the lake is expected to keep rising through July.
Meanwhile, the rest of the artworld is in Venice, which is also sinking. Coincidence? I wonder.
Floods pump life back into lake [sltrib, thanks, dad]

Don’t Book That Spiral Jetty Trip Just Yet

Recent record flooding in Utah has raised the water level (elevation, that is) of the Great Salt Lake to a five-year record high of 4,198 feet, enough to submerge the Spiral Jetty and scuttle any art world latecomer’s summer pilgrimage plans.
With mountain runoff, the lake is expected to keep rising through July.
Meanwhile, the rest of the artworld is in Venice, which is also sinking. Coincidence? I wonder.
Floods pump life back into lake [sltrib, thanks, dad]

The Cattle Guards of Box Elder County

So how did there come to be street signs for the Spiral Jetty?
For years, the only way to see Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty was from the air, or in a photograph, or in the artist’s own making-of film, which was plenty for 99.9% of art worlders and normals alike.
When the Jetty first re-emerged from the Great Salt Lake in 1994, only a few people knew about it, and even fewer actually took the trouble to drive out and see it. But appetites were whetted, and conceptual art was intersecting with an Easy Rider-meets-Wild, Wild West road trip in just the right slightly adventurous, hip enough way that when it resurfaced again in 2002, visiting the Jetty quickly went from curator-esoteric to art-world-must-see to mainstream.

Continue reading “The Cattle Guards of Box Elder County”

Spiral Jetty: Still Spiral, Not a Jetty

dry_spiral_jetty.jpg, from Todd Gibson's From The FloorTodd Gibson‘s posting an extensive first-hand account of his recent visit to the Spiral Jetty, which, because of an ongoing drought, is now completely out of the water.
That’s fast. Some friends went in early July, and it still had water around it, although the Jetty itself was entirely walkable. [via bloggy]
Faithful pilgrims of contemporary art will also appreciate Gibson’s account of his visit to the Lightning Field. He does get around.
Related: Other Spiral Jetty and Smithson posts on greg.org
Post about a show that included the intriguing backstory of the official photographs of Lightning Field.

The Leonard Riggio Spiral Jetty Visitor’s Center, Valet parking to the right

Well, not yet. But after years of drought, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is so visible (and walkable), it’s getting so many visitors, the Dia Center is thinking: upgrades. Making the bone-jarring road more accessible; maybe adding some rocks here and there; getting it up out of the water so those pesky salt crystals don’t form on it anymore. As Michael Govan, the Dia’s director, notes, “The spiral is not as dramatic as when it was first built. The Jetty is being submerged in a sea of salt.”
“What we’re conceiving is an exciting, interactive, immersive Spiral Jetty experience. It’ll be educational, and entertaining. With the lake’s salt level where it is right now, you just float. You can’t actually immerse. We’re talking to some of the governor’s economic development folks about fixing that, though. They’re in Salt Lake. And IMAX. Can you imagine Smithson’s movie in IMAX? Oh, and we gotta fix that fence over there.”
Okay, I made that last paragraph up. Basically, all that’s happening is, they’ve surveyed the site, and they realize the Jetty won’t survive if 2,000 people walk across it every year. One potential benefit of rebuilding Spiral Jetty: Journalists might stop pretending it’s missing.
Related: Dia, the Baedeker for the Contemporary Art Grand Tour [bonus non sequitur: post includes the sole remaining excerpts from Plum Sykes’ outline for Bergdorf Blondes]
Update: check out John Perrault’s commentary at ArtsJournal In 25-words or less: “I knew Smithson. Smithson was kinda a friend of mine. A reconstituted Jetty, sir, is no Robert Smithson.”

Great Minds, etc etc

santa_croce_basilica.jpg
Arnolfo di Cambio et al, Basilica di Santa Croce, 1294-1442 [img via]
As the Artforum.com discussion of Nico Israel’s Spiral Jetty travelogue turned from my smug fact-checking to the romanticisation of contemporary art, E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View popped into my head. Just as Forster’s English followed Baedekers around Italy–from this altarpiece to that fresco, from Firenze to Rome to Venice to Ravenna–a Contemporary Art Grand Tour has taken shape where Artforum pilgrims can demonstrate their faith.

judd_marfa_milled.jpg
Donald Judd, Untitled, 1982-6 [image via]

In addition to Spiral Jetty, the CAGT includes: The Rothko Chapel; Walter deMaria’s Lightning Field; Michael Heizer’s Double Negative; Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation; James Turrell’s work-in-progress Roden Crater; the Guggenheim Bilbao; and my own heretical favorite, Richard Serra’s Afangar.
With Merchant/Ivory’s version of ARWAV firmly entrenched in my own movie worldview, I saw a vision of a hipster artist roadtrip remake. Sort of Basquiat meets Thelma & Louise, with Reese Witherspoon as Helena Bonham-Carter, Josh Hartnett as Julian Sands and Daniel Day-Lewis as, well, himself.
ANYWAY, it turns out the fashion world’s own Forster, English Vogue-er (and faux twin) Plum Sykes, may beat me to the intersection of Art & Film. Hintmag.com leaked the outline of Sykes’ book, Bergdorf Blondes (which just got picked up by Talk/Miramax Books for $625,000, not including movie rights).
The hot narratrix (calls herself “Moi”) dates, gets engaged to, and breaks up with the hot it-boy painter “Dan” (“Our heroine consoles herself that there is one thing worse than being disengaged to a person in a GAP ad, and that’s being married to someone in a GAP ad.”) [NB: Sykes dated, etc. painter/Gap ad star Dam(ian) Loeb.]; receives confidence-boosting advice as she pines for the hot LA filmmaker (“You are not superficial, you just look like you are because you wear a lot of Gucci.”) ; and hightails it home to En-ge-land, perchance to marry the Earl-next-door (“after bonking at the SoHo Grand”). Sounds pretty much like my movie idea.
Should I go ahead and develop it? Or would it be like when there were those two Dalai Lama movies out at the same time?

Placeholder: Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty, 2002. that's foam in the foreground and salt crystal everywhere else
Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty.avi [1.3Mb], c. 2002


This will be the entry where I write about our trip to the Spiral Jetty and post some amusing pictures thereof. It will be enlightening and insightful, yet not without wry humor. As it reverences the work itself, it will impress you and amaze you (in a quiet way) with our vision, dedication, and lack of condescension, and it will make you want to make the pilgrimage yourself. Ideally, it will ease your decision to keep an eye on me and my own artistic production.
(And by the way, I watched part of Glitter yesterday on HBO7 or whatever. It’s not nearly as good bad as I’d been led to believe. It was mostly just bad bad. Although a harshly critical eye could find some painful-to-acknowledge similarities between Mariah Carey’s inability to act and my own. I fear this aside will negate any benefit I could have derived from posting further about the Spiral Jetty. Maybe we’d all be better off reading my last entry or the critical comments I made on Artforum’s message boards.)

On Robert Smithson, film, and finding the way

The Spiral Jetty is back. Although it was submerged when we checked in July, my college senior sister said it was visible from the hill above it when she took a first date out to see it a couple of weeks ago (talk about a litmus test; it’s a 3+ hour drive one way, half on rutty dirt paths.) Sure enough, the SL Tribune has an article about it (Thanks, Artforum.) Read Smithson’s own comments on making the Jetty here.
Underwater or not, Geocachers have logged Spiral Jetty; it’s not surprising, given its off-the-mapquest.com obscurity, limited-but-not-prohibitive access, and non-mainstream nature. Geocaching would suit Smithson fine, I think:

After a point, measurable steps…descend from logic to the “surd state.” The rationality of a grid on a map sinks into what it is supposed to define. Logical purity suddenly finds itself in a bog, and welcomes the unexpected event…The flowing mass of rock and earth of the Spiral Jetty could be trapped by a grid of segments, but the segments would exist only in the mind or on paper. Of course, it is also possible to translate the mental spiral into a three-dimensional succession of measured lengths that would involve areas, volumes, masses, moments, pressures, forces, stresses, and strains; but in the Spiral Jetty the surd takes over and leads one into a world that cannot be expressed by number or rationality.

Geocaching examines the gap between the natural and the rational worlds, too, coming at if from the grid side. Spiral Jetty is locatable in grids, of course, including USGS satellite photos and via latitude/longitude coordinates, translated from GPS orbital data. But for geocachers, getting there is more than half the fun; the rush comes from “mapping” the “distance” between the two worlds.
Back in New York, Smithson sat down with friends to make his film about the Jetty.

Film strips hung from the cutter’s rack, bits and pieces of Utah, outtakes overexposed and underexposed, masses of impenetrable material. The sun, the spiral, the salt buried in lengths of footage… And the movie editor bending over such a chaos of “takes” resembles a paleontologist sorting out glimpses of a world not yet together, a land that has yet to come to completion, a span of time unfinished, a spaceless limbo on some spiral reels…[Editor Bob] Fiore pulled lengths of film out of the movieola with the grace of a Neanderthal pulling intestines from a slaughtered mammoth. Outside his 13th Street loft window one expected to see Pleistocene faunas, glacial uplifts, living fossils, and other prehistoric wonders. Like two cavemen we plotted how to get to the Spiral Jetty from New York City.

Smithson uses the road, going forward and backward (in time as well as place) to tie his film together. “The disjunction operating between reality and film drives one into a sense of cosmic rupture. Nevertheless, all the improbabilities would accommodate themselves to my cinematic universe.”
When I went to Spiral Jetty in 1994 (it’s first reappearance in 24 years), I was overwhelmed by how different experiencing the work in person (glistening salt crystals, cotton candy pink water, and that drive…) was from seeing it in pictures (aerial B&W on the last page of the art history text). Now it seems that that was the point. Mapping the distance between two worlds is what filmmaking’s all about.