So How's That Spiral Jetty Doin'?

Is he done? I think so. Tyler Green has turned Modern Art Notes into State of Spiral Jetty Notes this week, and it seems clear to me that the biggest entropic threat Smithson's masterpiece faces is not natural, but institutional.

Green looks at the mining and commercial interests with development plans for the Great Salt Lake; Utah state government officials who court industry and economic development and who are only beginning to grasp the Jetty's global significance; local conservation and environmental groups whose shoestring grassroots efforts were the only thing that stopped the oil drilling near the Jetty this past spring; and last and unfortunately least, Dia, the art institution which is steward--and in many cases, commissioner--of many Jetty-vintage earthworks.

I wonder if it means anything that Smithson's widow and estate representative, Nancy Holt, isn't really discussed or quoted in the otherwise exhaustive series? Or that there's no mention of Dia's total ball-dropping in regard to the state's apparently unilateral decision in 2006 to "clean up" the shore line near the Jetty, a process which involved removing several dozen truckloads of "junk," including some industrial ruins that Smithson referenced in his siting of the piece.

Dia's lack of involvement and strategic vision for the Jetty is complicated at the moment by the institution's own turmoil and leadership transition, but I can't help but feel worried even calling Dia an "institution." Even under Michael Govan's high profile leadership, Dia has always felt like a virtual organization, an instantiation of the whims of whatever deep-pocketed funder was around at the moment. [Wow, was MIchael Kimmelman's look at Dia's manic history really from 2003? It feels much longer ago than that.] The kinds of political and coalition-related imperatives that Tyler discusses--and on which the Jetty's very survival apparently now hangs--seem completely alien to a bauble like Dia.

MAN Series on Preserving Spiral Jetty [modern art notes]
Oil drilling was part of the picture when Smithson sited the Jetty
Cleanup crew: 1, Entropy: 0
Related rumination: What if sprawl is the real entropy?

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: September 26, 2008.

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