Thursday, April 30, 2009

Roden Crater Part 2

James Turrell, Roden Crater

"I make spaces that apprehend light for our perception, and in some way gather it, or seem to hold it. So in that way it’s a little bit like Plato’s cave. We sit in the cave with our backs to reality, looking at the reflection of reality on the cave wall. As an analogy to how we perceive, and the imperfections of perception, I think this is very interesting."

If I have any expectations for this I like to imagine lying in the crater on a bright sunny day, looking up into the blue sky above and seeing a perfect geometric form similar to all the flawless shapes I've ever seen in Turrell's work. I'd like to see a bird flying over or a cloud float by or maybe the trail of an airplane dissipating into the atmosphere. I'd like to come back with a story, a personal reference that completes the work much like the event that took place when I brought my class to The Light Inside at the MFAH and the person pushing his friend on the wheelchair looked up, was startled at the 28 people walking toward him, and dumped his friend over the edge into the artwork. I don't need to repeat that incident but something that will take away the elements of spiritualism and bring it back down to earth, something to remember it by besides the chills I hope to feel when I finally see the work I am most excited about.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Myth and Spiral Jetty

I was reading an essay by Maurice Berger in Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations 1979-2000 and the information below was mentioned. Smithson referencing the "powerful whirlpools of a mythic past" intrigues me because it focuses on the idea of combining storytelling, art and place. We don't always read about these references because they are much more commonplace then the concept of entropy and the Minimalist aesthetic of stripping all of this away. Part of me wants to find the story and give it its place or more precisely, help to make the artwork mine. Maybe I want to appropriate an earthwork ... not a photographic image of it but the real thing? And what would that resemble? What would that BE?

The two paragraphs that caught my eye are below.

“The site-specificity inherent to the earthworks of Robert Smithson, Robert Morris, and Michael Heizer, for example, relates not only to their specific location on a parcel of land outside of art world contexts, but also to their direct relationship to the social, cultural, ecological, and mythological history of their site. One important aspect of land art, land reclamation, represent an important example of the allegorical in art, because, like many allegorical paintings and stories, it incorporates ruin as a kind of metaphor of cultural decay. Land reclamation projects allegorize the ecological decline of a particular area through a similar, self-conscious relationship to the archeological or geological remains of a ruined past – an allegory that ‘merges physically into its setting… embedded in the place where we encounter it.’ Such earthworks are predicated on a rigors examination of the geological, socio-economic, and often mythic history of their site. “

“’The occurrence of a huge interior salt lake,’ writes Rosalind Krauss of Smithson’s mythological source for the Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake in Utah, ‘had for centuries seemed to be a freak of nature, and the early inhabitants of the region sought its explanation in myth. One such myth was that the lake had originally been connected to the Pacific Ocean through a huge underground waterway, the presence of which caused treacherous whirlpools to form at the lake’s center.’ As in all of Smithson’s land reclamation projects, the jetty’s implicit reference to the lake’s prehistory is also ideological. It’s allusion to the powerful whirlpools of a mythic past serves as an allegory of a tragic, enervated present – a memorial to a section of the Great Salt Lake rendered barren and useless by an adjacent abandoned oil drilling operation. While Smithson’s allegories were broadly social, they were also self-consciously aesthetic, marking as they did the ruination of formalism and the art of the studio and the museum. No longer wiling to live within the limitations o the pristine white cube of the art gallery or museum, these earthworks moved out onto the land. Instead of abstruse, abstract meditations on the spiritual in art or on the retinal possibilities of splattered paint or rigid grids, this art of the land took on bigger, more socially consequential issues, such as the limitations of our natural resources. If some earthworks existed as memorials to a destroyed or depleted geological past, they were also a living and always changing testament to the future potential of art to make a difference.

Herbert Distel's "Museum of Drawers" & Smithson's "Broken Circle" and "Spiral Hill"

"The Museum of Drawers is a former box for reels of sewing silk from an old haberdasher’s shop. It comprises 500 small rooms made up of 20 drawers, each with 25 compartments. Each area measures 2.25” in width, 1 11/16” in height, and 1 7/8” in depth. An original work by a “contemporary” artist is housed in each of the 500 rooms. The whole museum stands on the 501st work of art, the metal base by Ed Kienholz."

This remains one of my favorite books that I discovered this semester with a little Robert Smithson's version of Broken Circle. After careful thought, I decided to take the opportunity to include a few photographs of Broken Circle and Spiral Hill from The Netherlands trip in 2004.

Broken Circle,
August 2004:

Early 1970s:

Spiral Hill, 1971

Broken Circle and Spiral Hill in the distance, August 2004

Broken Circle and Spiral Hill, c. 1971

Thomas Dreher posted some great aerial views (like the one below) here

Encasing Broken Circle in an area 2.25" wide is the antithesis of everything Smithson sought to do with creating the artwork in the first place (removal of the sculpture from the "white cube"). Why not just include a pebble from the location or fill his portion of the Museum of Drawers with dirt as he did in several of his "non site" projects? Anyway... this inclusion is curious and I can't help but think not the best way to interpret a miniature gallery space.

Gypsum Nonsite, 1968