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Entries in land art (7)


before photoshop, there was art

Shuffling: Keith Arnatt’s Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist (1968). Photograph: © Keith Arnatt Estate


Charles Stankievech, The Soniferous Aether, 2013

35mm Film Installation
Duration: 10:18 Loop (this is a lower resolution edited trailer – just a taste)

from Stankievech's website:

The Soniferous Æther of The Land Beyond The Land Beyond is a 35mm film installation shot at the northernmost settlement on earth— ALERT Signals Intelligence Station— as part of a series of fieldworks looking at remote outpost architecture, military infrastructure and the embedded landscape. Shot using a computer controlled time‐lapse tracking camera during the winter months, the military spy outpost radiates within a shroud of continuous darkness under a star-pierced canopy harkening an abandoned space station.
He speaks about it as the first panelist in Air | Land | Sea with Charles Stankievech, Kara Uzelman and Cate Rimmer, part of Gallery Hop Vancouver co-presented by the Canadian Art Foundation and the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver.  This is a tremendously interesting three presentations:

Jonas Dahlberg: memory wound, 2014

Jonas Dahlberg. Memory Wound, winning competition entry to Memorial Sites After 22 July. image: Jonas Dahlberg Studio

Memory Wound, above, is one of three memorials to the victims of the massacre at Utøya, Norway in 2011.  The rock cut out of the Sørbråten peninsula to make the channel will be used to make another memorial in Oslo on the site of a car bomb, also Anders Breivik's responsibility.  

According to The Guardian, Dahlberg has spoken of poetic rupture, beauty indissolubly linked to loss. One wall of the cut is inscribed with the names of the children killed, the other is carved out into a ledge from which to view the names.  The cut is aligned with Utøya – it doesn't eradicate Utøya by being placed literally on the site of the massacre itself.

This is how such massively inexplicable deaths are memorialised these days, by massive land art.  There is little else that we feel is significant enough to approach the scale of war, for this was an act of war between a race-based fundamentalism and an unwitting, wealthy, liberal and secular populace.  It seems to be too difficult to explain how Anders Breivik came to be, the best we can do is to set up sites where we can contemplate what he did.  Memory Wound is a powerful place to do this; does it address the rise of anti-islamic fundamentalism in Europe? Not really, it addresses the children, their absence – the effect of a cause that remains active, not absent.

Land art puts human activities into the context of the earth as a planet, the sun as a star, time measured in light years – things almost beyond comprehension for all we have been taught how geology and astronomy works.  These things have become our ineffable, things so detached from the development of the human race that they absorb human failings.  It's cosmic and all, but there are other Breiviks out there, and they are unmoved.  


Nancy Holt: 1938-2014

Nancy Holt. Sun Tunnels, completed in 1976. Photographed by Mary Kavanagh (image is linked to her site). Four large concrete tubes are arranged in an open X. The 9' diam x 18' long sections of culvert are pierced by holes of varying size that correspond to the pattern of the constellations Draco, Perseus, Columba and Capricorn. The tunnels line up with the rising and setting sun on the summer and winter solstices.

Nancy Holt, who died last week, was one of the original land artists working in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, along with Dennis Oppenheimer, Michael Heizer, James Turrell, Walter de Maria and Robert Smithson, all of whom had little time for the constricting space and rules of urban galleries and art museums.  They said they were making art for the land, the ultimate expression of 1960s freedom – at the beginnings of the environmental movement and working at the scale of infrastructure, the military and the mining industry.

Land Art had its roots in Minimalism and Conceptual Art, where 'art products' are often ephemeral, unrecognisable or self-destructing.  Looking back on it now it appears as a real struggle to return agency to the artist: Nancy Holt bought the 40 acres of Utah desert for Sun Tunnels, and hired, as she listed: '2 engineers, 1 astrophysicist, 1 astronomer, 1 surveyor and his assistant, 1 road grader, 2 dump truck operators, 1 carpenter, 3 ditch diggers, 1 concrete mixing truck operator, 1 concrete foreman, 10 concrete pipe company workers, 2 core-drillers, 4 truck drivers, 1 crane operator, 1 rigger, 2 cameramen, 2 soundmen, 1 helicopter pilot and 4 photography lab workers' to install it. Plus the culverts.  

The places that Land Artists worked were marginal – in those vast deserts of the American southwest, there were hardly any roads.  When in 1982 Reyner Banham wrote Scenes in America Deserta, a reprise of Charles Doughty's 1888 Travels in Arabia Deserta, Banham was well aware of the elision of desert and deserted.  And in the mid 1990s when I tried to plot a winter route from central Texas to Calgary through all the flat bits, I found one cannot cross Nevada from north to south.  This is a deserta militaria, for most of those deserts are used as test sites, training exercises, speed tests and places to go mad in.

Nancy Holt did not go mad; she married Robert Smithson and continued to work in land art, film and photography from France to Finland and across the United States.  There was an exhibit of her photographs last year at Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery, whence this lovely image comes.

Nancy Holt, Concrete Poem, 1968. composite inkjet print on archival rag paper taken from original 126 format black and white negatives, printed 2012


David Nash: wood

Anne Purkiss, photographer. David Nash in his studio, 1999.

Anne Purkiss started in 1985 to photograph members of the Royal Academy of Arts.  This one, of David Nash was probably taken in 1999 when he became a member.  He is in his studio next to a mining tip in Blaenau Ffestiniog, a Victorian slate mining town in Gwynedd, Wales.  It is no surprise that with the decline of the use of slate, there would have been many industrial spaces surplus to requirements; many of which would make capacious studios.  

His material isn't slate, it is trees. From wikipedia's description of Wooden Boulder: 'begun in 1978, this work involves a large wooden sphere carved by Nash in the North Wales landscape and in 1982 left there to weather. Over the years, the boulder has slipped, rolled and sometime been pushed through the landscape following the course of streams and rivers until finally it was last seen in the estuary of the River Dwyryd. It was thought to have been washed out to sea but, after being missing for over five years, the boulder reappeared in June 2009. Indications are that it had been buried in sand in the estuary.'   

How heroic.  

David Nash. Wooden Boulder, 1978-2009


37.2: Arteology

ARTEOLOGY / installation / wood, 120x100m / "Festival Arts Nature Horizons 2012" / Puy de Serveix, France / 2012 / built.

37.2 [very hot], Atelier de Microarchitecture, is Francesca Bonesio and Nicolas Guiraud, an architect and a photographer, based in Paris.

Arteology is a 37.2 project in the Auvergne: a skeleton that might be found had the Puy de Serveix, a volcanic hill, been an ancient living thing – which it was of course, but had it been an ancient living animal with vertebrae and ribs.  The scale is large, 100m from ridge to base, the scale of the enigmatic chalk reliefs in England: the Uffington White Horse, for example.

From 37.2's description of the project, roughly, 'the volcanic region of the Auvergne in the massif du Sancy seems both grand and sacred.  Our project is to stir the soil, to interpret the form of a ridge, to send a piton into the rock to see, as if by magic, the art in this singular form of nature.
As artists, our arteological search is to reveal nature's memory, rekindling the fire, the fear, the mystery, the questing metaphysics at the heart of volcanic activity

ARTEOLOGY / installation / wood, 120x100m / "Festival Arts Nature Horizons 2012" / Puy de Serveix, France / 2012 / built.The aims are immense, the project is simple: wood recovered from construction, no challenging structure, but rather 'it registers as a drawing, a layer, an intervention in the landscape, a poetry reading, a phantasmagoric of nature'.

We have a new call for articles out now, for On Site 29: geology.  We are interested in projects of this kind, where land is reinterpreted in a way that connects us with a deep past. 


Troy Nickle: nature as culture


So very tired of the bloody wars, environmental collapse, the 99%, the bad news.  Troy Nickle's exhibition in Lethbridge calms the mind somewhat.