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"The Desert –roseate metallic blue & insect green blank mirrors & pools of silver a universe in one body" - Jim Morrison, The Desert

Last week a mysterious 12-foot tall, metal monolith was discovered in the middle of the desert in the American state of Utah. Wildlife resource officials noticed it while they were flying over Red Rock Country doing a routine check, "I'm assuming it's some new wave artist or something. Or, you know, somebody that was a big '2001: A Space Odyssey' fan", said one of the pilots. The Utah desert is no stranger to land art, it has been a cultural phenomenon since the 1960s for artists including Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, Michael Heizer, and Walter de Maria. In essence, and art exists between the wilderness and the metropolis . Land art does not simply allow you to be a viewer - as you would to a painting. The spectator’s engagement with the land is transformed into an experience that reinstates the body within its natural habitat.

Land art can be interpreted as a mediator; between what we know and what we don’t know about non-human nature.

Arthur Mamou Mani__Galaxia Temple_ (2018)


When did Land Art start?

In 1969, when NASA took the photo of Earth on their Apollo 11 voyage, humanity’s perception of the planet was forever changed - the Earth was seen as a toy that can be played with. This new awareness of the sensibility of the Earth could have contributed to the land art movement, as these artists' inspiration came directly from the natural world and our relation with it. Land artists began to get their hands dirty, working with their bodies or using machines to leave their impression on the land, as the dinosaurs once did with their footprints.

Mediator between the Populus and Solitude

“Size determines an object, but scale determines art… Scale depends on one’s capacity to be conscious of the actualities of perception.”

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970) Great Salt Lake, Utah, 460m long x 4.6m wide, 6000 tons of basalt rock and earth

Robert Smithson created a short film under the same title that plays as a sort of film noir suspense that pulls the viewer into the mystique of the spiral. The documentation remains the most important relic for land art, and for Spiral Jetty the movie epitomizes the scale of the artwork. To get to the Spiral Jetty you must drive through remote highways in Utah, eventually leading you to a parking lot, and finally a trek towards the Great Salt Lake. Spiral Jetty is in constant change in response to its surrounding landscape such as the salt crystals, rocks, and water. Sometimes it's submerged underwater, and at times a walk on the rocks is possible. This permanent land art also exists as an ephemeral one; it’s never in the same state twice.

“The idea for Sun Tunnels became clearer to me while I was in the desert watching the sun rising and setting, keeping the time of the earth.”