Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Spiral Jetty up close

If you look from a distance,
From Rozel Point, the Jetty is just a doodle on the landscape. It is art as ornament, Smithson-made bling-bling for Mother Nature.
(- Tyler Green)

But if you come up close,

You also begin to see that the entropy at work here at Spiral Jetty is not all natural. There is evidence all around that people are using the site in ways that will lead to its disintegration over time. People (probably men based on the expressionistic traces left) have pissed all over the work--on the sides of the boulders, on the top of the jetty, and (most prominently) right at the tip of the spiral--staining the white salt yellow. There are several piles of shit on the jetty and on the hard salt surface around the piece. At the tip of the jetty someone has left what was probably once a small sculpture made of modeling clay. It's now disintegrated into a puddle of red, blue, yellow, and green mush that looks like a melting scoop of Superman ice cream. There are cigarette butts on the jetty and empty cans at its base.
(- Todd Gibson)
Couldn't we consider this part of the artwork? Here is a comment by the photographer who took the above picture, Chas Bowie.
...when I was there making the afore-linked photo, previous visitors had piled a collection of rocks taken from various points on the jetty and piled them at the tip of the line, creating a sort of nipple at the end, which stacked to about a foot higher than the rest of the jetty. I couldn't imagine caring enough about the Jetty to drive all the way there, only to add your own stupid little touch at the end. It reminded me of the old Steve Martin bit in which he travels to France, and describes basking in the awe of a glorious cathedral, drinking in the stained glass windows and architecture—only to pull at a can of spray paint to leave a dopey tag behind. Needless to say, I dismantled the distracting little pile (those rocks are indeed heavy).

I'm not sure it's that simple. The very way the work was made, its placing, context, character, all incite a dialogue. We are out of the museum here, and out of the socially binding cultural context of "art". And that was one of the points Smithson seemed to be making - introducing human intervention into a domain where normally it wouldn't be considered appropriate, at least not as an artistic act. One could say: leave the beautiful Salt Lake alone. It doesn't need your silly, megalomaniacal twister.

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