A brief introduction to this circumstantial discipline which joins man, nature and the language that brings everything together.
Land Art, when nature speaks, in our language, about itself /
Land Art, also known as Earthwork, is not a current in art, it is not an artistic movement, and instead it is a circumstantial activity between nature and man. It burgeoned towards the end of the 60s as a trend that sought to transform the landscape into the materials the artist works with. Regardless of the fact that neither a manifest nor a specific style exists, and that its objective changes from creator to creator, there is something essential that is shared by all the works: the landscape, regardless of the interventions made to it, can only speak of itself.
The means is the message more than in other art form; this is due to how the natural space is perceived as —a very literal— semantic field, and the width of the Earth becomes the foundation for poetic acts. Robert Smithson, for example, one of the movement’s founders, saw an active stillness in small stones’ micromovements (which according to him, could take up to two million years to move 30 cm). He created Spiral Jetty with this in mind, where he combined the science of geology with the fiction of art.
By intervening stones, he summed up several millions years in a single geological, symbolic, moment; Smithson imitated the profound nature of the stones and he gifted them a different destiny: an infinite symbol in water. On a molecular level, visible through the formation of crystals and rocks, and on a macro stellar level, evident from the perspective of the zenith, his work plays with the different correlations hidden in nature. His work exists as a part of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, as part of the terrestrial landscape of the moon, and his work is no longer his own. This disposition of time and of the Earth (Earthwork after all suggests something created by the Earth).
Perhaps Land Art can be so overwhelming because we sometimes need nature to remind us of its existence. We must remember her and ourselves. A “land work” is in charge of making the relationship between man and the environment evident, it confers on her, to put it in words somehow, perceptibility. But Land Art does not solely speak of the earth; it speaks of the sea, the sky and light. Other artists like Walter de Maria or Peter Richards have simply let it speak through human sculptures. Maria’s The Lightning Field for example, which uses an anthropic alteration of the landscape so that lighting volts will strike a delimited area of the Arizona desert constantly, or Richards’ Wave Organ, which allows the sea to create music through a series of pipes in a stone organ. Struck by nature’s display of beauty, these artists remind us what is diffused by the happenings of everyday life.
One of the most beautiful examples, and the last, is that by Richard Long. He records the anthropic alteration of the landscape when one moves a few pieces. More than anything else, his work seems to portray vertebrae made from the bones he finds in situ. In this way, a row of stones found in the Yangtze River bears witness to the work of a man, but also the river’s panorama, which seems to accept the disposition of rocks as if these had emerged from their own mineral logic. He leaves vertebral testimonies in lonely places, as if he were creating a landscaping act for landscape itself. So that his stones can dialogue with some of his other stones.
At this moment in time, the role of Land Art is more important than ever. In an almost violent fashion, and by moving just a few pieces, the artist is able to make the landscape reveal its true self; by making us vulnerable it takes us back to our most ancient and elemental essence.Tagged: inspiration, art, nature and art, land art