Milano Meisterklasse

23. Smithson and Landscapes as Works of Art

#lesson3 #marseille #landart #suburban #soil #Smithson

The works and theoretical writings of Robert Smithson, an American artist and one of the inventors of Land Art in the 1960s, were eye opening for me because at the time I was obsessed with Marseille’s and the Bouches-du-Rhône’s very anthropized landscape; and when I saw that, in the 1960s, Smithson had theorized the idea that a landscape could be a work of art, that the actions of a bulldozer or any industrial acts within a landscape could be art, I got excited about the possibilities that opened up. And if a landscape is a work of art—an involuntary work of art—then it makes a lot of sense for us to create a path that will let us see it.

The trail is simply a belvedere, an entrance ticket, or an excuse to discover an area as a work of art, and that resonates with the general feeling we shared as we walked through the Bouches-du-Rhône, wondering when was the last time we’d last felt so moved in a modern art gallery. And Nicolas said: “What if we looked at the Bouches-du-Rhône in the same way as the Sistine Chapel?” And there it was, that moment in art history when Smithson invented Land Art, before people were even talking about site-specific art; it was completely innovative in the 1960s.

Another very interesting aspect of Smithson’s work is his interest in the peri-urban and what he called peri-urban ruins. This was after he visited Rome and saw the Ancient ruins there. And this is all in relation with the ground below, with the archeology of the ground. It’s a bit muddy, but very poetic, with ruins, the ground, the peri-urban …. Retrospectively speaking, Smithson provides very rich intellectual, sensory, poetic, artistic, and theoretical material for people interested in building trails. For those wanting to build a Metropolitan Trail, it would be unfortunate, in my opinion, not to review “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic” or read his theoretical writings, in particular “A Sedimentation of the Mind”.