Review of a reading on land art

Hugo Pilate – Art History 3


In “Earthscapes, landworks and Oz,” Hickey addresses the issue of an art scene (or space)
plagued by what one may paraphrase as the superficiality of Earth art. This is only my point of view and nothing more.


At first, Hickeyʼs intentions were unclear. Nonetheless, they clearly involved the relationship of the
art to the object, and the role of the object in the art world. Of course, the space within which laid this
object had to be approached just as well.


Earth art is seemingly brought in to ground Hickeyʼs arguments. He critiques Earth art. thus being
able to comment on the relationship of the “object” or “thing” that will be considered art and how it infused into a given landscape or space. It is the resulting chemistry of this coupling that brings Hickey to say that Earth art has a tendency to be superficial. In superficial, I mean, disconnected.

“[primitive pieces] have much more authority and intimacy with the country itself than the additive pieces like Smithsonʼs Spiral Jetty.”


The argument made is two-fold: on one side, it is poking fun of the this idealized relationship of
nature and less natural, and on the other hand, how this bulimic consumption of objects and icons has shaped american society.


The first part of the argument is relatively self-explanatory: itʼs the same logic as the one
connecting the cartographer and the land he is visualizing and recording. To Hickey, land, nature seem to have a preexisting intrinsic relationship to art. Therefore anything added to it will somehow only be a mere indulgence of the artist. He (or she) would only be intervening for his (or her) own desire to create rather than a genuine artistic (spiritual?) endeavor. Surprisingly there is no mention of the divine which to me seems to be a key component when addressing the issues of creation, nature, human and authenticity.

The argument then evolves from being a critique of this hypocritical use of landscapes as art
(which apparently can never surpass the art of nature and creation), to what results these failed attempts at “art grafting” yielded. These results, are like floating, condensed samples or maps of current american society (similar in that way to Pop art)

I found this essay confusing and I am not sure I fully grasped his point. However I thought there
were some very interesting point about the objectification of a medium a “pure” and omnipresent as
nature. It resonates with Jean Beaudrillardʼs essays on “Simulacra and Simulation,” in which Beaudrillard studies the disconnect between simulated notions or objects and the simulation itself. It is all in the context, and how well you understand it, embrace it, involve it. This ties back to the first quote I decided to mention, where Hickey decides words such as “intimacy” and “authority” to describe the relationship of certain subtractive primitive works and the landscape they are set in.


Context. I can never get tired of using this word. In product design, this is a factor that has only
really started being taken into consideration. In art, many pieces are one-offs and have no need to be
mass-produced. On the other hand, product design grew from the questionable victory of mass-
production over craftsmanship in the name of world equality. This means that in the past few decades, designs were created in an office; a comfortable office, with a comfortable office mindset for the rest of the world. This to me is unacceptable. There needs to be variety, just like in nature, bio-diversity is the key to survival and thriving of species. Unfortunately being as limited as humans turned out to be, we are blinded in our greed by a desire to conquer. So we conquer… land… people… resources… And once we wake up, bellies overflowing in “conquered-ness.” Our guts and brain, conveniently “break that space into human-sized chunks.” These chunks, are simulacra, now completely out of context of our conquests.


This process then blurs what many like to call the “big picture” but at least we are full, well on our
way to digesting, and getting ready to conquer some more soon. I am not sure what Hickey would think of this point of view, but I feel like it mirrors the core statement behind “Earthscapes, landworks and Oz,” that the art scene (or space) is plagued by what one may paraphrase as the superficiality of Earth art, orhuman intervention in general?


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