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The Size of City Michael Heizer’s Masterpiece as Architecture


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Abstract

From the birth of Land Art, in the deserts of America in the early 1960s, a branch of sculpture has existed that frequently crosses a size threshold to become so close to imitating architecture it pertains classification as architecture. Michael Heizer has been at work for almost four decades constructing the greatest example within the overlap where Land Art replicates architecture, City; when complete it will be the largest contemporary work of art ever created. In investigating the relationship between art and architecture, distinctions of function and similarities of intent - the desire to create something beautiful - were found. The works of Land Art and the career of Heizer were both examined for trends that inform the questioning of whether or not City can be regarded as architecture. The artwork was evaluated against the ideas collected in a search for theoretically definitive divisions between the two disciplines of art and architecture, the importance of size and scale, and the categories of beauty in which it fits. James Turrell’s Roden Crater, Walter de Maria’s Vertical Earth Kilometre/The Broken Kilometre and Lightning Field, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Valley Curtain and works by Charles Simonds were also examined using the criteria. City was determined to resemble architecture but was not architecture; it does not function in the same way and its grandiose size is used twofold: firstly to effect the sublime and, secondly, to make reference to Native American, pre-Colombian sites.


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Fig. 1 - Windows 2, Matchdrop, Michael Heizer, 1969


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The Size of City: Michael Heizer’s Masterpiece as Architecture David P L Lewis A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree of MArch, 2010.


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Acknowledgements I would like to thank my tutor, Jacob Hotz-Hung, for his inspiration, guidance and sense of humour throughout the research and writing of this dissertation.


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Contents 1 Introduction 1.1 Statement of Aim

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1.2 Structure of Dissertation

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1.3 Methodology

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2 Between Art and Architecture 2.1 The In Between 2.2 Aesthetic Concurrence 3 Scale and Size 3.1 Scale 3.2 Size

5 5 8 11 11 12

4 A Brief Introduction to Land Art 4.1 Situation and Setting

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4.2 Temporality and Tradition

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4.3 Substance and Process

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5 Michael Heizer 5.1 Early Works

25 25

5.2 Double Negative

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5.3 During the Development of City

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6 Size in Land Art 6.1 Michael Heizer’s City

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6.2 James Turrell’s Roden Crater

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6.3 Other Works

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6.3.1 Walter De Maria's Vertical Earth Kilometre/The Broken Kilometer and Lightning Field

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6.3.2 Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Valley Curtain

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6.3.3 Works by Charles Simonds

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7 Conclusion

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8 Bibliography 8.1 Books

58 58

8.2 Periodicals Articles

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8.3 Websites

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8.4 Films

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List of Illustrations Photographers have been included when stated in the sourced publication. Where there is no photographer listed, the copyright holder, if not the artist and if stated in the publication, has been included. Title Page: aerial view of City (manipulated) as referenced for Fig. 48.

Fig. 1 - Windows 2, Matchdrop, Michael Heizer, 1969

Germano Celant, Michael Heizer (Milan: Prada Foundation, 1997), p. 125.

Fig. 2 - Primitive Dye Painting (in construction), Michael Heizer, 1969 Celant, p. 109. Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni.

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Fig. 3 - Observatory, Robert Morris, 1977

4

Fig. 4 - Partially Buried Woodshed, Robert Smithson, 1970

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Fig. 5 - Conical Intersect, Gordon Matta Clark, 1975

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Fig. 6 - Rosalind Krauss’s Expanded Field

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Fig. 7 - Jared S. Moore’s table of aesthetic definitions

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Gilles A. Tiberghien, Land Art (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995), p. 81. Photograph by Pieter Boersma, Guggenheim Museum, New York. Jeffrey Kastner and Brian Wallis, Land and Environmental Art (London: Phaidon, 1998), p. 69. Photograph by Robert Smithson. Tiberghien, p. 68. Photograph by Philippe Migeat.

Rosalind Krauss, ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, in Postmodern Culture, ed. by Hal Foster (London: Pluto Press, 1985), p. 38 Jared Sparks Moore, ‘The Sublime, and Other Subordinate Esthetic Concepts’, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 45, No. 2 (15 January 1948), pp. 42-47 (p. 47)

Fig. 8 - Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson, 1970

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Fig. 9 - Ice Piece, Andy Goldsworthy, 1987

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Fig. 10 - Cross, Walter De Maria, 1968

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Fig. 11 - Endless Column, Constantin Brancusi, 1938

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Fig. 12 - Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza Garden, Isama Noguchi, 1961-64

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Fig. 13 - Running Table, David Nash, 1978

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Fig. 14 - Himmelstreppe, Hannsjörg Voth, 1980-87

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Fig. 15 - Sun Tunnels, Nancy Holt, 1973-76

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Fig. 16 - Wheatfield - A Confrontation, Agnes Denes, 1982

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Fig. 17 - Sky Line, Hans Haacke, 1967

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Kastner and Wallis, p. 59. Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni. Kastner and Wallis, p. 68.

Kastner and Wallis, p. 56. Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni. John Beardsley, Earthworks and Beyond, 4th edn (New York: Abbeville Press, 2006), p. 81. Photograph by Herbert George. Beardsley, p. 84. Beardsley, p. 48.

Udo Weilacher, Between Landscape Architecture and Landscape Art (Boston: Birkhauser, 1996), p. 59. Photograph by Ingrid Amslinger. Kastner and Wallis, p. 88.

Kastner and Wallis, p. 160. Kastner and Wallis, p. 74.


ix Fig. 18 - Whirlpool, Eye of the Storm, Dennis Oppenheim, 1973

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Fig. 19 - Steam (second version), Robert Morris, 1974

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Fig. 20 - Wooden Waterway, David Nash, 1978

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Fig. 21 - The New York Earth Room, Walter De Maria, 1977

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Fig. 22 - Ringdom Gompa, Hamish Fulton, 1978

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Fig. 23 - Standing Coyote, Hamish Fulton, 1981

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Fig. 24 - Planar Displacement Drawing (in construction), Michael Heizer, 1970

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Fig. 25 - Eccentric Painting, Michael Heizer, 1967

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Fig. 26 - Negative Painting, Michael Heizer, 1966

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Fig. 27 - Rectangular Painting 1, Michael Heizer, 1967

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Fig. 28 - Rectangular Painting 2, Michael Heizer, 1967

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Fig. 29 - Untitled, Michael Heizer, 1966

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Fig. 31 - Untitled 1, Michael Heizer, 1967

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Fig. 33 - Untitled, Michael Heizer, 1966

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Fig. 30 - Negative Painting, Michael Heizer, 1966

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Fig. 32 - Untitled, Michael Heizer, 1967

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Fig. 34 - Untitled, Michael Heizer, 1967

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Fig. 35 - Planar Displacement Drawing, Michael Heizer, 1970

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Fig. 36 - Circular Planar Displacement Etching, Michael Heizer, 1972

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Fig. 37 - Dissipate (no. 8 of Nine Nevada Depressions), Michael Heizer, 1968

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Fig. 38 - Dissipate/Runic Casting/Matchdrop, Michael Heizer, 1968

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Fig. 39 - Windows 2, Matchdrop, Michael Heizer, 1969

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Fig. 40 - Double Negative, Michael Heizer, 1969-70

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Kastner and Wallis, p. 77.

Kastner and Wallis, p. 102. Beardsley, p. 47.

Kastner and Wallis, p. 109. Photograph by John Cliett. Beardsley, p. 45. Photograph by Hamish Fulton. Beardsley, p. 45. Photograph by Hamish Fulton. Celant, p. 194. Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni. Celant, p. 12. Photograph by Ivan dalla Tana. Celant, p. 7. Photograph by Ron Marashiro. Celant, p. 10. Celant, p. 11. Celant, p. 3.

Celant, p. 14.

Celant, p. 8. Photograph by Ivan dalla Tana. Celant, p. 6. Photograph by Ron Marashiro. Celant, p. 15.

Celant, p. 9. Photograph by Ron Marashiro. Celant, p. 196. Photographs by Gianfranco Gorgoni. Tiberghien, p. 246.

Kastner and Wallis, p. 91. Celant, p. 97.

Celant, p. 125.

Celant, p. 220. Photograph by John Weber.


x Fig. 41 - Double Negative, Michael Heizer, 1969-70

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Fig. 42 - Double Negative, Michael Heizer, 1969-70

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Fig. 43 - Platform, Michael Heizer, 1980

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Fig. 44 - Catfish of Effigy Tumuli, Michael Heizer, 1983-85

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Fig. 45 - Waterstrider of Effigy Tumuli, Michael Heizer, 1983-85

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Fig. 46 - Frog Effigy of Effigy Tumuli, Michael Heizer, 1983-85

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Fig. 47 - 45°, 90°, 180°/Geometric Extraction, Michael Heizer, 1984

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Fig. 48 - Aerial view of City, Lincoln County, Nevada

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Fig. 49 - Complex One, Michael Heizer, 1972-76

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Fig. 50 - Complex One, Michael Heizer, 1972-76

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Fig. 51 - Complex One, Michael Heizer, 1972-76

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Fig. 52 - Complex One, Michael Heizer, 1972-76

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Fig. 53 - Complex Two (models), Michael Heizer, 1980-88

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Fig. 54 - Complex Two (in construction), Michael Heizer, 1980-88

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Fig. 55 - Complex Two (in construction), Michael Heizer, 1980-88

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Fig. 56 - Complex Two, Michael Heizer, 1980-88

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Fig. 57 - Complex Two (detail) of City, Michael Heizer, 1980-88

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Fig. 58 - 45°, 90°, 180° (centre, in distance) of City, Michael Heizer, c. 2005

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Fig. 59 - 45°, 90°, 180° of City, Michael Heizer, c. 2005

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Fig. 60 - 45°, 90°, 180° (artist in foreground) of City, Michael Heizer, c. 2005

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Celant, p. 220. Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni.. Tiberghien, p. 89. Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni. Celant, p. 351. Celant, p. 399. Celant, p. 406.

Beardsley, p. 96. Photograph copyright of Knoedler and Co., New York. Celant, p. 393. Photograph by Tom Vinetz.

Google Earth <http://earth.google.com> [accessed 15 December 2009]. Image copyright of Google, 2009. Celant, p. 267. Photograph by Tom Vinetz. Celant, p. 270. Photograph by Tom Vinetz. Celant, p. 271. Photograph by Tom Vinetz.

Tiberghien, p. 72. Photograph by Michael Heizer, courtesy of the artist and Virginia Dwan. Celant, p. 440-441. Celant, p. 453. Celant, p. 453.

Michael Kimmelman, ‘A Sculptor’s Colossus in the Desert’, New York Times, 12 December 1999, (slideshow accompanying online article), <http://www.nytimes. com/library/arts/121299heizer-art.1.html> [accessed 29 May 2009]. Photographs by Tom Vinetz. Kimmelman, ‘Art’s Last, Lonely Cowboy’, New York Times, 5 February 2005 (slideoshow accompanying online article) <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/06/ magazine/06heizer.html> [accessed 15 December 2009] Photograph by Simon Norfolk. Kimmelman, ‘Arts Last, Lonely Cowboy’. Photograph by Simon Norfolk. Kimmelman, ‘Arts Last, Lonely Cowboy’. Photograph by Simon Norfolk. Kimmelman, ‘Arts Last, Lonely Cowboy’. Photograph by Simon Norfolk.


xi Fig. 61 - Dome-shaped earth mound of City, Michael Heizer, c. 2005

Kimmelman, ‘Arts Last, Lonely Cowboy’. Photograph by Simon Norfolk.

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Fig. 62 - Complex Two (left) and Complex One (right) of City, Michael Heizer, 197288 41 Kimmelman,‘A Sculptor’s Colossus in the Desert’ Photograph by Tom Vinetz.

Fig. 63 - Roden Crater (process artwork), James Turrell, 1974-present

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Fig. 64 - Gasworks, James Turrell, 1993

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Fig. 65 - Roden Crater (detail), James Turrell, 1974-present

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Robert E. Knight, Debra L. Hopkins, Valerie Vadala Homer, James Turrell: Infinite Light (Scottsdale, Arizona: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001), Foldout 4 Knight, Hopkins and Homer, Foldout 3. Knight, Hopkins and Homer, Foldout 4.

Fig. 66 - Roden Crater (interior Skyspaces and connecting tunnel), James Turrell, 1974-present 44 Knight, Hopkins and Homer, Foldout 4.

Fig. 67 - Roden Crater (view of crater centre), James Turrell, 1974-present

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Fig. 68 - South Space of Roden Crater (model in two parts), James Turrell, 1998

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Fig. 69 - Vertical Earth Kilometre, Walter De Maria, 1977

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Fig. 70 - The Broken Kilometre, Walter De Maria, 1979

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Fig. 71 - Lightning Field, Walter De Maria, 1974-77

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Fig. 72 - Lightning Field, Walter De Maria, 1974-77

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Fig. 73 - Valley Curtain, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 1970-72

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Fig. 74 - Dwelling, P.S. 1, Charles Simonds, 1975

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Fig. 75 - Landscape - Body - Dwelling, Charles Simonds, 1973

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Fig. 76 - Age, Charles Simonds, 1982-83

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Fig. 77 - Land - Body - Dwelling, Charles Simonds, 1971

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Knight, Hopkins and Homer, Foldout 4

Peter Noever (ed.), James Turrell: The Other Horizon (Vienna: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 1999), p. 167. Photograph by Theodore Coulombe. Kastner and Wallis, p. 107. Photograph by Nic Tenwiggenhorn.

C4 Contemporary Art Gallery <http://www.c4gallery.com/artist/database/walterde-maria/walter-de-maria.html> [accessed 17 December 2009]. Photograph copyright of C4 Contemporary Art and JW Dewdney. Beardsley, p. 60. Photograph copyright of Dia Art Foundation. Beardsley, p. 61. Photograph copyright of the British Tourist Authority. Kastner and Wallis, p. 82. Photograph by Harry Shunk.

Beardsley, p. 55. Photograph copyright of Sperone Westwater Fischer. Beardsley, p. 56. Beardsley, p. 56.

Kastner and Wallis, p. 120.

Fig. 78 - Antiquus bivii viarum Appiae at Ardeatinae (Ancient intersection of the Via Appia and Via Ardeatina), Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 1756 54 Luigi Ficaccia, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings (London: Taschen, 2000), p. 216.

Fig. 79 - Newton’s Cenotaph, Etienne-Louis Boullée, 1784

Dominique de Menil (ed.), Visionary Architects (Houston: University of St. Thomas, 1968), p. 26.

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Fig. 2 - Primitive Dye Painting (in construction), Michael Heizer, 1969


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1 Introduction 1.1 Statement of Aim The dimensions of Michael Heizer’s ongoing, lifelong artwork and arguably his masterpiece, City, take on architecturally scaled proportions. It is already the largest piece of Land Art yet created and when complete will top the size list in a genre that, having escaped the physical confines of a gallery setting, includes many expansive works. The objective of this dissertation was to examine works in Land Art that, resembling the built environment in their scale, are within the overlap of art and architecture to seek out a dividing, defining criteria to discern an oeuvre as one and not the other. City is the primary work that has been examined; the aspects of size and scale are the principal investigative tools.

1.2 Structure of Dissertation In Chapter 2 the relationship of art to architecture is examined twofold; firstly, as two distinct disciplines and, secondly, as two individual arts sharing a commonality. Chapter 3 looks to the definitions of scale and size, the difference between the two terms and how both are tools used to create art and architecture. Chapter 4 gives a brief introduction to Land Art to show the background setting and atmosphere in which City has been imagined and constructed. Chapter 5, an abridged chronology of Michael Heizer’s career, outlines the major works leading up to the beginning of City and those completed during its gestation. In Chapter 6 City is examined in detail along with significant, large-scale works by three other notable pioneers of Land Art, James Turrell, Walter De Maria and Christo and Jeanne-Claude, as well as an artist working on the other end of the scale, Charles Simonds. The conclusion, Chapter 7, firstly relates briefly to size in both realisations of city scale and fantastical depictions of architecture and, secondly, utilises the definitions and distinctions discussed in earlier chapters to determine the architectural significance of City.

1.3 Methodology Michael Heizer’s City was the starting point for investigation following art critic Michael Kimmelman’s documented return to the site for his 2005 New York Times Magazine article. Starkly different to any other contemporary work of art due to its vast scale and level of permanence, it is relevant to architects not for its used of similar materials - concrete and earth - or for the methods of construction - with the aid of engineers


2 and heavy machinery - but because of its city-block size. That one man alone was behind its conception was of sufficient interest for early research into its maverick, reclusive creator. Heizer’s work, situated in the Nevada desert, is at least strongly connected to if not firmly within the classification of Land Art, and so the way in which his work was both a result of the trends in the genre and was significant in developing it was examined further. The question that arose concerned that point at which a large edifice, with cantilevered concrete, plazas and stretching over a mile in length, was and was not architecture, if a work of art could be. Hence the terminology becomes important: historical and contemporary definitions of art and architecture can assist in comprehending the significance, if any, of City’s architectural connotations. As the grandiose size provided the original reference to architecture, it was then necessary to examine, along with scale, its conceptual use to understand their utilisation in both art and architecture. To facilitate this requires philosophical inquiries into the roles of artists and architects alike, literature on ideas of aesthetics and the nature of the ideal creative pinnacle, beauty. The semantics focus of this dissertation demands analysis of the literature that informs the discussion. Whilst there are no primary sources of evidence from personal experience of the artworks - both Michael Heizer’s City and James Turrell’s Roden Crater, still under construction at the time of writing, are closed to public viewing, whilst many Land Art works either no longer exist or are so geographically dispersed as to make visiting unfeasible - the secondary descriptions are contextualised where possible. Frequent use of illustrations, in particular photographs, is made to correctly depict the settings of many works, an integral aspect in their effect.


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Fig. 3 - Observatory, Robert Morris, 1977 I hadn’t had the idea of building an object, but shaping space, and I think that’s also not... well, it is closed architecture, but it isn’t architecture, so I think it’s in between, if you want to say that... it lies between sculpture and architecture...1

1  Robert Morris, in Gilles A. Tiberghien, Land Art (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995) p. 83


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2 Between Art and Architecture 2.1 The In Between ‘Things’ become more important, not less. ‘Concepts’ cloud people’s minds more than ever before. ‘Problems’ are international and insoluble. Art provides relief from thinking, as it always has, and leaves fixed solutions, never attempting more than itself.2

Art and architecture are often worlds apart. For all that connects them, and despite the theories that aim to tie the two disciplines together, an expectation exists that one should not be the other. British architectural historian Jane Rendell, in Art and Architecture: a Place Between, suggests that in advanced capitalist cultures there is a strong interest in the ‘other’, and that this ‘could be characterized by a fascination with who, where or what we are “not”’.3 Architects look to the world of art for aesthetic inspiration, for the subversive attitude and for the answer gained by being freed of the economic and societal pressures; artists see the ‘purposefulness’ in architecture, its role, control and power in society. In considering what each creates, the definition of a work of art as distinct from a work of architecture can be done of various grounds, such as function, mass and size; the latter is of particular interest when considering works in Land Art. Art that is truly in three dimensions, that is not including essentially two-dimensional, frontal representations given an element of depth such as in reliefs, shares a varying degree of commonality with architecture. For works that could be described in the in between between art and architecture, those that are perhaps close to or exceed the size of the human body or those that appear as of such a mass as to resemble a building or a large building element such as monuments, statues or follies, the definition of one as art and another as architecture can be made by considering the work’s function. In German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, published in German in 1970 and first translated into English in 1984, he states that art has the capacity to make society self-conscious and become able to transcend itself. In order for this to be possible, art must be autonomous, free from religious, political and social roles; it is society’s antithesis and its sole social function is its functionlessness. This is distinct from the variety of roles that architecture performs in society, from providing shelter to providing a setting for reification; in becoming useful, in representing a pragmatic value, architecture loses its autonomy. Nineteenth century philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, influential in the understanding of 2  3 

Michael Heizer, in Germano Celant, Michael Heizer (Milan: Fondazione Prada, 1997), p. 328 Jane Rendell, Art and Architecture: a Place Between (London: I. B. Tauris, 2006), p. 3


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Fig. 4 - Partially Buried Woodshed, Robert Smithson, 1970

Fig. 5 - Conical Intersect, Gordon Matta Clark, 1975

aesthetics and versed in the arts of antiquity, classified architecture as one of the individual arts but differentiated it from the others, namely sculpture, painting, music and poetry. If art is to demonstrate that the spirit – the selfreflection of human thought - is free it should do so in contrast to what is ‘itself unfree, spiritless and lifeless - that is, threedimensional, inorganic matter, weighed down by gravity’.4 Sculpture, in replicating human form or that of the Gods, does this by imbuing stone or metal with spirit, whereas architecture merely shapes the surrounding for the expression of spirit and cannot be the ‘explicit manifestation or embodiment of free spirituality itself’.5 With sculpture and architecture breaking free of Classical definitions – sculpture as an anthropomorphic representation of spirit and architecture its container by the time of Land Art’s inception, this approach is anachronistic, yet it details a source of distinction.

Gilles A. Tiberghien, in Land Art, indicates the complexity of the historical relationship between architecture and sculpture in referring to Hegel’s belief that any construction defines itself in a simple way, contrary to sculpted works that are presented as ends in themselves. That is, a construction that functions in another sense cannot be sculpture, with there being a ‘division of functions’ between the field of architecture and the other individual arts. Before this division one would find ‘“independent” works whose meaning, like the meaning of symbols, is to be found outside of them’.6 Along this line of thinking much of Land Art can be classed as ‘independent architecture’, or ‘inorganic sculpture [inorganische Skulptur]’, whereas the Pyramids at Giza, housing tombs, are ‘more’ than this. For Hegel, architecture loses its independence and its own significance by becoming functional, though this negates there being any function, implied or received, to art.

4  5  6 

Stephen Houlgate, ‘Hegel’s Aesthetics’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy <http://plato. stanford.edu/entries/hegel-aesthetics> [accessed 13 December 2009] Ibid. Tiberghien, p. 64


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Fig. 6 - Rosalind Krauss’s Expanded Field 1) There are two relationships of pure contradiction which are termed axes (and further differentiated into the complex and the neuter axis) and are designated by the solid arrows. 2) There are two relationships of contradiction, expressed as involution, which are called chemas and are designated by the double arrows; and 3) There are two relationships of implication that are called deixes and are designated by the broken arrows.

In 1979, American art critic Rosalind Krauss, in response to the inappropriateness of sculpture as a term to describe many three-dimensional modernist and postmodernist works of art, considered sculpture as being not-landscape and notarchitecture as part of an expanded field.7 Using a mathematical structural device, a Klein group, three new sculptural conventions emerge between the nothingness of landscape and the fullness of the built environment that are of great pertinence to Land Art. Combining not-landscape and landscape, marked sites are places given physical manipulations; a site-construction, both landscape and architecture, is something built in the landscape; axiomatic structures, inherently architecture and not-architecture, are interventions into the real space of architecture, a mapping of ‘the abstract conditions of openness and closure’.8 This cumbersome, structuralist mode of defining not only brings out three new terms for describing artworks but also infers architecture, along with landscape, as being not-sculpture; it is not-art and firmly so. Nevertheless, Land Art is unique amongst the individual arts for the literary coupling with architecture, an association dependent on the physicalities of a particular work, in particular mass and size. Whilst Tiberghien points to the ‘monumentality, [...] mass and the tension that exists between their verticality and the laws of gravity’ as placing Land Art in the realm of architecture, the ‘simplicity of their forms, lacking both anthropomorphic reference and spiritual connection’ ties them firmly to sculpture. 7  8 

Rosalind Krauss, ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, in Postmodern Culture, ed. by Hal Foster (London: Pluto Press, 1985), p. 37 Ibid., p. 41


8 However, ...mass by itself is […] not enough to characterise an architectural object; an emphasis on mass can also evoke, to the contrary, an unarchitectural object, a disorganisation of the forces that contribute to its elevation, freeing it from the laws of gravity.9

The example given is Land Art proponent Robert Smithson’s Partially Buried Woodshed, for which truckloads of earth were dumped on a shed, collapsing its structure so that it is ‘emptied of its emptiness, and it becomes an inorganic sculpture restored to its primary form’.10 Describing Gordon Matta-Clark’s Conical Intersect (1971), a series of large cuts in an empty building soon to be demolished that provided a view through to the in-construction Pompidou Center, Tiberghien says ‘the architecture, in emptying itself, in ridding itself of its mass, became lightened and elevated […] the air and light that penetrated it allowed the building to breathe’.11 This is mentioned in contrast to the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whose building-wrapping turned architecture into mass, giving prominence to its inertia. The opacity, closed to access and activity, of these works is a lack of interiority that offers nothing but itself, prohibiting the envisaging and actualising of all the spatial possibilities within the object. It offers half the relationship with the viewer the other half, a reciprocation that makes the art alive and not the container of life as in architecture. 2.2 Aesthetic Concurrence For Land Artists and architects alike, the variety of created objects, places and events are measured by particular criteria: perhaps the probity of the endeavour, the thoroughness evident in the result and, the characteristic that endures the whims of critical bias and the changes in fashions, beauty. The philosophy of deconstruction, developed by Jacques Derrida, informs the discussion of the in between in between art and architecture. The deep-rooted binary model of either/or can be replaced with both/and, with neither seen as dominant.12 The différance – both what defers meaning to each term and what marks the difference between them – is complex: the exponentiation of deferrals arguably breaks both down to the proponents’ desire to create wonder, something marked by beauty. For American philosopher Jared Sparks Moore, beauty is a kind of harmony: either between the object and the contemplating mind, between the idea and the form or between unity and variety.13 A simple beauty may strike a ‘responsive chord’ in the 9  Tiberghien, p. 67 10  Ibid., p. 67 11  Ibid., p. 67 12 Rendell, p. 9 13  Jared Sparks Moore, ‘The Sublime, and Other Subordinate Esthetic Concepts’, The Journal of


9 heart - a spiritual harmony - or it may either express its inner meaning exactly or have variety and unity in equal measure - expressive and formal harmonies respectively. When one element - idea, unity, form etc. - is more apparent than its opposite a subordinate and more discursive class of beauty can be articulated. Chief of these is the sublime, an effect given prominence by eighteenth century philosopher Edmund Burke. Sublimity describes an overwhelming, elevating, formless character, a conflict of the mind that produces a ‘sense of spiritual exaltation’.14 It implies an element of pain, danger or terror though these are mental experiences; it is the greatness of thoughts and emotions as much as it is physically sensed. Moore describes it as the preponderance of object over observer, the transcendence of idea over form. Burke morosely illustrates the importance of the idea in the sublime in saying: A level plain of vast extent on land, is certainly no mean idea; the prospect of such a plain may be as extensive as a prospect of the ocean; but can it ever fill the mind with anything so great as the ocean itself? This is owing to several causes; but it is owing to none more than this, that the ocean is an object of no small terror. Indeed terror is in all cases whatsoever, either more openly or latently, the ruling principle of the sublime.15

It is the astonishment as the passion being created when viewing the sublime: ‘astonishment is the state of the soul in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror’.16

Spiritual Harmony Expressive Harmony Formal Harmony

Object

Sublime

Brilliant

Observer

Pretty

(Ridiculous)

Idea

Sublime

Form

Brilliant

Pretty

Unity

Statuesque

(Sublime)

Variety

Picturesque Pretty

(Statuesque)

}Picturesque.

}Picturesque Statuesque

(Brilliant)

Fig. 7 - Jared S. Moore’s table of aesthetic definitions Each concept that is marked by a preponderance of one element over the other is placed on the line on which the preponderating element appears: where there is no such preponderance, the concept is placed after the bracket. When some such preponderance is detectable but is of slight importance, the term is enclosed in parentheses.

Moore continues to fill out a table to describe the effects of his three types of harmony, though he admits it is a non-definitive analysis. When variety looms larger than unity, a beautiful thing can be expressed as picturesque, after British eighteenth century art theorist Uvedale Price’s definition; and coordinate to the picturesque is the brilliant, introduced by American art theorist George Lansing Raymond in Essentials Philosophy, Vol. 45, No. 2 (15 January 1948), pp. 42-47 (p. 44) 14  Ibid., p. 42 15  Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 53-54 16  Ibid., p. 53


10 of Aesthetics as the effect of an overpowering of the mind by the elaborate form of something, and not by the idea expressed by it. Prettiness and ridiculousness are both opposite to the sublime, but the former has an appearance that is nevertheless attractive whilst the latter strikes us only because of the insignificance of its contained idea. Pretty is contrariwise to sublime as statuesque is to picturesque; the overwhelming aspect is unity.


11

3 Scale and Size 3.1 Scale scale, n.3 /skeɪl/ III. 11. a. The proportion that the representation of an object bears to the object itself; a system of representing or reproducing objects in a smaller or larger size proportionately in every part. to scale: with exactly proportional representation of each part of the model. b. A unit of dimension in a representation of an object, bearing the same proportion to the unit of dimension in the object itself, as the size of the object shown on the plan bears to the actual size of the object that it represents.17

Scale can be imagined as another dimension of viewing, another layer of information that adds upon the strictly physical three-dimensional properties of size and is in addition to the intangible but often necessarily perceptible dimension of time. This information only exists once the mental activity of referencing begins, both within what is being viewed – the object and its setting - and what is referenced from previous experience. Architect Charles Moore distinguishes between space, generated by Euclidean geometry and perceptual space, the sum of all dimensions that the mind can perceive: ‘The dimensions of architecture are the dimensions of perceptual space. The three spatial dimensions are, of course, and always have been, of high interest, but not always the highest. A perfectly proportioned Palladian room, for instance, can stimulate great admiration. But not if it happens to be on fire…’18 Scale is not a mere mathematical ratio of the dimensions of one object to those of others; it is a psychological phenomena. Scale is not size, it is relative size. It is relative to: the whole, one element compared with the size of the entire composition; other parts, an element compared with other elements in the composition; usual size, elements compared with their expected sizes; and human size, elements compared with the human body or its parts.19 Architectural literature talks most often about human scale, monumental scale, miniature scale and super-scale, and usually in that order of frequency. Difficulties with the perception of scale make it difficult to ensure the artist’s or architect’s intentions are truly realised. For human scale there is the difficulty of perceiving an object or space in relation to human size if it lies too far for comparison - the relative height of a tall tree to the human body being more difficult to ascertain 17  Oxford English Dictionary, <http://dictionary.oed.com> [accessed 15 December 2009] 18  Charles Moore and Gerald Allen, Dimensions: Space, Shape and Scale in Architecture (New York: Architectural Record, 1976), p. 5 19  Ibid., 18-21


12 than a standard door - and there is the problem of specific and generalised design sizes for a variety of human dimensions. In these cases, usual size becomes the important scale relation. Scales can be layered and revealed at the same time, for instance in the façade of a building that has the same element in different sizes. This multiplicity can be combined with a difference in shape between different elements, setting up double, triple or multiple scales between façade elements or pieces of furniture in a room. This can allow the designer to disrupt the normality of scales imposed by other elements with one or more having, for example, a size contrasting with its usual size, inviting the viewer to question rather than accept.

3.2 Size size, n.1 /sʌɪz/

II. 10. a. The magnitude, bulk, bigness, or dimensions of anything.

b. Preceded by of, or in later use with ellipse of this. of a (or one) size, of the same magnitude or dimensions. c. In abstract use: Magnitude.20

Size is raw data. It refers to a dimension - length, width, height, area or volume - and is fixed at a point on a scale; other terms are used for a size that is changing, such as growth or reduction. It is an uninformed descriptor, one dimensional even when describing area or volume; without reference it has no meaning. Yet from an early age we have points and frames of reference and can define objects as being a particular size, though always in relation to another. Whilst it is the viewer of a work of art or architecture who will determine its scale, it is the artist or architect who had previously determined its size, decided on its dimensions and distances and angles between elements to create this effect. When size is as the bigness, and not the smallness, of an object compared with the human body - the magnitude - it can negate the sense of a gestalt, the organised whole that is perceived as greater than the sum of its parts. The masking of this size, or the rendering of it as unmeasurable in an instance through the organisation of elements, can bring out a level of sublimity. One of the earliest writers to describe the sublime as beauty, eighteenth century philosopher Edmund Burke, stated that in the achieving the sublime ‘the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it’;21 an object that engulfs the eyes with its size could engulf the mind. 20  Oxford English Dictionary, <http://dictionary.oed.com> [accessed 15 December 2009] 21  Burke, p. 53


13 As with scale, size can be broken down into terms that, however, cannot avoid their associations with scale: human-sized can represent an object that has significant variation in size because the implication is that those variations sit on a scale that distinguishes a human body from, say, a mouse or a mountain; and city-sized means a place above a certain point on a scale, and could encompass areas populated with 300,000 people as well as those of 30 million. For monument-sized, there is a difficulty in determining to what type of monument the reference is being made - a statue in a city square, a cathedral or one of the Pyramids at Giza, perhaps. Monumentality includes a layer of meaning - representation, veneration, objectification etc. - but it differs from ornamentation in that it implies something standing alone and something of a size. A monument aims to impress and often does so simply because of its large size. As a measurement of dimensions, size can also be used to describe time. The size of time becomes relevant when objects appear to have been produced far in the past, or conceivably are seemingly from the distant future, and can be irrespective of objects that are nearby or similar in a general sense. Only when time or meaning, stretching beyond comprehension, are used in this way can an object be described as having infintie size. Prominent Land Art pioneer Robert Smithson outlined a distinction between size and scale that is akin to drawing a line between the absoluteness of science and the perceptual potential inherent in a work of art in stating: Size determines an object, but scale determines art. A crack in the wall if viewed in terms of scale, not size, could be called the Grand Canyon. A room could be made to take on the immensity of the solar system. Scale depends on oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s capacity to be conscious of the actualities of perception. When one refuses to release scale from size, one is left with an object or language that appears to be certain. For me scale operates by uncertainty.22

22â&#x20AC;&#x192; Robert Smithson, in Tiberghien, p. 71


14

Fig. 8 - Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson, 1970

Fig. 9 - Ice Piece, Andy Goldsworthy, 1987


15

4 A Brief Introduction to Land Art 4.1 Situation and Setting Land Art is one of a number of terms to describe projects and work by a particular group of artists that roughly overlaps. By different criteria it is otherwise known as Earth Art, Landscape Art, Earthworks, Environmental Art, Process Art, Ecological Art or even Total Art. Yet, with the exception of Walter De Maria, none of the artists collected under this umbrella term use it to describe their work. It is not a formalised movement like Surrealism or Futurism; it has no unifying manifesto. Loosely speaking, it defines a work as not merely being positioned in a landscape but engaging with it, though sometimes not. It can also encompass sculptures like Brancusi’s Endless Column (1920) that are in a landscape setting, or what would today be called landscape architecture, such as the more abstract public plaza creations of Isama Noguchi or Peter Walker. The inclusion of Brancusi is, in truth, a retrospective grabbing of big name sculptors to help tighten the threads of art progress running through the Twentieth Century, for Land Art proper began in the early 1960s with Walter De Maria. In a reaction to the commoditisation of the art world leading up to the halfway point of the Twentieth Century, there was ‘an attempt to redefine art through art, a desire to escape from the traditional classifications constructed by modernism’.23 The devices used to this end in the gallery setting – ephemerality, intangibility, narrative etc. – manifested in the work of Land Artists as much as it did for conceptual and performance-based artists. However, whilst the preponderance of works of Land Art are not discrete, portable objects ready for the tour of examination and a final resting place in a collection, they are also not predominantly intangible or illusionary. The fundamental difference is that, in the main, they are outside. Early Land Art artists, such as De Maria and Heizer, are described as ‘passing through minimalism’, defining their work as ‘a challenge to architecture’s role as exhibition space’, paraphrasing Robert Morris’s speculation that ‘the larger the object and the more space it requires, the more our relationship to it becomes public’.24 Minimalism here is the 23  Tiberghien, p. 18 24  Ibid., p. 65

Fig. 10 - Cross, Walter De Maria, 1968


16 rejection of anything resembling personal experience or inner emotion, the size of the works in particular forbidding any private relationship with them. Tiberghien counters this one-dimensional reasoning for open, wilderness settings becoming the chosen habitat for Land Art by stating: ‘It is no longer simply a question of installing sculptures outside, or in other architectural contexts [...] but to give the works value in another way: if “the object is no longer sufficient by itself”, the architecture which houses it cannot compensate for its deficiencies.’ 25 Minimalist artists allowed ‘a return to a sort of original form’26 in sculpture by rediscovering its common elements with architecture. The distancing of the sculpture of Land Art from architecture is furthered in its relationship to its surroundings, with the relationship understood to be best when resolutely physical. For Land Artist Robert Morris, this meant that the sculptures must be placed on bare ground to assert their gravity, revealing their mass and the larger mass of the ground holding them up, and so the gallery would not do.

Fig. 11 - Endless Column, Constantin Brancusi, 1938

The settings for much of Land Art render it altogether inaccessible whilst at the same time intrinsically accessible. Positioned almost in defiance to urbanisation and population density, some sites are only reachable by taking side roads off side roads and then traversing a desert plain, yet they are reachable for the determined if not for all. The degree of escapism, the remoteness from studio and institution, defines some works, particularly those in 25  Ibid., p. 64 26  Ibid., p. 65


17 the desert or forest. In contrast to the complexity of the city, Walter De Maria (Las Vegas Piece, Desert Cross), Charles Ross (Star Axis), James Turrell (Roden Crater), Hannsjörg Voth (Himmelstreppe) and Nancy Holt (Sun Tunnels, Star Crossed) amongst others departed for the cosmic, boundless space of the desert. In the stillness, on arid ground devoid of life, under cloudless skies, the remoteness offers no spatial orientation and the largest blank, planar canvas for which one could wish. There, works can stand out as unusual interventions or

Fig. 12 - Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza Garden, Isama Noguchi, 1961-64

provide a surprise only noticeable when on top of the markings. For Richard Long (Dusty Boot Line, Touareg Circle) the desert offered quiet, intimate, neutral ground for contemplation. More common for Land Art in Europe is the forest as a setting. Awash with legends and myths, and presenting a labyrinthine impenetrability swollen with growth, fecundity and decay, artists such as David Nash (Running Table, Wooden Waterway) and Andy Goldsworthy (Seven Spires, Sidewinder) engaged imagination more than anything else. The latter’s reconfigurations of leaves, pieces of ice atop ponds, twigs, stones, all found close by and often lasting for short periods, are playful, ephemeral accumulations of the abundant sylvan minutiae that take the viewer back to both medieval times and childhood curiosity. Whilst some artists, Heizer and De Maria included, seemed reluctant to return to the city, Land Art has, albeit infrequently, not been confined to wild, untouched

Fig. 13 - Running Table, David Nash, 1978

Fig. 14 - Himmelstreppe, Hannsjörg Voth, 1980-87


18 settings. The city has received treatment and, especially towards the end of the twentieth century, more projects have worked with post-industrial sites. In wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin with 100,000m2 of fireproof polypropylene (Wrapped Reichstag), and also in constructing a series of 7,503 fabric gates in Central Park, New York (The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005), Christo and Jeanne Claude brought the ideas behind their large-scale landscape interruptions into an urban setting. Agnes Denes’s Wheatfield, Battery City Park – A Confrontation (1982) sowed and cultivated a wheat field on a site, surrounded by skyscrapers, awaiting redevelopment in Manhattan, providing a window through which the recent agricultural past could be viewed.

Fig. 15 - Sun Tunnels, Nancy Holt, 1973-76

Fig. 16 - Wheatfield - A Confrontation, Agnes Denes, 1982

Having bore witness to man’s power over nature, former industrial sites, already impure and stripped of their virgin soil, were places for trying out something new. The aesthetic healing of quarries, coal mines, ore-mines and gravel pits is closer to environmental art than most of Land Art, a chance to resuscitate ground poisoned by seeping chemicals and bereft of life. For Spiral Jetty (1970), Robert Smithson saw potential on the northeast shore of the Great Salt Lake, Utah, for a ‘rebirth’ project sited on abandoned, salt-crusted mud and amongst rusted machinery and heavy-duty detritus. It is one of Land Art’s most noted works, rich with both edge-ofapocalypse and hopeful sentiments.


19 4.2 Temporality and Tradition

The artist who works with earth, works with time.27

Temporality in particular is one device introduced to appropriate a more steadfast distinction between gallery-kind art and Land Art. The time involved in experiencing the duration of the visit, the hour of the day or the time of year - alienates these works from the opening hours of institutions. An artwork may also have its own roughly set or clearly defined lifetime, short enough for the art to exist only for an instant or long enough for it to be engulfed by shifting earth or encroaching waters, or eaten away by erosion. The apparent macabre obsession of some artists on the moribundity of the materials they had collected together for their sculptures doesn’t appear so on closer inspection; the curiousness towards and documentation of natural decay was, in part, a rediscovering of natural mortality and a coming to terms with humankind’s presence in a more comprehensive ecosystem. The anticipated corollary of time on many Land Art works renders them difficult financial investments. It also prevents the viewer from appreciating them, at once, in their totality, regardless of any feeling of a gestalt. Instead, the knowledge that they still exist and have likely altered state since visiting would be more prominent, and would help express a different understanding of natural processes. If one wasn’t there at the time to experience the few fleeting moments of Dennis Oppenheim’s Whirlpool, Eye of the Storm (1973) – spiral jets of smoke from an aeroplane mimicking the path of a tornado – then one could wait around for the right conditions in which lightning would strike De Maria’s Lightning Field (1977), or visit Christo and Jeanne Claude’s Valley Curtain (1970-72) during its twenty-eight hour existence. With patience, the alignment to the equinoxes in Robert Morris’s Observatory (1971) could be seen for oneself if only it still existed; like much of Land Art there is nothing there any longer. Temporality sets much of Land Art apart from works exhibited in museums, where art history is commonly comprehended as a linear time progression of the points at which artworks were unveiled. In this way it is suggested that Land Art defies classification and cannot easily be accommodated on a canonical time line, each piece having not a point but its own, albeit still linear, stretched existence.28 Land has always been treated through time, not only by agriculture but also in the creation of various types of garden. America inherited the European tradition of 27  Walter De Maria, in Udo Weilacher, Between Landscape Architecture and Land Art (Boston: Birkhauser, 1996), p. 21 28  Tiberghien, p. 64


20

Fig. 17 - Sky Line, Hans Haacke, 1967

Fig. 18 - Whirlpool, Eye of the Storm, Dennis Oppenheim, 1973

picturesque landscaping that originated in eighteenth-century Britain, though these arrangements are not frequently repeated in Land Art, even in Europe. Instead, what predominantly exists are abstracted forms, true to Modernism or Minimalism. The concern for the purity of abstract form was, according to art historian Robert Goldwater, writing in 1938, an expression of ‘Intellectual Primitivism’.29 The use of reductive forms like mastabas, solstitial alignments with the heavens, ‘dumb tools’ and references to - if not full involvement with - indigenous cultures were all archaisms intended to bring out universal, basic and eternal sensations. The abstraction allows for the breaking of finite barriers, entrance to the actuality of infinity in nature and representing reality in the mind rather than in the senses. Yet with such a diverse interpretation of mankind and environment amongst artists, this rule was often broken, with artists like Richard Goldsworthy producing detailed, human-scale, pleasing works. Nevertheless, tradition in Land Art is inherently linked with the longer time frames of evolution and tectonic movement, and the civilisations that came before our modern iteration.

29 

John Beardsley, Earthworks and Beyond, 4th edn (New York: Abbeville Press, 2006), p. 59


21 4.3 Substance and Process

Liberated by the setting, the insignificance of a work’s durability or preciousness, and the removal of the inclination to work with paint, marble, bronze or other traditional media, Land Art shows artists freely using a range of materials. It is also appropriate to describe them as using a range of matter. ‘Natural materials’ are abound in Land Art: earth, stone, wood, smoke, water, wind, sunlight, dust, steam, leaves, ice, snow, etc. The material here is of great importance; the substance is also the message. Worthless materials like earth, dismissed as filthy and base, unrefined and inconsequential, are celebrated in Land Art. In 1968, De Maria filled a gallery room with moist, pungent soil for Munich Earth Room, bringing the outside in to invite thought. David Nash (Running Table, Wooden Waterway) worked primarily with raw, dead wood, not planed, nailed, painted or treated, retaining its whimsical, knobbly character. Stone in Land Art is normally untreated, with Heizer prominent in the introduction of rough boulders already plump with geomorphic history and ready to become sacred without interference (Displaced/Replaced Mass 1, 2 & 3). On the importance of a lack of colour in Land Art, art historian Alois Riegl, writing a quarter of a century before the genre’s inception in 1938, suggests that colour ought to be rejected in all sculpture for being illusionary, immaterial, and nontactile, and therefore incompatible with the more tangible nature of sculpture.

Fig. 19 - Steam (second version), Robert Morris, 1974

Fig. 20 - Wooden Waterway, David Nash, 1978

Fig. 21 - The New York Earth Room, Walter De Maria, 1977


22

Fig. 22 - Ringdom Gompa, Hamish Fulton, 1978

The difficulty in translating large scale or ephemeral works to the gallery, and the deeply conceptual nature of most works, means photography and text are necessary for communicating the ideas. De Maria’s dislike of photography as a means of representation, paling in comparison to the experience at his works, is not shared by all. A photograph’s instantaneousness closely matches the fleeting existence of some works, and the blown-up images of others is in keeping with their largeness and is still preferable to producing works befitting a gallery. Hamish Fulton chose to make no deliberate marks in the landscape; his ramblings are only documented through photographs and diagrammatic posters. Smithson’s influence was served well by his continued critical writing on his own work and the work of others; for him, text was indispensable, adding not only layers to his own work but to Land Art as a whole.

Fig. 23 - Standing Coyote, Hamish Fulton, 1981

Jeffrey Kastner and Brian Wallis’s division of the processes involved in creating Land Art, whilst being tidy and contrived, is insightful. Integration covers works that manipulate the landscape as a material in its own right; Interruption covers the introduction of the man-made into the natural; Involvement illuminates the often one-on-one relationship of artists to the land; Implementation charts the link with socio-political structures; and Imagining features the work of artists using the land as a metaphor.30

30  Land and Environmental Art, ed. by Jeffrey Kastner, survey by Brian Wallis (London: Phaidon, 1998), pp. 7-9


23 Yet despite the scope originally available to Land Art, what began in the middle of the twentieth century, particularly in the American West, with sculpture that spoke mostly about the rejection of the market-led commoditisation of art, morphed towards the end of the century into works centred on the tenets of environmentalism, committed art given almost religious importance. The investigations into treating the land found limits of what would be accepted, appropriation suffocated by appropriateness.


24

Fig. 24 - Planar Displacement Drawing (in construction), Michael Heizer, 1970


25

5 Michael Heizer 5.1 Early Works The subject is architecture, the result is sculpture.31

Michael Heizer was born in Berkeley, California, in 1944, the son of the anthropologist Robert Heizer. His father had authored, co-authored or edited 415 papers in the four anthropological disciplines – archaeology, cultural anthropology, physical anthropology and linguistics – but most of his publications centred on the Great Basin and California.32 In contributing to studies of Olmec archaeology in Mesoamerica and Luxor in Egypt, Robert Heizer took his son on a tour of Native American sites and Central America, influences that would later come to fruition in Michael Heizer’s works in the Nevada Desert. After dropping out of the San Francisco Art Institute in 1963-64, Michael Heizer travelled to New York and began a series of geometric paintings that spoke more about what wasn’t there than what was. Planar, graphic and imbued with a physical and visual tension, what Heizer called displacement paintings were strictly logical, structural paintings of classic and formal relationships; ‘There is nothing’, he says, ‘arbitrary in them, there are no aesthetics involved.’33 The two-dimensionality of these works gave Heizer an understanding of viewpoint that would become more evident when he followed his greater interest in sculpture, or more specifically negative sculpture: making something by taking something away. A recurring theme in Heizer’s work is the repetition of forms at different sizes, usually from small to large, perhaps showing a growing confidence with the form, but also from large to small. North, East, South, West 1 (1967), a series of four, human-scaled geometric objects defined as much by their own form as the suggested hole their removal left in the source material - the other ‘half’ of the sculpture – was repeated as North, East, South, West 2 (1982), this time scaled up many times to occupy the large open space outside the Wells Fargo Building in

Fig. 25 - Eccentric Painting, Michael Heizer, 1967

31  Michael Heizer, ‘Interview with Julia Brown’, in Kastner, pp. 228-9 (p. 229) 32  Pat Barker, Robert Heizer <http://www.onlinenevada.org/Robert_Heizer> [accessed 3 December 2009] 33  Heizer, in Celant, p. 533


26

Fig. 26 - Negative Painting, Michael Heizer, 1966

Fig. 27 - Rectangular Painting 1, Michael Heizer, 1967

Fig. 28 - Rectangular Painting 2, Michael Heizer, 1967


27

Fig. 29 - Untitled, Michael Heizer, 1966

Fig. 30 - Negative Painting, Michael Heizer, 1966

Fig. 31 - Untitled 1, Michael Heizer, 1967

Fig. 32 - Untitled, Michael Heizer, 1967

Fig. 33 - Untitled, Michael Heizer, 1966

Fig. 34 - Untitled, Michael Heizer, 1967


28

Fig. 35 - Planar Displacement Drawing, Michael Heizer, 1970

Fig. 36 - Circular Planar Displacement Etching, Michael Heizer, 1972

Los Angeles. The graphic pattern in Circular Surfaces: Planar Displacement Drawing (1970), for which Heizer, riding a motorcycle, held Speedway-like circular skids to mark out 50-100m circles in the desert dust, reappeared two years later as Circular Planar Displacement Etching (1972), an identical composition as 5-10cm etchings in a New York pavement. Heizer was freed in the larger, unconfined spaces and filled them with his work, commonly reacting in an uptight manner when closed in the gallery or cityscape. The large, expansive and forever forgiving American desert became Heizer’s colossal canvas. On the Coyote Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert, California, Heizer’s Black Dye and Powder Dispersal 1 & 2 (1968) and further dye and powder dispersals in blue, yellow and white throughout 1969 saw the coloured dust thrown up into the wind and settle on top of the original lake bed dust, abstract images spread over 10-30m. The true aspect of size here is both the dislocation from civilisation and the infinitesimal time for which the artwork exists before being blown away. The dispersals vanished before they were examined, destined to only exist in memory: ‘Memory will supplant abstraction as an alternative to life.’34

34 

Heizer, in Celant, p. 108


29

Fig. 37 - Dissipate (no. 8 of Nine Nevada Depressions), Michael Heizer, 1968

Fig. 38 - Dissipate/Runic Casting/Matchdrop, Michael Heizer, 1968

Fig. 39 - Windows 2, Matchdrop, Michael Heizer, 1969


30 5.2 Double Negative In 1969 Heizer created his breakthrough and still most noted work, Double Negative. Using crates of dynamite and a team of bulldozers to shift 240,000 tons of rock, two 15m deep sloping trenches were carved into the side of a narrow canyon on the edge of the Virgin River Mesa near Overton, Nevada, forming an imaginary line 13m wide and 457m long and creating a ‘monument to displacement’.35 The title refers to the impossibility of a double negative – ‘there is nothing there, yet it is still a sculpture’36

Fig. 40 - Double Negative, Michael Heizer, 1969-70

Fig. 41 - Double Negative, Michael Heizer, 1969-70

– and the success of the work is both that it is essentially about absence, an implication, a hint of something there, and also that it is so large. A pair of cuts a tenth of the size would not express the same mysticism surrounding its creation, would not have the same relationship to the landscape and would not refer to the size of objects found in the built environment. Whilst Heizer saw working in the desert as a means of escaping the commoditisation of the art world and thus its reduction to functionality, he is awake to the importance of size: Because of working in Nevada and having accumulated heavy equipment, my work got bigger and bigger. I started working with concepts of architectural measurement. When I built Double Negative I realised I had built something as big as a building, something greater in length than the height of the Empire State Building. This became an important relationship for me.37

35  Brian Wallis, ‘Survey’, in Kastner, pp. 18-43 (p. 29) 36  Heizer, in Celant, p. 203 37  Ibid.


31

Fig. 42 - Double Negative, Michael Heizer, 1969-70

Certainly the rejection of the gallery was complete; how could a gallery compete with the aggressive size, the domination in Double Negative? It was displayed in a gallery setting in the Michael Heizer: New York-Nevada (January 1970) exhibition at the Virginia Dwan Gallery, New York, as a series of photographs from the site, furthering the sense of scale already instantly evident in the images: Double Negative was not there in the gallery, it was 2,500 miles away and much, much bigger than the room in which the viewer would have stood. Some critics argued that such a work was environmentally destructive, the further exploitation of nature by man, destroying the natural environment rather than honouring it. Others, such as David Hickey, understood how Double Negative was an apt reaction to the surroundings. With there a binary appreciation of place, ‘the dust at your feet and the haze on the horizon’, the in between is vacant space marked by its nothingness. Hickey states that ‘since you do not see things, but simply see, it is always easier to experience what has been taken away than what has been added … You can ‘add’ by taking away.’38 What followed next, to be discussed in more detail below, was Complex One, the first of the collection of sculptures that forms City.

38  David Hickey, in ‘Earthworks, Landworks and Oz’, in Kastner, pp. 196-199 (p. 196)


32 5.3 During the Development of City

After Complex One, Heizer created works that eventually found their place in the assemblage of City. Prominent amongst these are Platform (1980), Effigy Tumuli (198385) and the 45°, 90°, 180° series of sculptures from 1981 to 1984, with Heizer’s paintings from the seventies seeding the exploratory process.

Fig. 43 - Platform, Michael Heizer, 1980

Platform, a large-scale sculpture for the grounds of the Oakland Museum, showed a more nuanced appreciation of scale for Heizer, a work that ‘couldn’t be too big’.39 More important was the object itself, how the sun hit it, elevating the simple rectilinear form into an object of otherworldliness as if deposited from the cosmos.

Effigy Tumuli set Heizer loose on a site approximately one mile by one half mile, similar in scale to City. On an abandoned surface coal mine beside the Illinois River and adjacent to Buffalo Rocks State Park, Illinois, Heizer created five colossal sculptures of stylised animals living in the surrounding area: a water strider, a frog, a turtle, a catfish and a snake. The mounds were formed using heavy machinery to move some 460,000 cubic metres of earth and laying down 6,000 tons of limestone to reduce the acidity of the soil, encouraging the return of vegetation that had been unable to grow for over forty years. Originally planned to be insects, the animal forms were chosen as much to

Fig. 44 - Catfish of Effigy Tumuli, Michael Heizer, 1983-85

39 

Ibid., p. 348

represent the species most likely to be the first to return to the neutralised site as the creatures for which geometric abstraction was most fitting. However, the allusive and allegorical Effigy Tumuli marked a departure from Heizer’s earlier, more abstract conceptions and signalled a linking of site with prehistoric Native American mounds, with America itself – if not Americana - and not European traditions of art:


33 It’s all earth-moved sculpture, architecturally sized, American Art. They are works of art that can be considered works of art but don’t have to be in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.40

It furthered his escape from the gallery out into the wild, entranced by the pioneering spirit manifest in the expansive lands and the simplistic, geometric re-forming of earth, to Heizer the original material of art. Heizer saw the expressive potential in materials but was more concerned with their structural characteristics than their aesthetics. Begun in 1981, Heizer’s series of sculptures, 45°, 90°, 180°, was a development of his earlier tripartite Adjacent, Against, Upon compositions. For those, roughly hewn boulders were placed in a row in one of the three named configurations: near, leaning or atop a cleanly defined, fabricated concrete base of equal size. 45°, 90°, 180° (1981) was a rearrangement of this idea: three large stones - found objects - took the three angular positions, each above a concrete pedestal and held in place. The concept was then

Fig. 45 - Waterstrider of Effigy Tumuli, Michael Heizer, 1983-85

Fig. 46 - Frog Effigy of Effigy Tumuli, Michael Heizer, 1983-85

scaled up, with larger, now neater stones and massive supports, to fill a courtyard at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Filling the large exhibition space for a show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, 45°, 90°, 180°/Geometric Extraction (1984) saw Heizer return to the idea of a frontal yet dispersed, seemingly massive and expansive composition found in Complex One. Fig. 47 - 45°, 90°, 180°/Geometric Extraction, Michael Heizer, 1984 40  Heizer, in Celant. p. 404


34

Fig. 48 - Aerial view of City, Lincoln County, Nevada The plaza surrounded by Complexes One, Two and Three lies at the top of the composition, 45째, 90째, 180째 at the bottom. In between are geometrically-shaped earth mounds, domes and valleys.


35

6 Size in Land Art 6.1 Michael Heizer’s City I don’t work with scale, I work with size. Scale is an effete art term.41

Michael Heizer has been constructing City for almost four decades, and he will continue on it until he can no longer. It is estimated to have cost up to $25m, funded by the Dia Art, Lannan and Brown foundations and the Riggio family.42 Heizer bought a vast stretch of cheap land in Garden Valley, Lincoln County, Nevada in 1972 and began constructing Complex One, the first of a series of complexes that would make up City, a sculpture one and a quarter miles in length and over a quarter of a mile wide. Heizer forbids visitors whilst work continues, and even threatens to shoot trespassers; Michael Kimmelman’s New York Times Magazine article from 2005 is the most recent documented visit. Complex One, completed in 1974, relates to Heizer’s displacement paintings from the previous decade. An angular, sloped mass of earth with trapezoidal ends, fortythree metres long and over seven metres high, it is designed to be viewed formally and informally: from the front the concrete banding acts as a rectangular frame; on walking round the rectangle is revealed to be composed of 30-ton T and L shapes that cantilever out from the top of the mound, concrete blocks that lie in front of it on the ground or lie in the plane of the slope. The tools were borrowed from engineering: in a nod to Nevada’s recent past as a nuclear test site, Complex One was designed to withstand a blast, the site seismically analysed and the concrete used of the highest specification that could be achieved; heavy machinery – diggers, cranes and concrete mixers - toiled away during the night so that the concrete would keep its colour.43 On completion of Complex One, Heizer and his team of heavy machinery operators dropped the level of the ground in front seven metres to create a plaza that is blind to the surrounding mountains. Complex Two and Complex Three, completed in 1999, form two of the other sides of the plaza like a stadium open at one end. Complex Two and Complex Three are said to be angular dirt mastabas up to a quarter of a mile in length.

41  Michael Heizer, in Micahel Kimmelman, ‘A Sculptor’s Colossus in the Desert’, New York Times, 12 December 1999 <http://www.nytimes.com/1999/12/12/arts/art-architecture-a-sculptor-scolossus-of-the-desert.html> [accessed 29 May 2009], p. 5 42  Michael Kimmelman, ‘Art’s Last, Lonely Cowboy’, New York Times, 5 February 2005 <http://www. nytimes.com/2005/02/06/magazine/06heizer.html> [accessed 15 December 2009], p. 7 43  Tiberghien, p. 77


36

Fig. 49 - Complex One, Michael Heizer, 197276

Fig. 50 - Complex One, Michael Heizer, 197276

Successive phases to the northwest have dwarfed the sculpture around the plaza. For the four further complexes, Heizer has moved earth by amounts only ever seen elsewhere on large engineering projects, forming hills and mountains and creating a ‘patch of unspoiled sage, like a park, smack in the middle, for flood runoff through the valley’.44 Amidst the mounds is a concrete sculpture bearing at least material resemblance to the first three complexes, and bearing a very close resemblance to Heizer’s 45°, 90°, 180° series. Heizer calls it a ‘diffracted gestalt’: ‘From the ground you grasp the size but can’t make out the shapes – the opposite of what you sense from the air – and your perception changes as you move around.’45 On approaching City, the earth movements, concrete structures and spaces in between are hidden from view behind berms, domes and embankments; the entirety of City is to be experienced progressively with the whole and the whole of each component not read at once, that is to say the entire project is a diffracted gestalt. •••••••••••••••••••••••• I like to work so large that the camera can’t eat it. My sense is that you see art sequentially. You don’t need a gestalt. That’s a European manner. I’m trying to be an American artist.46

Fig. 51 - Complex One, Michael Heizer, 197276

44  Michael Kimmelman, ‘Art’s Last, Lonely Cowboy’ p. 5 45  Ibid, p. 5 46  Heizer, in Celant, p. 418


37

Fig. 52 - Complex One, Michael Heizer, 1972-76

Frequently referenced by all writing about City is its similarity with megalithic structures of antiquity. Heizer himself admits the resemblance is strong and in part intentional, with the form of Complex One relating to Egyptian mastabas and the concrete framing devices referencing the serpent-head motif from the Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza in Mexico. Indeed, Heizer’s father, a noted archaeologist, in taking his son with him to study pre-Colombian monuments and sites in Central America ignited an intrigue with the size and mass of the monuments rather than their symbolism. Heizer, a reactionary against commodified, object-in-gallery art refutes the argument that he is making a break with the past: ‘I’m not a radical. In fact, I’m going backward. I like to attach myself with the past.’47 However, he now holds back from those earlier remarks: ‘I said I derived some of the shapes from the serpent motif at Chichen Itza, and now I have to live with this forever, as if that’s the whole meaning behind it.’48 Tiberghien, however, justifies Heizer’s position in stating: Architecture and sculpture, as they exist, indistinguishable, in these ‘inorganic sculptures’, are perpetually out of date. Additionally, Land Art is profoundly ‘unreal’. In each of these artists’ work, in diverse forms, there is something unnameable, something in the silence of the desert, which exists as if of an earlier time.49

It is undoubtedly Michael Heizer’s fascination with mass that is behind his works prior to City, in particular Double Negative (1970). Leaving such a large void that suggested a much larger, building-sized object had made its mark in the landscape, Heizer himself admits that it was the origin of his interest in architecture: ‘When I was done it was 47  Heizer, Beardsley, p. 17 48  Heizer, in Kimmelman, p. 3 49  Tiberghien, p. 79


38 as big as a building. I had accidentally combined an issue of architecture with an issue of sculpture.’50 For regular geometric shapes, such as cubes and pyramids, the whole can be sensed at once and is offered immediately, avoiding any sense of intimacy. The scaling-up to Land Art’s large dimensions is purported to accentuate this. Smithson is quoted as stating: ‘There is no escaping nature through abstract representation; abstraction brings one closer to physical structures within nature itself.’51 Heizer agrees, declaring: ‘Geometry is organic. The study of crystallography demonstrates that there is more geometry in nature than man could ever develop…. There is no sense of order that doesn’t exist in nature.’52

Fig. 53 - Complex Two (models), Michael Heizer, 1980-88

Heizer is known for being fully aware if not morbidly fearful of a near, apocalyptic future and this helps explain what journalist Michael Kimmelman calls the ‘bunker metaphor’ within City: ‘Part of my art, is based on an awareness that we live in a nuclear era. We’re probably living at the end of civilization.’53 There is the suggestion that what Heizer is attempting to create is a final monument to modern civilisation – technology- and scienceobsessed, corrupted by big government, resolutely focused on progress – before the nuclear finale: ‘The H-bomb, that’s the ultimate sculpture. The world is going to be pounded into the Stone Age, and what kind of art will be made after that?’54

Fig. 54 - Complex Two (in construction), Michael Heizer, 1980-88

50  51  52  53  54 

Heizer, in Brown, in Kastner, p. 228 Robert Smithson, in Tiberghien, p. 67 Heizer, in Brown, in Kastner, p.228 Ibid. Heizer, in Celant, p. 207


39 City references not just past monuments but also airports, motorways, city squares and concrete stadia that might survive the destruction. Heizer has himself likened Complex One to a blast shield, and in making City internalized and, as Kimmelman described it, ‘defensive’ it appears that Heizers is adding drama. As Burke put it: ‘And to things of great dimensions, if we annex an adventitious idea of terror, they become without comparison greater.’55

Fig. 55 - Complex Two (in construction), Michael Heizer, 1980-88

City, as with most of Heizer’s work, deals with a somewhat solipsistic relationship with human scale; it may be perceived as on a monumental scale in relation to other artworks or to smaller buildings such as a modest house but the experience or this artwork is intended to be internal. Explaining the function of the plaza at the centre of the first three complexes in City, Heizer clarifies his own methodology: ‘It’s like making a room; the sculpture makes its own area, it’s completely isolated.’56 Whilst Heizer’s earlier works may have talked about their landscape setting – ‘the kind of unraped, religious space artists have always tried to put in their work’ – City does not; ‘It’s about art, not about landscape.’ Beardsley attests that ‘some association with the landscape is unavoidable: the works are after all, situated in a flat basin whose distant mountain ranges echo the long, ground-hugging, rough character of Heizer’s mounds’.57 Hamish Fulton, an artist whose wanderingexplorer methodology deliberately left no 55  Burke, p. 54 56  Heizer, in Brown, in Kastner, p. 228 57  Heizer, in Beardsley, p. 13

Fig. 56 - Complex Two, Michael Heizer, 198088


40

Fig. 57 - Complex Two (detail) of City, Michael Heizer, 1980-88

mark in the landscape, felt that the work of Heizer, Smithson and De Maria to be a continuation of ‘“Manifest Destiny”… the so-called “heroic conquering” of nature’ and found it ‘inescapably urban’, that any intervention by default comments on many issues aside from its setting.58 Beardsley goes on to propose that, when finished, City will be more of the character of conventional monuments than Heizer’s previous works: The elements will be massive and occupy space emphatically. Yet though parts may be large in size, they can never be truly large in relation to the scale of the surrounding basins and ranges. And the excavation between them will define and environment for which we, the viewers are the centre, rather than occupying the centre themselves as conventional monuments do.59

Fig. 58 - 45°, 90°, 180° (centre, in distance) of City, Michael Heizer, c. 2005

Fig. 59 - 45°, 90°, 180° of City, Michael Heizer, c. 2005

Fig. 60 - 45°, 90°, 180° (artist in foreground) of City, Michael Heizer, c. 2005

On the subject of working on an architecturally measurable scale, Heizer says: ‘Not scale, size. Size is real, scale is imagined size. Scale could be said to be an aesthetic measurement whereas size is an actual measurement.’60 Art critic Philippe Boudon characterises scale as ‘a specifically architectural concept, as opposed to proportion’ for which the dependency of an object on another nearby of known size allows for ‘ambiguity of scale’.61 In positioning the plaza of City over seven metres below ground level, Heizer removes any reference points for scaling the sculptures, an effect not fully understood by Tiberghien: 58  59  60  61 

Hamish Fulton, in Beardsley, p. 44 Beardsley, p. 19 Heizer, in Brown, in Kastner, p. 229 Philippe Boudon, in Tiberghien, p. 45


41 …the visitor, incredulous at first, then stunned, cranes his neck at a fortyfive degree angle, his body lightly tenses, without any possible point of reference, seized by a desire to alter his position in an attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. No matter whether one recedes or approaches, one never finds the perfect distance. When the visitor goes around the work, he sees only the access ramps that lead to the centre. Even with the variations of light, at noon, at sunset, or under a full moon, the same feeling remains. Incomprehensibility or the sublime?62

Fig. 61 - Dome-shaped earth mound of City, Michael Heizer, c. 2005

Tiberghien pursues Hegel’s interpretation of the sublime – ‘[the] outward shaping which is itself annihilated in turn by what it reveals, so that the revelation of the content is at the same time a supersession of the revelation, is the sublime’ – to mean that Heizer’s work would be situated ‘not in the symbolic, but in the sphere of indivision between architecture and sculpture’, or Hegel’s ‘primitive need for art’. He asserts that Heizer is troubled by the notion of scale, that it is the ‘excess of presence’ in the objects in City that creates the art; ‘His gigantic crystals offer the eye nothing but their size. One cannot evade them...’63 Beardsley agrees, stating that Heizer’s work can be seen as ‘a contemporary expression of the sublime’.64

Fig. 62 - Complex Two (left) and Complex One (right) of City, Michael Heizer, 1972-88

Heizer uses a different word: awe: It is interesting to build a sculpture that attempts to create an atmosphere of awe. Small works are said to do this but it is not my experience. Immense, architecturally-sized sculpture creates both the object and the atmosphere. Awe is a state of mind equivalent to religious experience, I think if people feel commitment they feel something has been transcended. To create a transcendent work of art means to go past everything.65

62  63  64  65 

Tiberghien, p. 73 Ibid., p. 79 Beardsley, p. 59 Heizer, Tiberghien, p. 77


42

Fig. 63 - Roden Crater (process artwork), James Turrell, 1974-present


43 6.2 James Turrell’s Roden Crater James Turrell is an artist dealing primarily with ideas of perception and the science of seeing. His principal manipulated medium is light; Turrell is considered one of the founding members of the California Light and Space Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Early works were illusionary: light projected onto walls was arranged to appear solid, two-dimensional planar shapes masquerading as threedimensional forms composed entirely of light, the matter dematerialised and ungraspable. For the Ganzfeld installations (1968 - present) entire rooms were filled with homogeneous, palpable light, the light in the spaces feeling ‘physically charged with coloured light’.66 The same effect was made more intimate in his perceptual cells: in Gasworks (1993) viewers lay down on a bed and were rolled inside a metal sphere to be overwhelmed with the homogeneous coloured light inside. Turrell’s Skyspaces (1975 – present) are small, centrally focused rooms, lined with benches, open to the sky above. Playing with the juncture of interior space and the space outside, the rooms feel enclosed but are subject to the passing clouds and variations of light as the sun, moon and stars arc overhead.

Fig. 64 - Gasworks, James Turrell, 1993

Fig. 65 - Roden Crater (detail), James Turrell, 1974-present

It was working on the Skyspaces that led Turrell towards what would become his magnum opus, Roden Crater (1974 – present): ‘[they] brought about the desire to work with larger amounts of space and a more curvilinear sense of the sky and its limits.’67 With a background as a pilot, Turrell flew his small plane between the Canadian and Mexican borders, from the Rockies to the Pacific, for seven months before the right site – an isolated geological formation, hemispherically shaped, over 1,500m above sea level, 150-300m above a plain, cloud-free and far from sources of light pollution 66  James Turrell, in Peter Noever (ed.), James Turrell: The Other Horizon (Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2001), p. 123 67  Ibid, p. 158


44 - was found amongst the 400 craters that form the San Francisco volcanic field, north of Flagstaff, Arizona. In a bowl-shaped, extinct volcano Turrell has for the last thirty years been building a series of celestial vaulting chambers as part of an observatory complex. Celestial vaulting is the effect created when the sky is viewed without a visible horizon line whereby the sky appears to be ‘coming down’ to enclose. Approached from the flat plain of the Painted Desert, the path curves upwards to the first point at which the expanse of the land, infinite and ineffable, can be experienced. At the top of the fumarole, the South Lodge leads to one in the network of tunnels that end in a designated observing space. These spaces capture the space and shape of the sky and its light at different times: the Sun and Moon Space, a camera obscura, displays on its walls an image of the sun, riddled with its black dots, at the solstices; the North Space, accessed via another camera obscura in the Kiva Space, observes the pole star, Polaris; the Fumarole Space, insulated from radio noise by a Faraday cage, acts as a small Fig. 66 - Roden Crater (interior Skyspaces and connecting tunnel), James Turrell, 1974-present

radio telescope, receiving signals from quasars and Seyfert galaxies; and the South Space charts the north star and is designed to mark a lunar event occurring every 18.61 years. Roden Crater is significantly larger than anything else Turrell – or any other artist - has created, which, given his focus on perception, is a progression that indicates the importance of scale in the search of the sublime. The work is ‘on a scale that is symphonic, revealing light from multiple,


45

Fig. 67 - Roden Crater (view of crater centre), James Turrell, 1974-present

massive sources in a space designed for its revelation’68 and allows ‘a unique and sublime experience to viewers seeking perceptual enlightenment’.69 The long tunnels, lit at the ends by bright discs of the light outside, are human-scaled, confined transfers between the end points of long lines and the edges of implied shapes: lines to distant stars, to the sun and to the moon; the shapes of the crater’s sphere, the sky’s intensified concavity and Earth’s surface. Conceived in the decade following the first shots of Earth from space, Roden Crater offers a response to Earthrise: the heavens can be encountered on Earth as much as Earth is in the heavens.

68  Michael Hue-Williams, ‘Wordless Thought’, in James Turrell – A Life in Light, ed. Meredith Etherington-Smith (Paris: Somogy, 2006), p. 11 69  Robert E. Knight, ‘Roden Crater’, In James Turrell: Infinite Light (Scottsdale, Arizona: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001), p. 2


46

Fig. 68 - South Space of Roden Crater (model in two parts), James Turrell, 1998


47 6.3 Other Works 6.3.1 Walter De Maria's Vertical Earth Kilometre/The Broken Kilometer and Lightning Field For 1977â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Documenta VI art exposition in Kassel, Germany, Walter De Maria had a solid brass rod, measuring a kilometre in length and with a cross section of 5cm, bored vertically into the ground, passing through six geological layers. The kilometre was composed of 167 rods approximately six metres in length, the installation taking 79 days to complete. The rod is topped by a 2m square sandstone plate that sits at the crossing of the two paths in Friedrichsplatz. The companion piece completed two years later, The Broken Kilometre, located in an apartment block on West Broadway, New York, consists of five hundred two metre long brass rods in arranged neatly in five rows on the floor. Both works express an implied size, hidden underground on an unfamiliar axis and in an unfamiliar direction, or hidden by being segmented and incomplete.

Fig. 69 - Vertical Earth Kilometre, Walter De Maria, 1977

Fig. 70 - The Broken Kilometre, Walter De Maria, 1979


48

Fig. 71 - Lightning Field, Walter De Maria, 1974-77

De Mariaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best known work is his 1977 Lightning Field in near Quemado, New Mexico. Four hundred highly polished, stainless steel poles with pointed, solid tips are arranged in a twenty-five by sixteen rectangular grid, one mile long and one kilometre wide, so that the tips of the poles, positioned on a gentle slope, would form an even horizontal plane on average six metres from the ground. During the lightning season from May to September, lightning strikes the poles an average of three times every thirty days.


49

Fig. 72 - Lightning Field, Walter De Maria, 1974-77

The site is only accessible by written permission in order to keep a strict ratio of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;a small amount of people to large amount of spaceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.70 Similar to Roden Crater in the use of the space of the sky as a material or object, the immensity, rapidity and tempestuousness of the lightning and thunder above the poles subjugates anyone looking on at the tremendous, electrified field.

70â&#x20AC;&#x192; Walter De Maria, in Kastner and Wallis, p. 233


50 6.3.2 Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Valley Curtain

Fig. 73 - Valley Curtain, Christo and JeanneClaude, 1970-72

Christo and Jean Claude have frequently worked with large sizes; theirs is a response to setting, and what often appears as an elucidation of enormousness is due to the scale of the location. For Valley Curtain (1970-72) 12,780m2 of orange nylon fabric was hoisted up by steel cabling to stretch 381m across a valley in Rifle Gap, Colorado. It lasted for just 28 hours, high winds necessitating its hasty removal. Like all their large projects it was years in the making and necessarily involved hundreds of professionals with expertise in other disciplines; a feat of engineering akin to a narrow suspension bridge or a frail membrane dam - it is a statement of delicate, reverential interruption that reflects the size of accomplishment by man not over nature but within it.


51 6.3.3 Works by Charles Simonds American artist Charles Simonds, included by many in the group of Land Artists because of his use of earth as a material and his tendency to predominantly work away from the gallery setting, is essential in any discussion in the field that concerns size or architecture. Since 1970 he has created miniature, pueblo-styled houses, made up of 8mm-long earth bricks, for a tribe he calls the Little People. These have sometimes existed in galleries but are normally placed in either proximity to Native American villages or within the

Fig. 74 - Dwelling, P.S. 1, Charles Simonds, 1975

ruins of derelict urban sites, particularly in New York. Simonds’ interest lay in the relationship between body and earth - specifically his own body and earth - and both the myth of origin and the origin of myth. For Birth (1970) Simonds buried himself in the earth and was reborn from it; for LandscapeBody-Dwelling (1971) Simonds lay naked on the ground, covered himself with earth and proceeded to build small earth-brick houses on the landscape formed by the curves of his torso. For the Dwellings series, begun in 1970, Simonds built small ruins of houses and walls within the cracks of crumbling buildings and their walls. To put one’s mind within these tiny creations is to inhabit them, to carry out the chores and rituals of their imagined inhabitants: ‘You have that feeling of falling into a small and distant place which, when entered, becomes big and real - a dislocation which gives it a dreamlike quality.’71

Fig. 75 - Landscape - Body - Dwelling, Charles Simonds, 1973

Fig. 76 - Age, Charles Simonds, 1982-83 71  Charles Simonds, in Kastner and Wallis, p. 240


52

Fig. 77 - Land - Body - Dwelling, Charles Simonds, 1971

The role of architecture in Simonds’ work is that of narrative, the small size allowing the whole to be comprehended instantly and rendered inconsequential, letting the intricate detail of the built forms and the mythical life come forward. This is ‘scale without size’72 and, like Simonds’ later interest in urban restoration, is effective in making the viewer sense responsibility for their surroundings by suggesting there are little people to care for; unlike Heizer, whose work impresses itself on the viewer, Simonds’ miniatures force the viewer into a position where they are aware they are impressing themselves on others.

72  Tiberghien, p. 73


53


54

Fig. 78 - Antiquus bivii viarum Appiae at Ardeatinae (Ancient intersection of the Via Appia and Via Ardeatina), Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 1756

Fig. 79 - Newton’s Cenotaph, Etienne-Louis Boullée, 1784


55

7 Conclusion Away from realm of actuality, magnitude can be a construct of the imagination. Eighteenth century architect Etienne-Louis Boullée, also a professor at the Académie Royale d’Architecture in Paris, drew up designs for buildings and monuments that have an ‘eerie quality of immensity’,73 mostly unbuilt. His Newton’s Cenotaph (1784) comprises a sphere over 150m in diameter, resting on a terraced base and pierced with holes to let in pin-pricks of daylight that would mimic stars suspended in the infinite universe. At night a sphere of lamps would be suspended from the ceiling to sit in the centre, bathing the curved walls with something resembling daylight. This was a fitting epithet for Newton, or at least Boullée’s admiration for him: ‘Sublime mind! Vast and profound genius! Newton! Accept the homage of my weak talents...’74 Designs for the Proposed New Hall for Expansion of the National Library (1780) are unashamedly large, unrelated to the sizes of the books or shelving they contain or the readers that would visit. Again, Boullée is clear in his intentions, designing ‘an immense basilica’, for which nothing could be ‘more grand, more noble, more extraordinary, nor have a more magnificent appearance than a vast amphitheatre of books’.75 His Funerary Monument (1785), one of Boullée’s many pyramidal monument designs, confirms an untamed desire for grandiose constructions, an architecture that has immediate effects on the sensibilities. Boullée was a visionary who enjoyed the poetics of his virile and prophetic designs, particularly in their use in his teachings, caught between declaring a distaste for baroque theatricality and the high drama of magnitude. Boullée’s neoclassical tendencies were resolutely Roman in their origin, not akin to Greek temples that he found monotonous; Newton’s Cenotaph would not have been dissimilar to the Pantheon in its effect. The ruins of Rome, still grandiose and massive in their broken state, also inspired eighteenth century architect, archaeologist and engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Restoring the historical authority of the city in his etchings for Antichita Romane engorged Piranesi’s imagination with ideas of the settings that could be readied for a new age of Roman ambition. Like Boullée, his designs were not bound by reality - certainly not technical feasibility - and all but a few remained unbuilt, perhaps inherently so. However, his was a very significant influence on the arts; his superlative, fantastical architectural etchings not only depict sublime, monumental buildings, epic, convoluted stairways, tumescent buttresses and terrifying torture machines but are also presented with a perspective style so detailed and rich with variety and activity they are as much picturesque as they 73  Dominique de Menil, in Visionary Architects: Boullee, Ledoux, Lequeu (Houston, Texas: University of St. Thomas, 1968), p. 13 74  Etienne-Louis Boullée, in de Menil, p. 26 75  Ibid., p. 63


56 are sublime. Despite being a proficient writer, Piranesi found a visual means through which he could channel his wish that the impressive and grandiose scale of ancient Rome returned to the minds of its contemporary inhabitants if not in its physical form too. The fantastical depictions of both Boullée and Piranesi, lacking sobriety and moderation in their scale, were, however, proposals for something that could be. On the cusp of reality were German architect Albert Speer’s proposals for Germania, the new Berlin fit for the Third Reich’s rule over all of Europe. Colossal in proportions and famously designed to last for a thousand years, the enormous domes, halls and triumphal arches would have been on a grander scale than in any other city in history. The horizontal stretching of the architecture spoke of territoriality, the vertical of elevation - to the ideals of the Nazi regime. This was, with the clear view of retrospection, the enormousness of enormity. •••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Whilst it is yet to be determined if Heizer’s City lives up to its objective of being awe-inspiring, Michael Kimmelman, in the last published account of a visit, writes he was ‘flabbergasted’76 with what had been accomplished. Yet despite its size it is not architecture, and not not-architecture; it does not function in the same way as architecture but it is not landscape either. Krauss’s awkward Expanded Field, in attempting to evolve more terms to describe modern sculpture, does not go far enough. City is part sculpture, part architecture and part not-architecture. Constructed with the solidity and opacity of concrete and rammed earth, and situated in a vast expanse of mostly lifeless aridity, the term most applicable would be axiomatic structure, axiomatic meaning ‘of the nature of an admitted first principle’, ‘self-evident’ or ‘indisputably true’.77 Originally conceived as just Complex One, Heizer’s City has grown to include the further complexes and a surrounding landscape of moved earth. Its distinct sculptural pieces are statuesque, standing out starkly against red dirt below and blue sky above. The meandering composition and multifarious hills and valleys, not comprehensible until its lengths and widths have been traversed, give it a sense of the picturesque, albeit time-delayed. When complete it will not function as a city, teeming with life and saturated with the diversity of human activity, and will only function, as intended, as a work of art. Though it is a hubristic, profligate construction that will invite visitors to indulge in the level of solipsism that has driven its creator, and despite Heizer’s fears of an imminent nuclear apocalypse, City contains more hope than despair; in the 76  Michael Kimmelman, in Kimmelman p. 5 77  Oxford English Dictionary, <http://dictionary.oed.com> [accessed 15 December 2009]


57 stillness of the desert Heizer is attempting to produce an embodiment of the sublime, beauty on a par with nature.


58

8 Bibliography 8.1 Books Beardsley, John, Earthworks and Beyond, 4th edn (New York: Abbeville Press, 2006) Bourdon, David, Designing the Earth: The Human Impulse to Shape Nature (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1995) Burke, Edmund, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) Celant, Germano, Michael Heizer (Milan: Fondazione Prada, 1997) de Menil, Dominique (ed.), Visionary Architects (Houston: University of St. Thomas, 1968) Ficaccia, Luigi, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings (London: Taschen, 2000) Graham-Dixon, Andrew, ‘James Turrell – A Life in Light’, in James Turrell – A Life in Light, ed. by Meredith Etherington-Smith (Paris: Somogy, 2006), pp. 20-41 Hue-Williams, Michael, ‘Wordless Thought’, in James Turrell – A Life in Light, ed. Meredith Etherington-Smith (Paris: Somogy, 2006), pp. 6-19 Kastner, Jeffrey and Brian Wallis, Land and Environmental Art (London: Phaidon, 1998) Knight, Robert E., ‘Roden Crater’, In James Turrell: Infinite Light (Scottsdale, Arizona: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001), pp. […] Licklider, Heath, Architectural Scale (London: The Architectural Press, 1965) Moore, Charles and Gerald Allen, Dimensions: Space, Shape & Scale in Architecture (New York: Architectural Record Books, 1976) Noever, Peter (ed.), James Turrell: The Other Horizon (Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2001) Pinkard, Terry P., Hegel: A Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) Rendell, Jane, Art and Architecture: a Place Between (London: I. B. Tauris, 2006)


59 Rosalind Krauss, ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, in Postmodern Culture, ed. by Hal Foster (London: Pluto Press, 1985) Tiberghien, Gilles A., Land Art (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995) Virilio, Paul, Art and Fear, trans. Julie Rose (London: Continuum, 2004) Weilacher, Udo, Between Landscape Architecture and Landscape Art (Boston: Birkhauser, 1996) 8.2 Periodicals Articles Crone, Rainer, ‘Prime Objects of Art: Scale, Shape, Time – Creations by Michael Heizer in the Deserts of Nevada’, Perspecta, Vol. 19 (1982), pp. 14-35 < http://www.jstor.org/ stable/1567047> [accessed 5 April 2009] Kimmelman, Michael, ‘Art’s Last, Lonely Cowboy’, New York Times, 5 February 2005 <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/06/magazine/06HEIZER.html> [accessed 29 May 2009] Kimmelman, Michael, ‘A Sculptor’s Colossus of the Desert’, New York Times, 12 December 1999 <http://www.nytimes.com/1999/12/12/arts/art-architecture-asculptor-s-colossus-of-the-desert.html> [accessed 29 May 2009] Moore, Jared Sparks, ‘The Sublime, and Other Subordinate Esthetic Concepts’, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 45, No. 2 (15 January 1948), pp. 42-47 < http://www.jstor. org/stable/2019580> [accessed 17 December 2009]

8.3 Websites Church, Jok, ‘Christo and Jeanne-Claude’ [accessed 30 December 2009]

<www.christojeanneclaude.net>

Houlgate, Stephen, ‘Hegel’s Aesthetics’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy <http:// plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel-aesthetics> [accessed 13 December 2009] Tarasen, Nic, ‘Double Negative: A Website About Michael Heizer’ <http:// doublenegative.tarasen.net> [accessed 13 December 2009] Oxford English Dictionary, <http://dictionary.oed.com> [accessed 15 December 2009]


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8.4 Films Christoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Valley Curtain. Dir. Ellen Giffard, Albert Maysles and David Maysles. Maysles Films. 1974 James Turrell: Passageways. Dir. Carine Asscher. Editions du Centre Pompidou. 2006

The Size of City: Michael Heizer's Masterpiece as Architecture  

MArch Dissertation

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