Friday, 30 November 2012

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

When making art that plays on geography, on ideas of space, place and landscape, it is perhaps impossible to avoid the subject of Land Art.

Land art appears only fleetingly in Vectis, in a couple of the images of the visual essay, 'On the Shoulders of Giants...' in the Spring section. Although not actually at odds with pscyhogeography, land art takes things a step further. It is a deliberate intervention in the landscape, an attempt to change it, to add to or subvert its meaning. For rural psychogeography it is the equivalent of architecture in urban psychogeography. This places land art beyond the scope of my personal project, which is one that attempts to understand the island as it currently is, rather than to change it.

It is also, I feel, important to highlight the distinctions between land art and book art, as ways of escaping the confines of the gallery. Putting aside the attempted contextlessness of the white cube was a significant motivating factor in my decision to move in to the realm of the artist's book. This is also a significant motivating factor for many land artists; they want to escape the contextlessness of the white cube gallery, where artworks "are mounted, hung, scattered for study. Their ungrubby surfaces are untouched by time and its vicissitudes.", creating work that is more immanent. However, in my opinion, land art has often thrown the baby out with the bathwater by creating work that is more alienating, more alien, less human and more elitist than that in the gallery. Many famous pieces of land art are constructed, for a variety of reasons, far away from the eyes of any viewing public, such as Smithson's 'Spiral Jetty', De Maria's 'The Lightning Field' or Heizer's utterly monumental 'City', which positively revels in its remoteness and inaccessibility. Although my work has often criticised the enlightenment, I do happen to believe that public art galleries, which allow anyone to see art that once was hidden away exclusively in private collections, are one of it's great positive legacies. Book art, I feel, allows an escape from the gallery without these problems. Book art is relatable, portable, democratic and intimately human.

Although it is not one of the works I used in the essay (space being limited), one piece of land art that it is interesting to consider in the context of Vectis is Richard Long's 1967 piece, 'A Line Made By Walking'.

"Nature has always been a subject of art, from the first cave paintings to twentieth-century landscape photography. I wanted to use the landscape as an artist in new ways. First I started making work outside using natural materials like grass and water, and this led to the idea of making a sculpture by walking. This was a straight line in a grass field, which was also my own path, going ‘nowhere’. In the subsequent early map works, recording very simple but precise walks on Exmoor and Dartmoor, my intention was to make a new art which was also a new way of walking: walking as art. Each walk followed my own unique, formal route, for an original reason, which was different from other categories of walking, like travelling. Each walk, though not by definition conceptual, realised a particular idea. Thus walking – as art – provided a simple way for me to explore relationships between time, distance, geography and measurement. These walks are recorded in my work in the most appropriate way for each different idea: a photograph, a map, or a text work. All these forms feed the imagination". - Richard Long

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