[-empyre-] Ecological aesthetics

Timothy Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Mon Apr 28 11:14:14 EST 2008

>Thanks for your post.   It's a coincidence that you make this 
>posting just as I'm thinking about how to organize a Cornell 
>conference next fall that will combine reflections on eco art with a 
>celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Cornell earth art 
>exhibition that included Walter De Maria, Jan Dibbets, Hans Haacke, 
>Michael Heizer (who seems to have withdrawn during participation), 
>Neil Jenney, Richard Long, David Medalla, Robert Morris, Dennis 
>Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, and Gunther Uecker.  This was the kind 
>of low tech exhibition (seeminly the second international group show 
>that featured land art) that focused attention on rejecting the 
>gallery space.  Your e-mail has me thinking that I should do some 
>further research about the relations of patrons to this show that 
>was curated by Willoughby Sharp.

What I've been considering is the extent to which these artists' 
early interests in the form of the earth have evolved into more 
recent consideration of eco art and wired sustainability.  This all 
becomes more complicated since so many of these artists went on to 
enjoy tremendously successful careers who's later earth art 
interventions lacked the quiet minimalism of many of the Cornell 
projects.  Indeed, the works on eco media in the exhibitions 
currently up at Eyebeam and Exit Art seem to be motivated by an 
esprit much more akin to that earlier work, especially the 
experimentations by the more political of the early artists, such as 
Hans Haacke.



>n Apr 25, 2008, at 9:00 PM, empyre-request at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au wrote:
>>When land artists such as Robert Morris and Robert Smithson
>>went into industrial wastelands in the 1970s and created large earth
>>art works they were demonstrating knowingly or unknowingly the future
>>utility of those spaces. The were also actively rejecting the gallery
>>system. Dross scapes are now the contemporary edge of landscape
>>architecture but they inherited that focus from artists.
>"Rejecting" the gallery space, maybe (but even that's a stretch), 
>but hardly the "gallery system". Smithson's patron was, after all, 
>both a gallery owner and mining heiress. I don't think there was any 
>chance of their work being "unknowing" contributors to the 
>reimagining of post-industrial sites.
>This history should lead us to look more closely at the patrons of 
>the emerging eco-aesthetics, namely the in the agencies of 
>But we should also maybe remember that Smithson's images were pretty 
>apocalyptic and hardly preservationist. Not exactly trying to 
>salvage or remediate slag sites for a utopian future.
>This isn't to say I'm suggesting Smithson's position as correct... hardly.
>Ron Graziani's Robert Smithson and the American Landscape is a good 
>read for this.
>empyre forum
>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Timothy Murray
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
Director of Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature
Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video
285 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

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