Category Archives: art

Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty by Tim Do

Tim Do, 2008: Spiral Jetty
Tim Do, 2008: Spiral Jetty

The Spiral Jetty, Utah – at low water.  Considered to be the central work of American sculptor Robert Smithson, is an earthwork sculpture constructed in 1970. Built of mud, salt crystals, basalt rocks, earth, and water on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point in Utah, it forms a 1500-foot long and 15-foot wide counterclockwise coil jutting from the shore of the lake.

At the time of its construction, the water level of the lake was unusually low because of a drought. Within a few years, the water level returned to normal and submerged the jetty for the next three decades. Due to a recent drought, the jetty re-emerged in 1999 and is now completely exposed. The lake level rose again during the spring of 2005 due to a near record-setting snowpack in the mountains and partially submerged the Jetty again (  We found this wonderful, rare photo in Tim Do’s blog and have taken the liberty of linking to it.

As an aesthetic response to land and place, late 20th century Environmental Art is due for a reappraisal in light of Indigenous ecophilosophies that provide a sacred and social framework for visceral relations between humans, land and the non-human.  Spiral Jetty has been invisible for much of its life in more ways that one.  These works are always a bit orphaned in Art Historical, Landscape Architecture and Environmental theory.  Environmental Art absolutely cries out to be put into a dialogue with Indigenous cultural frameworks that offer critical and contextual responses to land and place.

Rob Shields (University of Alberta)

Museum Gallery Spaces

art-agenda has a thematic examination of gallery spaces online every two months, with the current feature being underground spaces.

Vienna Sezesion

Not so underground… Vienna Sezesion CC-NC 2014 Rob Shields

Barbara Sirieix notes that underground galleries include purpose built spaces such as the Städel Museum in Frankfurt as well as parking garages and appropriated and converted basement spaces where many artists also work because of economic considerations.  These spaces often become part of artworks and installations.

-Rob Shields (University of Alberta)

Review: DON’T FORGET — Artists’ Remnants and Paper Scraps

DON’T FORGET — Artists’ Remnants and Paper Scraps

Curated by Arnaud Desjardin

Large Glass Gallery, London

16 Sept-13 Nov. 2015


Click on image to view more images from exhibition on Large Glass Gallery’s website.

The current exhibition at Large Glass Gallery, London, features a unique collection of 20th century art avant-garde ephemera. Posters, invitations, announcements, memo cards and photographs remind us of the networks of relationships between generations of artists and between exhibitions, performances and even commercial work. “DON’T FORGET” reads a page from Richard Hamilton’s block of notes, signed by Marcel Duchamp, elevating the slip to the status of art and confusing the boundaries between oeuvre and ephemera. Assembled by Arnaud Desjardin from numerous collections, these mementos of Marcel Broodhaers, Eileen Gray, Sol Lewitt, Yves Klein, Volf Vostell and many others are re-presented in a fine catalogue and accompanying poster.

Image by Library Glass Gallery
Image by Library Glass Gallery

We live in a time when ephemera has gone digital in the form of tweets and posts. At “DON’T FORGET,” the signature wit of twentieth century art, such as Hamilton’s a large paintbrush embossed “Hamilton Perfection” and tagged “Happy New Year Rita + Richard” neatly reminds us of not only remnants but the physicality of artistic media up until now. At the same time, the intangibility of artistic gesture is not just in the performance but also in the relations set up by the artist between ideas, words, everyday gestures and places. Scraps and notes, like the unsorted contents of a desktop, are not displayed as mere scraps nor as ethnographic fragments of past events. While some works are clearly art—prints, preparatory sketching and grey literature—other items expose rather the frames and scaffoldings around art, including lists, left-overs and envelopes.

Image by Author

The success of this exhibition is its ability to make us rethink the status of ephemera as art. Is this exhibition a history museum display, or is it an art show? Even the nostalgic will find that Desjardin’s show reveals art and the exhibitions themselves always were boundary objects. Looking back through the “Oculist Witness” of Large Glass Gallery, the geometric clarity of the twentieth century institutional definitions of art, collection, exhibition, curating, appear in a new perspective, in new relations to each other and to the artist and viewer. What is art? What are ephemera? What is exhibition? These are the enduring questions still confronting the new avant-garde.

“The Oculist Witness” by Richard Hamilton

Large Glass Gallery 392 Caledonian Road London N1 1DN

-Rob Shields (Univ. of Alberta)


World of Matter: Exposing Resource Ecologies

Exhibition at Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University. February 20 – April 18, 2015.

The world of matter has been forcefully sculpted in the last several centuries by the twin projects of colonialism and capitalism. The very movement of human activity under modernity has rested on the formation of a standing reserve of nature, a category whose flexibility has variously expanded and contracted to include both humans and non-human others as targets for exploitation and extractive energy. Carbon industries, forestry, mining, agribusiness, construction, mega-farming and fishing participate in worlding the world as mere matter, asserting deep and unforgiving property rights in dispersed territories around the globe. Nevertheless, at each point in this cartography of extraction one finds committed points of resistance and un-ceded terrains, both material and symbolic. This symposium and exhibition asks how the fields of contemporary art and media studies, indigenous studies and resistance movements, critical environmental studies, new ethnography and science and technology studies might bring into focus the globalizing dynamics of extractive ecologies. It seeks to build substantive discursive grounds for resisting incursions into sovereign land, denials of the rights of nature, and the persistent dispossession of indigenous and First Nation peoples. It asks, What un-ceded terrains precede and interrupt the depths of imperial ecologies? What interventions ensure the defense of land, labour, survival and species diversity in the globalized present?

World of Matter is an international art and media project investigating primary materials (fossil, mineral, agrarian, maritime) and the complex ecologies of which they are a part. Participants: Mabe Bethonico, Ursula Biemann, Emily Eliza Scott, Uwe H. Martin & Frauke Huber, Paulo Tavares, Elaine Gan, Peter Mörtenböck & Helge Mooshammer, Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan. Visit our multimedia web platform here.  

February 20 – April 18, 2015  Organized by Krista Lynes and Michèle Thériault.

Review by Brian Holmes here

-Rob Shields (University of Alberta)