• EarthLab

Land art is a 'thing'

Updated: Apr 28, 2019

While trekking on Santo Antao, an island of Cape Verde in Feb 2018, we met a fellow traveler who introduced us to land art. As we shared our pictures over dinner one night with the nice French lady (who was herself an artist) she said, 'ah cool, you're into land art'! ... 'um, yeah... I guess we are?!', we replied. The closest thing I had ever seen to land art were the elaborate sand sculptures at the beach as a kid.

Actually our land art is really small scale and rustic. Serious land art often involves considerable engineering and earth moving equipment (like these pieces that are created at a biennial exhibition near where we are living).

In the late 60s, early 70s, there were a few famous pieces of land art made. One, called Lightning Field was set up in a remote part of New Mexico and comprised of 400 stainless-steel javelins stuck into the ground and designed to attract spectacular lightning shows. Another was a piece called Double Negative, which is basically a gigantic hole cut out of a tabletop cliff in the Nevada desert. It required the blasting and removal of almost 250 thousand tonnes of desert sandstone and is still there today. While these works are impressive, they are also criticized for being 'ecological vandalism' and 'arrogant intrusions into precious wilderness'. I doubt anyone would actually allow it anymore.

While we would like to dip our toes further into the world of land art at some stage, we definitely subscribe to the principle that land art should rise, erode and eventually disappear, like many cliffs and beaches in nature. Not only because it seems much less violent, but there is also something very beautiful about the impermanence of an artwork that is exposed to the elements and is eventually busted apart by nature.

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