23 November 2009

Spiral Jetty and Time

Almost all of the photography projects I'm ever involved with deal with time in some way. This, paired with my desire to visit Spiral Jetty in Utah by myself one day, made How to Conserve Art That Lives in a Lake? a pretty great find last week.

I had a dream about a year ago in which I found Spiral Jetty leading off of a beach on a tropical island, and walked to the end of it in a vast silence. It took me a few hours of creative Googling the next day to figure out whether or not this place actually existed, or if I had quite literally dreamed it up. It turns out that I learned about it in my AP Art History class in 2000, and it chose eight years later to show up in my subconscious. Ever since, I've wanted to buy a plane ticket to Utah and walk out to the middle of it by myself. Bud almost gave me a heart attack when I half told him this story a couple of months ago and he responded with, "I don't think that actually exists anymore."

Well, he was half right, it turns out. Apparently it was submerged for decades, and droughts caused it to resurface recently. Robert Smithson (the artist) was always into what the passage of time did to his works, and it's too bad he didn't live to see it come back out of the water. It looks a lot different now; salt and silt have whitened it considerably, and over the years people have also taken pieces of it with them as souvenirs.

The photography part of it comes in with Dia, the art foundation that owns the piece. They wanted to find a way to photograph Spiral Jetty longitudinally to see how the passage of time's effect on it could influence conservation efforts in the future. Because it's so huge, it was hard to figure out a way to do this without blowing through thousands (millions?) of dollars. They finally got there with a latex weather balloon, helium, fishing line, assorted tools, and a point-and-shoot. Pretty awesome, no? Anyway, I was happy that the article brought it back into my consciousness. I still want to go, too. Does anybody know if people are even allowed to walk to the end of it?

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