JAN 19 - 02
WHEN ART AND NATURE MERGE
The recent revival of land art and its allure for cultural icons and global corporations
When Kanye West donated $10 million to installation artist James Turrell’s unprecedented, both large-scale and long-term art project “Roden Crater”, the high-profile rapper has not only stirred a revived interest into the extinct volcano turned experiential light-space venue, which is located in the Painted Desert region of Northern Arizona and is described by the artist himself as “a controlled environment for the experiencing and contemplation of light”. But West has also shone a fresh light on an art movement that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, broadened the boundaries of art by the materials used as well as the siting of the works and is ever since commonly referred to as land art, Earth art or landscape art.
Turrell’s project Roden Crater constitutes a perfect case in point for the latter since the 400,000-year-old, 3-mile-wide (4,8 km) crater’s land is, at first sight, not directly recognizable as any kind of purposely created art. Rather, Roden Crater, which Turrell acquired in 1977 and has ever since been working on its artistic transformation, is minimally invasive to the external natural landscape. The human intervention only becomes visible when one enters the dead volcano and gets immersed into the inner cone of the crater that has been transformed into a massive naked-eye observatory, designed specifically for viewing and experiencing sky-light, solar and celestial phenomena. Roden Crater thus perfectly embodies what the wider artistic discipline of land art generally stands for – or as Tate’s dictionary of art terms defines: “Land art or earth art is art that is made directly in the landscape, sculpting the land itself into earthworks or making structures in the landscape using natural materials such as rocks or twigs.”
Closely linked to, albeit quite different from land art is another art movement that also leverages the landscape or at least the public space as backdrop for the actual work of art. The so-called monumental art is generally understood as large-scale pieces of art that are conceived with the clear intention of sending out a strong message or even of demonstrating a conspicuous symbol of power. Monumental art can be found especially within the public space (e.g. historical monuments, murals or autocratic architecture), while the criterion for the size of the art installation lies in the deliberate exceedance of human proportions. As a recent example serves here the enormous new inflatable artwork that street artist KAWS just recently installed at a generally accessible parking space in the Taiwanese capital Taipei. At more than 110 feet tall, the sculpture shows a seated variant of KAWS’ proprietary character “Companion”, a playful Mickey Mouse-like figure with a skull and crossbones for his head.
Since ever more cultural icons like Kanye West, but also global corporations are keen on funding those heavy investment art projects to combine their financial support with a literally unmissable, impactful brand message, we at Cc are curious to observe how these large-scale interventions in public space will affect our living environment as well as the social interactions we are having within the latter.