Main menu


How Utah's 'Spiral Pier' Is Bringing Attention to the Climate Crisis | Celent Travel

Smithson Spiral Pier 8.jpg

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970). Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA. Mud, precipitated salt crystals, rocks and water. 1,500 feet (457.2 m) long and 15 feet (4.6 m) wide. Collection Diamond Art Foundation.Photo: William T. Carson, 2020
© Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation / Licensed by the Artist Rights Society, New York

This article originally appeared on Nexus Media News.

In 1972, just two years after its completion, the “Spiral Pier” disappeared. Robert Smithson’s influential earthwork was created at a time when water levels in Utah’s Great He Salt Lake were unusually low, easily forming vortex-like coils of black basalt rock carvings. can be identified. But when heavy rains hit the area, the lake swelled and engulfed the whirlpools. It was the beginning of his 30-year-long period in which the “spiral pier” was mostly submerged, except for a few brief reappearances. At one point the water covered the rocks for 16 feet.

Smithson knew that the Great Salt Lake and the surrounding desert were a precarious environment, if not wholly hostile to his ambitious art projects. Located on the northeastern shore of the lake, the ‘Spiral Jetty’ is forked by railroad tracks and set in a barren landscape littered with abandoned oil rigs.

But what Smithson, who died in 1973, could not have predicted was that the Great Salt Lake would shrink by two-thirds during a record drought. Spiral has been completely dry since 2002, and her 6,650-ton mass of rock rests on cracked, sun-scorched earth.

“It’s earthwork that changes as the world around it changes,” says Lisa Le Houvre, executive director of the Holt/Smithson Foundation, named after Smithson and his wife, artist Nancy Holt. said. “It has consistently and sustainably inspired other generations of artists.”

Today, arts organizations around the world are using the Spiral Jetty and other landmarks to help people connect climate change with the places they care about. A partnership between the Holt/Smithson Foundation and 27 other institutions, the World Weather Network creates “weather stations” (artwork, landmarks, local or actual weather stations) that serve as starting points for studying changing weather patterns. weather station) was installed.

In Greece, composer Stavros Gasparatos provided a symphonic interpretation of meteorological data. Photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto captured a live broadcast of the sunrise at the Enoura Observatory in Odawara, Japan. Turkish author Izzy Finkel has written a personal essay on tornadoes and other extreme weather events in Istanbul.

For Le Feuvre and her team, the World Weather Network project is an opportunity to share never-before-seen footage and rare photographs of the ‘spiral pier’ taken over the past half century. Her organization also called on poet Leiri Long Soldier, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation, to create an original work inspired by the interaction between the “Spiral Jetty” and the changing weather. . It is scheduled to be released in early 2023.

How Utah's 'spiral pier' is drawing attention to the climate crisis

Robert Smithson spiral pier (1970). Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA. Mud, precipitated salt crystals, rocks, water. 1,500 feet (457.2 m) long and 15 feet (4.6 m) wide. Collection Diamond Art Foundation.

Photo: Matthew Coolidge, 2002 © Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation / Licensed by the Artists Rights Society, New York.

The network grew out of conversations between organizations such as the Holt/Smithson Foundation and the London-based nonprofit Artangel. Artangel is known for creating site-specific installations and exhibitions in unconventional art venues. (“We don’t do a lot of work for theaters and concerts in his halls,” says Michael Morris, co-director of Artangel. Because of climate change,” he said.

Artists have long looked to the weather for inspiration, but the stormy skies and cottony clouds on the canvases of Romantic masters such as JMW Turner and John Constable, or Imagine the wave of white hats towering over Mount Fuji, a woodblock print by Japanese painter Hokusai Katsushika. Fuji—Morris believes that many contemporary artists struggle to orient themselves in the face of the environmental crisis. “These great landscape painters were fascinated by what the weather did for them and how it made them feel,” he says. “Now we are more concerned about what we are doing with the weather.”

By narrowing it down to weather rather than tackling the cumbersome and gargantuan subject of climate change, the network’s organizers hope to provide a more accessible entry point for talking about the climate emergency. , expects art’s ability to reach a wider audience and elicit a deeper, more instinctive emotional response. invites people into the climate change conversation and “feels more human,” says Miranda Massey, founder of New York’s Climate Museum. “Art is not perceived as political,” she said.

“There was a breathtaking climatic silence” in the art world when the Climate Museum opened in 2015, Massey said. Now she has noticed a proliferation of initiatives like the World Weather Network that are considering this issue. And art is evolving, she said. We are now seeing aesthetic marvels being made across a wide range of mediums, beyond the creative realm. “

Because art is social in nature, it can help alleviate feelings of isolation and fear of climate change. This, as Massey points out, is the only way not to feel “totally overwhelmed” by this global disaster.

Just weeks after the Le Feuvre organization began sharing historic photos of the “spiral pier”, people started sending in pictures of the earthwork from their personal vacation albums. The photos included images of snow-covered sculptures and images of first-time visitors who got lost en route to the site.

For Le Feuvre and the other organizers behind the World Weather Network, this kind of engagement is seen as a key indicator of success. “I always say that art cannot change the world, but it can change perceptions,” said Le Fouvre. “If you can change your perception, you can change the world.”

Nexus Media News is an editorially independent, non-profit news service covering climate change.follow us @NexusMediaNews.