Welcome Home

Burning Man starts today, and photos are pouring in. You see Black Rock City rise from the playa on John Curley's photostream.

And for a recent update, check out John Curley's posting to the Burning Man Blog.

University of New Mexico Art Museum Fall 2009 Exhibitions

Click on the images below to read UNM's announcement of its Art Museum's 2009 exhibitions, including a LAND/ART film festival.

Alice Leora Briggs on Jaurez

From Chris Taylor and Alica Leora Briggs on the Land Arts Listserve this week:

PBS's online NewsHour Art Beat featured Alice's work on Jaurez and includes a slideshow of her work.


from the SculptureCenter website

SculptureCenter is pleased to present A Voyage of Growth and Discovery, a collaborative video installation by artists Mike Kelley and Michael Smith. The installation will include a six-channel video featuring Michael Smith's character Baby IKKI and will be on view at SculptureCenter September 13-November 30, 2009. An opening reception will take place on Sunday, September 13, 5-7 pm.

A Voyage of Growth and Discovery centers on Baby IKKI, a character that artist Michael Smith has been performing for over thirty years. Pre-lingual and of ambiguous age, Baby IKKI is both comedic and melancholy. The six-channel video follows the existential journey of the Baby over several days at a festival of "radical self-expression," famous for its presentations of large-scale displays of fire, held in the remote Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The Baby, alone in his journey despite being surrounded by thousands of revelers, negotiates the rave-like festival environment while also exploring the primal natural elements of fire, water, earth, and wind. Michael Smith offers a masterful tragicomic performance that exhibits extreme physical endurance. The two-and-a-half hour multi-channel video, culled from hours of raw footage, is the result of an intensive and meticulous editing process between Mike Kelley and Michael Smith. The video's six-part narrative structure mirrors that of the event: four days and nights of festival preceded by an introductory travel section and followed by a post-festival day. In the introductory section Baby IKKI is shown "on the road" in his mobile home, where he is bombarded and inculcated with televisual material that presage his experiences in the desert. En route, the Baby busies himself with candies, cushions, and matches, while watching scenes from B-movies and cartoons replete with pyrotechnics and themes of infantilism. The festival itself is a carnivalesque event where IKKI is subsumed in raves, faced with erotic encounters, and surrounded by multitudes of costumed party-goers-many dressed in childish attire (though none as infantile as IKKI). The culmination of the event is the massive public "burn," after which the Baby is left alone to ponder his "voyage."

The installation presented at SculptureCenter reflects the fantasy-oriented environment of the festival, which is both grand and folksy-an odd mixture of fairground, playground, hippie commune, and the futuristic architectural aesthetics of R. Buckminster Fuller. Resembling an abandoned festival site of the post-"new age" era, the structure circles a 30- foot tall junk sculpture representing Baby IKKI himself. Surrounded by video projection screens, the viewer is invited into this world of regression and tactile experience-to share in Baby IKKI's journey.

This project marks the first collaboration between Mike Kelley and Michael Smith, artists who have been friends since 1975.

A Voyage of Growth and Discovery is co-produced by SculptureCenter and West of Rome. The installation will be presented in Los Angeles by West of Rome in Spring 2010. -from the SculptureCenter website

water projects

"Indras Cloud," Anne Percoco, artist

Thanks to Ledia Carroll
of the Land Arts listserv, who sent this heads up about two water and boat projects in India and New York.
"Indra's Cloud"

VRINDAVAN, INDIA. Working with the local N.G.O. Friends of Vrindavan and hosted by Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana, Anne Percoco created a mobile public sculpture which brings to life a local myth and draws attention to the severely

Those About to Die Salute You, a battle on water wielded with baguette swords and watermelon cannon balls by New York’s art dignitaries, will take place on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 6 pm in a flooded World’s Fair-era reflecting pool in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, just outside of the Queens Museum of Art. Various types of vessels have been designed and constructed by artist provocateur Duke Riley and his collaborators: the galleons, some made of reeds harvested in the park, will be used to stage a citywide battle of the art museums in which representatives from the Queens Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, Bronx Museum of the Arts, and El Museo del Barrio will battle before a toga-clad crowd of frenzied onlookers.

More images of the battle here
and here

Defining Sustainability: Arizona State University Art Museum

Defining Sustainability
Fall 2009
Arizona State University Art Museum, Herberger College of the Arts
Season Opening Reception: Friday, October 9, 7-9 p.m.

Defining Sustainability is a series of dynamic and interactive projects that will come together this fall at the ASU Art Museum and Ceramics Research Center to define sustainability. Each exhibition or project tells a simple story – an artist’s proposal for green transportation or a designer’s solution for recycled shade structures – which together convey the complexity of sustaining life on earth. A nontraditional art museum project, artists and designers, faculty and students will engage the greater Phoenix community in their creative processes and in conversations on sustainability. The diverse projects range in materials and format, and are installed throughout the ASU Art Museum to tell stories of environmental, social and cultural sustainability. - learn more on the ASU project site

Press for the event on the Sundance Channel website.


from the August 30th field report

Both Chris Taylor's and Bill Gilbert's Land Arts of the American West programs are embarking into the field this week. We welcome eye witness updates from all Landartians on currently on the road, as connections allow.

Field reports filed from the Taylor contingent can be found here:


This just in from Wendy Feuer, Assistant Commissioner of Urban Design & Art in New York City.

Dear Colleague:
On behalf of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, we are pleased to announce a call for proposals for artwork designs that will be installed on the World Trade Center construction fence along Church Street. The
selected designer will receive $7500 for designs that will be translated onto vinyl mesh and installed by the PA NY&NJ at no expense to the artist. Proposals are due October 1, 2009. www.nyc.gov/urbanart

In addition to this opportunity, the pARTners' program track of the NYCDOT Urban Art Program is accepting proposals for new temporary art projects until Thursday September 24, 2009. Organization-artist teams are invited to submit applications for DOT-owned sites. An updated site priority list and site selection tips are available to assist organizations in selecting appropriate sites for projects on the DOT website. The organizations that are selected by DOT's art advisory committee for commissions are eligible to receive up to $5,000.

Again, visit www.nyc.gov/urbanart to download the World Trade Center RFP and the NYCDOT Urban Art Program Application. We invite you to visit our website on a regular basis for new project opportunities. If you have any questions, email arts@dot.nyc.gov.

Wendy Feuer
Assistant Commissioner of Urban Design & Art
Division of Planning and Sustainability
Department of Transportation
55 Water Street, 9th
New York, NY 10041
(t) 212.839.6680

SkyDog Projects Open Call to Collaborate

SkyDog Projects Open Call to Collaborate:
Conflux Festival Workshop 9/18/09

Attention all digital photographers:

As part of the Conflux 2009 festival, SkyDog Projects is organizing a group workshop on Friday September 18th from 7pm to 9pm to capture the energies and geographic dynamism of the Brooklyn East River Waterfront Landscape.

The idea is simple. To enlist photographers to collectively capture the beauty and rhythms of the lower East River corridor through the use of time lapse photographic techniques. After the workshop, the participants will be asked to upload their footage to YouTube and register information about the location and URLs of their footage. Using software developed specifically for the conference, conference members will be allowed to create interactive presentations that will uniquely investigate the various perspectives and energies that were captured.

General Rules
  • This workshop is open to public and available to everyone who is willing to share their final results.
  • Participants will need to have a basic understanding of time lapse photography, their own equipment, and a means of combining and uploading the final movies to YouTube.
  • The goal is collapse the 2 hours of documentation into 2 minute videos.
  • Creativity is encouraged. Photographers should feel free to explore the city and use various lenses, exposures and techniques to capture the various interplay of the cities energies.
  • General guidelines for the event, including basic information about time lapse photography and some tools that can be used, will be uploaded to SkyDogProjects.com leading up to the event.
  • Have fun!

For updated information about the event, please visit http://SkyDogProjects.com or contact AReynosa@SkydogProjects.com.

Julie Anand: Itinerant Camera Obscura in Dispersal/Return

Julie Anand's Itinerant Camera Obscura will be exhibited as part of the LAND/ART project at the UNM Art Museum's Dispersal/Return

She describes the work with the following words:
"The body is an environment defined by a permeable membrane. We constantly exchange materials with our surroundings, breathing the air that others breathe, drinking the water that flows within other bodies and systems. Light from our surroundings pours in through our eyes and shadows dance around inside our skulls upside-down: Inside and outside in dialogue, not dichotomy.

Viewers are invited to sit inside this tent, which acts as a camera obscura, or ‘darkened room’. This work is inspired by science fair wonder, by Plato’s cave, and by utopian desires for small bands of people to share a mind’s eye for a quiet spell."

Her explanation for the images and process are, "Viewers enter and, after their eyes adjust to the darkness, find images of the exterior courtyard projected onto a screen at the back of the dark tent. The tent serves as a laboratory for enjoying your own system of vision along with others. I bought a cheap tent and took it apart. I used those pieces as a pattern to make a new tent out of nylon darkroom cloth and Tyvec UV Soft Structure. Double-seam sewing methods work for light just as well as they usually do for water. Here the rainfly becomes a heat resistant 'sunfly'. My eye doctor ground down a lens for the tent's focal length for me and I used an altered 35mm plastic film canister to seat the lens."

Steve Peters' "The Very Rich Hours," a listening environment, opens for LAND/ART

Recording sessions with Anne Cooper, Anderson Field,
Albuquerque (top) and Lisa Gill, Ojitos Wilderness (bottom).
Photos by Steve Peters.

Sound artist Steve Peters has installed "The Very Rich Hours" as part of LAND/ART in New Mexico. Located at the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales, NM, it is part of SiteWorks, presented by 516 ARTS and organized by Kathleen Shields Contemporary Art Projects.

The "listening environment" is open to visitors for a short time only:
August 27-30, September 4-7, 2009, 12-6pm. It is free.

For further information and interviews, you may contact:
Kathleen Shields, kshields1@earthlink.net, 505-897-8678
Steve Peters, nonseq@drizzle.com, 206-547-2503


A recommended read from Chris Taylor on the Land Arts Listserve this week. Table of contents available online here: http://www.onsitereview.ca/currentissue.html


There will be an Artist reception for, Erika Blumenfeld: Early Findings: Artifacts from the Polar Project, on Saturday, October 3, 2009, 6:00 - 8:00 pm at the Richard Levy Gallery.

"In January 2009, Erika Blumenfeld traveled to Eastern Antarctica as the artist-in-residence of ITASC (Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation) and SANAP (South African National Antarctic Program). Living and working on the ice fields for four weeks in Eastern Antarctica, Blumenfeld initiated her ambitious environment-focused artwork, The Polar Project, and created several new bodies of work including installations from her ongoing Light Recordings, as well as new video pieces and photographs in a series titled Apparent Horizons. These new works focus on the distinct and sublime phenomena of light, sky, and sound in Antarctica and aim to evoke a visceral experience of the wondrous and raw yet fragile polar environment" - from the Richard Levy Gallery website

Dates: September 11 - October 24, 2009
Gallery Hours: Tues. - Sat., 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and Monday by appointment only
Location: 514 Central Avenue SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
Contact: 505.766.9888,


Shared by Katherine E. Bash on the Land Arts Listserve this week:

1mile² is a three year global arts programme that asks communities to map the biodiversity, cultural diversity, and aesthetic diversity of their local neighbourhood, working in collaboration with an artist and an ecologist. Communities are linked across the world through an internet platform that shares and challenges their findings, perceptions, ideas, experiences and creativity and encourages new connections between people.


Applications are invited from artists working in digital media, photography, text, storytelling, performance poetry, installation or interdisciplinary practice who are living and working near the participating communities.

1mile² provides opportunities for contemporary artists to undertake a collaborative investigation of arts, biodiversity and community.

1mile² UK artist to India/China/Bangladesh - deadline for applications 9 September 2009 -from the visiting arts website

Propose a happening or event for 10.000 participants in Copenhagen during the UN Climate Conference. Your concept should involve collective action and will be implemented alongside New Life Happenings by artist groups Superflex (DK) and Signa (DK/A) among others.

Proposals should focus on the collaborative power of 10.000 people and should question the cultural habits of those involved. Selected proposals will be practically implemented in Copenhagen during the festival period in collaboration with our partners.

By asking artists to develop happenings for a new life - and then request that the 10.000 participants realize them - NEW LIFE COPENHAGEN aims beyond the traditional art exhibition to become an active organizer of experiments in civic engagement and social empowerment.
Open posted on wooloo.org

LA Times reviews LAND/ART

MARKING THE SPOT: A wooden stake in a hydrogen bomb impact site,
part of a project by the Center for Land Use Interpretation.
(CLUI Photo Archive and LAND/ART / May 26, 2009)

A full page review of LAND/ART appeared in last Sunday's LA TIMES (August 16). In "The Shifting Nature of Earth Artists," Susan Emerling argues that land art used to be a practice of monumental terms and scale, but 50 years later, it has evolved into forms with "more low-key aspirations."

From Bill Gilbert's Matter of Fact: Walk to Work, to Basia Irland's ecologically based riparian restoration "performances" on the Rio Grande, to the CLUI's temporary "Landscape Exhibit Unit" located at the intersection between New Mexico's nuclear past and present and its high-tech industries, Emerling traces the reflections of this evolution in LAND/ART's festival of coordinated exhibitions, lectures, symposia, film screenings, blogs, public installations and site-specific sculptures.

She concludes that today's land/earth artists want their audiences to "take away a new perception of the Earth and their place in it."

While contemporary land art works may be less "macho and heroic" than those of the first generation of land artists, artists' aspirations to shift how we humans see and live in relation to Earth are no less monumental.

Basia Irland's "receding/reseeding." Photo by Claire Long

CALL FOR PAPERS: Emerging Landscapes: Between Production and Representation

From the Land Arts Listserve:

Emerging Landscapes: Between Production and Representation
School of Architecture and the Built Environment/School of Media, Arts and Design
University of Westminster, London, UK
25-27 June 2010

Keynote Speakers:

Gabriele Basilico
Stephen Daniels
Christophe Girot
Jonathan Hill

Call for Papers

In the space of a few decades, social, political, technological, and economic forces have transformed the planet. The past thirty years have seen an erosion of the boundary between urban and rural, a major restructuring of nation-states, and the disappearance of easy distinctions between human and natural agency. New media technologies collapse distance, bringing us images of a world of uncertain boundaries. In an era of digitally-enabled, synchronous histories and shifting geopolitical realities, landscape has changed its nature. No longer straightforwardly linked to nationalism or aesthetics, landscape in the twenty-first century is an emergent form, shaped by globalization, conflict, and environmental change. Focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on the synergies between the disciplines of photography and architecture, this international conference will examine and critically reassess the interface between production and representation in the creation of contemporary landscape.

Landscape is posed variously as a discourse that mediates our relations to the land and to others, a dynamic medium, and a cultural practice. It incorporates ideology - social and political discourse, history, and myth - and phenomenology -lived experience and memory. It is linked historically, technologically and aesthetically, to ways of seeing. Informed in large part by changing definitions of landscape in the social sciences, the past few decades have seen profound transformations in the understanding of landscape across a range of disciplines.

The conference asks practitioners, writers, critics, artists, and others working in the broad fields of the built environment (i.e. architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design) and the represented environment (i.e. photography, film, and the visual arts) to reconsider the idea of landscape by interrogating the relationship between space and image. We invite participants from these and related disciplines to explore the synergies that exist between landscape representation (the imaginary and symbolic shaping of the human environment) and landscape production (the physical and material changes wrought on the land).

Emerging Landscapes proposes a platform on which practitioners and researchers working in landscape-related disciplines can engage in a mutual and productive exchange - of ideas, practices, paradigms, and theories, but also of methodologies and histories. It asks contributors to examine the potential intersections between the theoretical/critical discourses developed in these fields, and to consider those points where the interactions between viewing and making open out onto broader ethical or philosophical terrain.

Papers are invited on any aspect of the conference theme. Topics may include but are not limited to:
* globalization, national identities and contested landscapes
* changing visions of landscape in photography, film, and visual art
* landscapes of the everyday
* non-places, junkspace, unprogrammed urban spaces, interim and temporary landscapes
* the influence of digital technologies and new media
* ecology; changing notions of nature and 'the natural'
* the impact of visual images on the way landscapes are perceived and lived
* landscape, the body, and the senses
* the relationship between landscape representation and landscape design
* subjectivity and the politics of viewpoint
* memorializing landscapes; sites of memory and sites of trauma
* landscape and narrative
* landscape and utopia

An edited collection of selected papers is planned for publication following the conference.

Please send a 500-word abstract, along with your name, position, and institutional affiliation, to
Emerging Landscapes Conference
School of Architecture and the Built Environment
University of Westminster
35 Marylebone Road
London NW1 5LS
United Kingdom

Notification of Acceptance: January 2010
Registration Opens: March 2010

MORE INFORMATION AVAILABLE SOON ON www.emerginglandscapes.org.uk

Cognition, Land and Landscape: presentations by William L. Fox

click to enlarge invitation

A salon-style conversation with William L. Fox, a site talk by Fox and a site-specific performance by mARK oWEns is being hosted on September 5 and 6, 2009 by THE LAND/an art site, as part of the LAND/ARTS collaborative.

Requests to RSVP:
THE LAND/an art site, Inc.
419 Granite NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102


Learn about the presentations Bill will be offering in September as part of LAND/ART on the landartnm.org site.

September 5, 2009

A rare opportunity to be a part of an intimate, salon-style conversation with William L. Fox, director of the Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment, at THE LAND/gallery, 6-9 pm.
$50 tax-deductible donation includes dinner and wine. RSVP.
William L. Fox is an independent scholar, curator, poet and author of many books on landscape, including Mapping the Empty, Driving by Memory, The Void, the Grid and the Sign, Terra Antarctica and Driving to Mars.

September 6, 2009

A site talk by William L. Fox, and a site-specific performance by mARK oWEns, at THE LAND/an art site, beginning at 2 pm. A reception follows.
mARK oWEns (Portland, OR) plays with concepts of language through visual and sound poetry, mail art, installation, performance, video, and photography. He has performed and shown work in Nice, Guadalajara, Times Square, Portland, and at THE LAND/an art site.

Waterpod Project catches and releases New Yorkers' imaginations

Waterpod™, 2009. Photograph by Eve K. Tremblay.

Ericka Osborne sends a recommendation to check out the New York Times coverage of the Waterpod Project. The project is currently floating its way around NYC, and is unfolding day to day as an experiment in alternative, future-based land use and infrastructure interpretation, innovation, and celebration.

In her artist statement, Mary Mattingly describes the project this way:

The Waterpod demonstrates future pathways for nomadic, mobile shelters and water-based communities, docked and roaming.

It embodies self-sufficiency and resourcefulness, learning and curiosity, human expression and creative exploration. It intends to prepare, inform, and provide an alternative to current and future living spaces.

In preparation for our coming world with an increase in population, a decrease in usable land, and a greater flux in environmental conditions, people will need to rely closely on immediate communities and look for alternative living models; the Waterpod is about cooperation, collaboration, augmentation, and metamorphosis.

As a malleable and autonomous space, the Waterpod is built on a model comprised of multiple collaborations. The Waterpod functions as a singular unit with the possibility to expand into ever-evolving water communities; an archipelagos that has the ability to mutate with the tides.

The Waterpod is mobile and nomadic, and as an application for the future it can historicize the notion of the permanent structure, simultaneously serving as composition, transportation, island, and residence. Based on movement, the Waterpod structure is adaptable, flexible, self-sufficient, and relocatable, responsive to its immediate and shifting environment.

As with art, architecture is largely about stories: stories of its inhabitants, its community, its makers and their reflections on the past or expectations of the future. The Waterpod is an extension of body, of home, and of community, its only permanence being change, flow, and multiplicity. It connects river to visitor, global to local, nature to city, and historic to futuristic ecologies.

With this project, we hope to encourage innovation as we visualize the future fifty to one hundred years from now.

Artisode 2.1: CLUI on KNME

Click here to view the video on KNME's website.

CLUI's Bus Tour of New Mexico's superlative ground-sky resonances

"...Instant annihilation. Once we've done that, gotten it out of our system, what else can we do? We can go forward."--Matt Coolidge, Director, The Center for Land Use Interpretation

smudge photo

On June 27, smudge and 55 others boarded a bus to--we didn't know exactly where. Neither did our tour guide, Matt Coolidge, Director of the Center for Land Use Interpretation. That's the way Matt ensures that each trip is responsive to its own unfolding. His work as CLUI's director includes curating and performing periodic bus excursions-as-collective research for the Center's land use interpretation projects.

This one, entitled "Reflections on the Land of Enchantment," was offered as part of the recent LAND/ART symposium weekend. Now, it's part of the lives of 55 people who were drawn to CLUI's tour description:
"The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) will take passengers on a guided bus tour through some of the more compelling and dramatic built landscapes of New Mexico, places at the core of this landscape-centered state. The tour will examine the cultural stratigraphy of the contemporary technological sublime; the veneer of test space; the reach upwards; the security of entombment; and the flare of the nuclear furnace."
The nine hour odyssey took us from Albuquerque "up the mesa" to Los Alamos, through security gates into the highly restricted Los Alamos National Lab. Here, the Manhattan Project mobilized what Matt called "a landscape machine" as it integrated sites and landscapes nationwide to extract, collect, concentrate, refine, and form rare elements into a few pounds of fissible material: "a global concentration of power." Our unprecedented crossing by bus into the Lab served as the trip's fulcrum. From there, we then turned "downstream" of the nuclear flow generated at the top of the mesa, and headed back and down that stream through Santa Fe to the mines, ranches, and changing communities of Cerrillos, Madrid, and Galisteo.

On the way up the mesa, Matt set up the thematic "lens." He then invited us to use that lens to see and make sense of the immediate New Mexican landscape, its human-built veneer as well as its human-altered sub-surface, and their histories. The tour would take the branding of New Mexico as "The Land of Enchantment" literally. Matt invited us to consider the reality of the celebrated resonances and tensions between the ground and the sky that exist here. And to follow the resulting "vibration" between sky and ground--to the nuclear: the spell of the man-made sun, the blinding white light of the truth that is also the death unleashed by the bomb.

The format of CLUI bus tours requires passengers to literally "go there" themselves. As Matt pointed out about the saying "been there, done that:" you haven't done it 'till you've been there. So, rather than attempt a descriptive narrative of the journey in a linear fashion, smudge offers the following creative responses conjured in us by the process of moving with the CLUI through this particular landscape, on a journey from the cradle to the grave of the bomb.


Matt spun a series of images and metaphors as we headed for Los Alamos--playing off New Mexico's reputation (and "branding") as the Land of Enchantment. He suggested that the sense of enchantment here might be very real--not an illusion or commercial ploy.
"This sense of the technological sublime in New Mexico runs from the earthships of Taos to the test tracks of Holloman; from the Virgin Gallactic tourist spaceports of Upham, to the alien crash sites of Roswell;. . . from the Very Large Array to the very large pointy spikes of Lightning Field; ... from the hollow nuclear chambers of the Manzano Mountains to the electromagnetic pulse test trestles of Kirtland. This land was made by you and me."--Matt Coolidge, on the way up the mesa
Nothing less than a "synthetic sun" was created in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. It was engineered by people whose imaginations and efforts stretched between terra firma and the stars, between the (under)ground and the sun. Its conception and fabrication took place on a mesa formed by giant fingers of an ancient volcanic flow. The "little town" built at the top of the mesa was inhabited by scientists seeking both the dawn of a new age and the end of a war.

Trying to be human and beyond human at the same time, they levitated momentarily between ground (a solid sense of what we know) and sky (what will always exceed us). Matt asked us to consider how these two poles became superlative here, and to sense them here, above all other places, as real.

New Mexico is the cradle of the nuclear. It is also its grave, the site of burial for nuclear waste generated by weapons research and production. Cradle: The Trinity "Test" (Jornada del Muerto). Grave: WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Carlsbad, NM).
"I have felt it myself. The glitter of nuclear weapons. It is irresistible if you come to them as a scientist. To feel it's there in your hands, to release this energy that fuels the stars, to let it do your bidding. To perform these miracles, to lift a million tons of rock into the sky. It is something that gives people an illusion of illimitable power, and it is, in some ways, responsible for all our troubles - this, what you might call technical arrogance, that overcomes people when they see what they can do with their minds." -Physicist Freeman Dyson, as spoken in the film The Day After Trinity
Ex cursion

smudge photo

"Excursion" is an apt name for a CLUI bus tour. Maybe more so for this particular tour than any other.

Excursion is defined as a "deviation in argument," a "departure or deviation from a direct or normal course." People familiar with the CLUI's work would likely recognize both of these definitions as appropriate for a CLUI trip.

But "excursion" is also a term used in the nuclear industry. There, it means:
"A criticality accident, sometimes referred to as an excursion or a power excursion, occurs when a nuclear chain reaction accidentally occurs in fissile material, such as enriched uranium or plutonium. This releases neutron radiation which is highly dangerous to surrounding personnel and causes induced radioactivity in the surroundings."--wikipedia
Our CLUI excursion did indeed reach a state of criticality as it unleashed a chain reaction of meanings and implications among sites both unusual and the exemplary (CLUI'S criteria for the sites that it includes in its land use database and bus tours). As we turned to come back down the mesa, Matt launched into a miles-long, seemingly never-ending litany that compounded: names of multitudes of weaponized "Technical Areas" that occupy the mesa and make up the Lab; names of sci-fi sounding projects and operations that take place within those areas; billions of dollars being spent there today; endless restricted areas; sites of unexploded ordinances; "danger" signs along our route. All of these bounced off of juxtapositions that strained credulity. On our left: the site of 49 small nuclear tests that took place in tunnels, while across the canyon on our right: Bandelier's ancient cliff dwellings. On our left at the tip of a lobe of the mesa that points our way back toward Santa Fe and Albuquerque: Tech Area 54's radioactive nuclear waste site holding enough waste to fill an estimated 1.5 million 55 gallon drums; while on our right and just below TA 54: the suburban community of White Rock and its 6000 inhabitants. And all of this uphill from everything living below. Connected to it, resonating with it, via gravity, and a matter of time. Matt comments:
"It will take awhile for it to migrate, but it definitely will."
smudge photo

Atomic Ed

Or, as Ed Grothus, former Los Alamos machinist and founder of Los Alamos' Black Hole put it:
"What goes into the Laboratory comes out of the Laboratory."
As we headed down the mesa, Matt popped a video into the bus's player and we watched Atomic Ed and the Black Hole, a documentary by Ellen Spiro. It chronicles Ed Grothus' campaign to raise and change consciousness about what takes place on the mesa.

smudge photo
"Over 30 years ago, Ed quit his job making "better" atomic bombs and he began collecting what he calls "nuclear waste", non-radioactive high-tech discards from the Los Alamos National Laboratory which are auctioned off dirt cheap every month in a gigantic government yard sale.

As the self-appointed curator of an unofficial museum of the nuclear age called "The Black Hole", Ed reveals a history of government waste that was literally thrown in a trash heap. By transforming his ironic junkyard into a genuine museum, Ed hopes to preserve the artifacts of Los Alamos' hidden history."--Mobilus Media /atomic.html

Ed passed away in February, 2009, but his surplus-store-as-museum continues to offer an excursive view of the Los Alamos Lab and its history. Our stop at the Black Hole and Spiro's video were pivotal. They turned us from the glitter of stars and synthetic suns to the deeply material infrastructures of nuclear industries.


smudge photo

“We shape our tools and afterward our tools shape us.” --Marshall McLuhan

"We created, in the bomb, the means to end not just a war, but existence, all life, the world itself, at the press of a button. Technology evolved to the absolute limit in one direction."--Matt Coolidge on the way up the mesa
We signed up for CLUI's bus tour in the midst of a 32 day research trip to archives and various land use sites across the West and Southwest. We are focusing on how human uses of the nuclear alter the geologic--especially in terms of deep time (past and future).
Blowback: Unintended negative effects suffered from one's own weapons or actions.
Our repeated encounters with historical and contemporary human attempts to use the nuclear as a form of power have left us thinking that the term "nuclear technology" may be a misnomer. Given the blowback (environmental, strategic, economic, moral, psychological) that results from any use of so-called nuclear technology as weapon or as source of power ... we might be forgiven for thinking that this "technology" is, finally, useless. Any use of it produces, ultimately, more work than it accomplishes. It has, after all, not only generated untold amounts of human suffering and cost ... it now seems to have enslaved contemporary humans and countless unborn generations with the task of working for it, rather than the other way around. Humans are now obligated for thousands of years to come to dispose of, shield, and keep track of what the nuclear does best: render vast quantities of the earth's materials and human-made objects both lethal and obsolete.

Perhaps nuclear technology is the ultimate generator of obsolescence--uselessness. If so, it breaches the limit of what constitutes a technology by becoming a "tool" that can't be used. Except to make or assist the accelerated decay of what has been made, of materiality itself.

The Geologic

smudge photos of aerial and topological views of Los Alamos

Traveling with the CLUI is to travel in direct and intimate proximity to the processes and degrees to which humans have altered the landscape. It is from such exposure (also by way of CLUI newsletters, database research, residencies, exhibitions) that land use has taken on real and material form for us. Over the years, our work and individual capacities for sensing such forces have expanded in turn.

On the way down the mesa we began to imagine potential responses to our day with the CLUI. Our focus came to rest on the geological forces upon which we were traveling.
"Geologically speaking, the history of Los Alamos is vastly more explosive and cataclysmic than its better known, recent atomic past. Compacted pumice and ash fallout "drape our cliffs like a snowfall" (Heiken) - the result of 17 million years of volcanic activity. A crack in the crust of New Mexico's earth, known as the Rio Grande Rift, has been widening for the past 20 to 30 million years..."
- exhibit caption on the "Natural landscape" of Los Alamos at the Los Alamos Historical Society
Los Alamos: volcanic fingers. The land we had just transversed might have been terra firma for LANL infrastructure since 1945, but it was once pure moment and flow. As hard as it is to imagine, even this distant reality is only a short chapter in an immensely longer and varied geological tale.

Though human nuclear intervention into the landscape of New Mexico is deep, wide, and total, at this point it is actually quite shallow in terms of geologic time. The sixty years of land alteration that took place at LANL can easily be swallowed by the tectonic furnace.

It appears (to us) that there is at least one force continuously able to meet and exceed the nuclear, and that is the geologic. The nuclear waste that humans continue to generate will last much longer than what future humans might remember as the nuclear era. The planet will far outlive the waste we are burying in it. The chance that humans will outlive that waste is less likely.

When situated within the context of the geologic, the topic of nuclear land use becomes something else. It becomes something less about "destruction" of the earth and more about a distinct and dramatic alteration of what it means to be human on the planet from this point forward. How will all life have to bend and reshape in response- far into an unknown future? Our potential to imagine our species moving forward in geologic time becomes compromised by the depth of our present nuclear realities. The fundamental geologic forces of the Earth (plate tectonics, the Earth's continuous recycling of land itself) are, however, unmoved by human uses of the nuclear.

It is through direct, embodied experience of land use that our (smudge's) capacity to sense geologic time has developed. Grasping geologic time is about being "there" and "feeling it for ourselves." It is through land use interpretation that the immense degree to which humans have altered the landscape of the earth begins to take on significant and three dimensional meaning. The nuclear totality is humbled when land use is contextualized within the geologic. Human intervention in the geologic is relatively short. What this means for humans today, at this contemporary moment, is something that is wide open to creative response.

broken arrow

Matt Coolidge will take the results of the CLUI's collective research excursion in New Mexico and make them a part of an interpetive facility that the CLUI will open on August 1. Part of LAND/ART, it will be housed in a mobile office structure on the edge of ABQ--in the vicinity of the site of "Broken Arrow."

Broken Arrow nuclear accident site,
just south of the Albuquerque airport
(smudge photo)


This post is written by guest blogger Erika Osborne


This fall Erika Osborne is offering a course titled Art and Environment through the Division of Art and Design at West Virginia University. Erika previously worked with Bill Gilbert at the University of New Mexico as the Assistant Director of Land Arts of the American West, and also taught a summer field course at UNM titled Wilderness Studio with her husband Tracy Stuckey. She is now teaching in West Virginia and has been eager to launch similar field programs to those she taught at UNM in the very different cultural and environmental climate of the Appalachian mountain region.

Art and Environment functions simultaneously as a studio and seminar course. The three course topics – Earth and Sky: The Micro and the Macro, Contemporary Environmental Issues: People and Place, and Sustainability: A Holistic Approach to Art Making – will provide the context for participants to gain knowledge from experts in various fields and apply that to their art making practices. Students will participate in a series of field trips with a botanist, an astronomer, a mountain top removal mining activist, water scientists, a landscape architect, and a family of organic farmers. In addition to the hands-on experience these field trips will provide, participants in the course will read and discuss a broad range of texts and will gain exposure to artists who work within the genre through a series of artist presentations - all of this, giving the students a broad range of knowledge to create work in the field and studio.

This course will be followed by a two week summer field program titled Place:Appalachia that Erika is currently working on. More will be posted on Place:Appalachia as it develops.

For more information on the course visit…

Erika Osborne: Dispersal/Return

Erika Osborne's Hunting Stump/Grape Stake and 2749 Years for Matchsticks will be exhibited as part of New Mexico's LAND/ART project and the University of New Mexico Art Museum's Dispersal/Return: Land Arts of the American West 2000- 2006 (see below).

Erika describes her work as an homage to wood's utilitarian role in our lives:
We use wood for nearly everything - to build our homes and our furniture, to keep us warm in winter and on cold nights around the campfire. We use it to make paper, grapestakes, fences, matchsticks, grocery bags, cardboard...and the list goes on. Yet, wood can also give us insight into a past that stretches far beyond our own histories. Each piece of wood tells a story, recording time and events in the form of scars, weathering and growth.

The marks and rings of the nearly 3000 year old, giant sequoia depicted in Hunting Stump/Grape Stake and 2749 Years for Matchsticks chronicle drought, fire, earthquakes, pestilence, and conclusively, human penetration in the form of a logging operation aimed at the manufacturing of grape stakes and matchsticks. Ultimately, this work is an attempt to recognize the vital, utilitarian role wood plays in our existence, while at the same time, paying homage to the lives and stories of these trees."

Dispersal/Return: Land Arts of the American West 2000- 2006
August 28 - November 25, 2009

The University of New Mexico Art Museum presents twenty artists from Land Arts of the American West, an interdisciplinary field program in the Department of Art and Art History at UNM. Curated by Bill Gilbert, the Lannan Chair and Director of the Land Arts program and Michele M. Penhall, Curator, Prints and Photographs at the UNM Art Museum, the exhibition brings together former participants from this innovative studio program who continue to work on land art based projects. The exhibition includes video and installation works by Claire Long and Anna Keleher, Blake Gibson, Yoshimi Hayashi, Mark Hensel and Jen Van Horn; works on paper and sculpture by Jeff Beekman, Erika Osborne, Blake Gibson, Geordie Shepherd, Jeanette Hart-Mann, Brooke Steiger, Gabe Romero, and Peter Voshefski. There will also be four site specific works commissioned for the exhibition by Julie Anand, Jeanette Hart- Mann/Nina Dubois, Jess Dunn, and Ryan Henel. A performance by Gabe Romero and John Loth is scheduled for the opening night reception.

For more information about the Land Arts of the American West program at the University of New Mexico visit http://www.unm. edu/~artdept2/land_arts/index.html

Bill Gilbert exhibits "Physiocartography 2005-2006" at the UNM Art Museum

image: Bill Gilbert,
For John Wesley Powell
Attempts to Walk the Grid
Sand Canyon
September 27, 2006
Walk one hour in each cardinal direction
Orientation: magnetic north
40"x 40" digital print

Bill Gilbert's "Physiocartography 2005-2006" is a one person exhibition at the University of New Mexico's Art Museum. It includes works that he created at various campsites along journeys taken by Land Arts of the American West program from years 2004-2007. The exhibition consists of digital prints and videos. They represent Gilbert's investigations of the disjunction between our abstract conceptions of the landscape and the physical experience of topography and climate. Bill Gilbert is the founder of the Land Arts of the American West program, and "Physiocartography 2005-2006" is part of the LAND/ART project currently underway in New Mexico.

The exhibition runs from August 28 – November 25, 2009
Reception Friday, September 25, 5-7pm


From Bill Gilbert's Walk to Work

"With Matter of Fact: Walk to Work, Bill Gilbert continues his long-time interest in creating art based on the high desert environment by walking from his home in the Galisteo Basin to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque along a path that parallels the commute to work he has made for the past 20 years. Following as straight a line as the topography and legalities allow, Matter of Fact is an exploration of place that mediates between an abstract representation of the land through maps and a direct, physical experience of walking across the planet's surface. Gilbert’s tools are his legs, voice, and backpack, and his translation of the experience for viewers, installed at 516 ARTS’ Second Site, uses digital technologies (a digital recorder, GPS unit, and computer) to create a dialogue between the physical and virtual definitions of place". -from the LAND/ART website

August 1 - September 19
Gallery Component for Second Site at 516 ARTS

"The meaning of the term “Land Art” has changed quite a bit since the early Earthworks of the 1970s. The current focus is less on building monuments in remote places and more oriented to investigating our relationship to the natural environment. We currently face issues of sustainability both large and small, public and private. Those related to aspects of our daily lives are often the most difficult to address. For twenty two years I have made the hour-long drive from my house in Cerrillos to my office at the University of New Mexico. I know the terrain along Highway 14 quite well from the perspective of a car window at 60 miles an hour. For this piece, I decided I would develop a different understanding of this terrain by walking to work for a change. So, I strapped on a backpack and headed out my door following as straight a line as possible (given the variations in topography, land ownership, etc.) to my office at UNM. Along the roughly 50 mile trek I recorded my perceptions from the perspective of a lone hiker walking across the land.

For the installation at 516 Arts I have juxtaposed the abstraction of a video map of my journey with a physical map of the route to mimic my experience of traveling by foot guided by map and compass. " - Artist statement by Bill Gilbert

CLUI's Landscape Exhibit Unit opens in New Mexico

This Sunday, August 2, CLUI Director Matthew Coolidge will lead a bus tour to the new CLUI Display Facility that is part of the LAND/ART project in New Mexico. The tour will depart from the Albuquerque Museum at 9am. Parking passes will be available at the Museum.

The CLUI Display Facility is an off-site Landscape Exhibit Unit created by the Center for Land Use Interpretation for LAND/ART. It is located at a site that draws people into a part of the city that is not often visited. Inside is information about the region, including an exhibit about the New Mexico landscape. The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) is a Los Angeles based research organization involved in exploring, examining and understanding land and landscape issues. www.clui.org

Tour Fee: $10
Pre-registration is required. Space is limited.

To register, call 505-242-1445 or email francesca@516arts.org

The facility is open weekends 12-5pm, August 1 - September 19. Visit Second Site at 516 ARTS for location and directions.

CLUI in New Mexico is presented by 516 ARTS. Special thanks to the FUNd at Albuquerque Community Foundation.

View photos by 516 Arts from the opening here.

Nina Dubois and Jeanette Hart-Mann present "Culture digest(e)" in "Dispersal/Return: Land Arts of the American West 2000-2006

As part of New Mexico's LAND/ART project and the University of New Mexico Art Museum's Dispersal/Return: Land Arts of the American West 2000- 2006 (see below), Nina Dubois and Jeanette Hart-Mann will exhibit their collaboration entitled Culture digest(e).

They describe the project as:
a site-specific art laboratory that explores the waste stream of the University of New Mexico campus and its potential to be creatively diverted and re-imagined. Designed as an on-site passive solar greenhouse, the project functions as a repository where cultural artifacts such as paper waste, food scraps, and landscape debris are collected, processed and photographed. These images make up the parallel project Déchets digest(e)s - an ongoing series of digital still life vanitas that investigate the cultural meaning of waste and decay.

The accumulated material is then composted within the greenhouse and made into a readily available form of soil nutrient, or organic compost. This, in turn, is used by the laboratory for planting and building, as well as landscaping and community projects. As these processes take place, the project's regenerative designer will be present; managing the on-site laboratory as well as traveling throughout the University campus to facilitate the experience of cultural composting.

Déchets digest(e)s will be on display at 516 ARTS from August 1st to September 19th and at the University of New Mexico Art Museum from August 28th to November 25, 2009.

Culture digest(e) will be installed at the University of New Mexico, on the plaza just east of Popejoy Hall from August 28th to Novemember 25th as part of the Dispersal/ Return exhibition.

Open hours:
August 25th to October 16th,
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11 am to 2 pm.

A weekly walking tour of the project will take place:
September 9th to October 14th
Wednesdays, from 2:30 and 3:30 pm.
Please meet at the project site and the tour will go through various waste collection facilities on campus and end at the Art Museum.

Nina Dubois of Quebec and Jeanette Hart-Mann of New Mexico, have developed this collaborative project as an offshoot of their respective artistic research and practice as farmers and permaculturalists. With mutual interest in regenerative activities, edible landscapes, do-it-yourself projects, and experiential processes they wanted to develop a creative laboratory where the University community could explore sustainable design as it applies to food systems and culture. Dubois recieved a BFA from Concordia University and Hart-Mann received a BFA from the University of New Mexico. They both participated in The Land Arts of the American West Program through the University of New Mexico.

Dispersal/Return: Land Arts of the American West 2000- 2006
August 28 - November 25, 2009

The University of New Mexico Art Museum presents twenty artists from Land Arts of the American West, an interdisciplinary field program in the Department of Art and Art History at UNM. Curated by Bill Gilbert, the Lannan Chair and Director of the Land Arts program and Michele M. Penhall, Curator, Prints and Photographs at the UNM Art Museum, the exhibition brings together former participants from this innovative studio program who continue to work on land art based projects. The exhibition includes video and installation works by Claire Long and Anna Keleher, Blake Gibson, Yoshimi Hayashi, Mark Hensel and Jen Van Horn; works on paper and sculpture by Jeff Beekman, Erika Osborne, Blake Gibson, Geordie Shepherd, Jeanette Hart-Mann, Brooke Steiger, Gabe Romero, and Peter Voshefski. There will also be four site specific works commissioned for the exhibition by Julie Anand, Jeanette Hart- Mann/Nina Dubois, Jess Dunn, and Ryan Henel. A performance by Gabe Romero and John Loth is scheduled for the opening night reception.

For more information about the Land Arts of the American West program at the University of New Mexico visit http://www.unm. edu/~artdept2/land_arts/index.html