Dossier Sample – The Spiral Jetty

May 2, 2010

Before I go into my sample for the midterm, I’d like to rant about my personal feelings regarding the Spiral Jetty and Robert Smithson.  If you have seen the complete film, you’ll know what I’m talking about (the complete film is impossible to find on the internet, and it apparently rents for $400.  Check the school library).  IMHO Smithson is a machismo-worshiping sadist.  He subjects his viewers to about 30 minutes of torture with red lights, monotone cryptic musings about rocks, and earsplitting tractor noises.  He’s brilliant.  I hate him.  I have mixed feelings about his work, and land art in general.

Land art offends me.  It proclaims man’s domination over nature.  It lacks feminine subtlety.

Land art resonates with me.  It un-apologetically confronts man’s twisted relationship with nature.  It abandons the treacle appeal to beauty that is so suffocating in some art.

and now, my dossier sample

(This is a rough draft.  I need to write another paragraph and do some diction refinement, among other things.)

Smithson’s Spiral Jetty refers to man’s relationship with, and conquering of, water space. The open seas and large bodies of water of this earth are not humankind’s natural terrain (yet monopolize the planet’s surface). To access, or trespass, these spaces requires feats of building – snorkels, rafts, ships. And in Pour la Suite du Monde, such a feat of building allows the small community to outwit a beluga, to take from the sea for their own profit. This nostalgic act recalls a sustenance relationship with the sea – when it was ‘take or die.’  Yet, that the canadian community no longer relies on whale-trapping for sustenance calms the tension of need and produces a reflexive mood much like the spiral jetty.

Both the film and the work of land art ask what it means to redirect and remap the water’s terrain on an artistic level, on a level beyond surface understanding. Long and short shots track the line of stakes in the canadian waters, long and short shots trace the lines of Smithson’s spiral. Mud, salt crystals, rocks, water. Mud, salt crystals, rocks, water. Smithson names his materials, but does not name the pages of hand-drawn plans, the phone calls, the tractor. Once built, these structures seem their own natural entities, yet the builders look on with a sense of completion and ownership. The structures morph between the realm of the natural and the realm of the human-made. Michel Brault juxtaposes the tracking shot of stakes with the stems in a field of flowers. To take from the sea is not to own it, but to swallow it as a new part of self.


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