Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The preservation and conservation of Land art has become an increasingly complex and urgent issue as important Earthworks created in the late 1960s and early 1970s continue to age. They present a variety of challenges—both physical and philosophical—to those tasked with maintaining them. Using Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) as a case study, I have outlined four key guidelines for maintaining and preserving works of Land art. In order to survive, the artist’s intention intact, these works require collective stewardship, an interdisciplinary approach, the promotion of responsible visitorship, and an extension of the museum model. Today, social media has presented an existential threat to works of Land art as vastly-increased art tourism alters the unmediated pilgrimage experience Smithson wished for the Jetty. Additionally, climate change and natural erosion make the multidisciplinary aspects of many Earthworks— photographic documentation, film, drawings, and writings—more essential over time. Ultimately, many of these works may live on only through documentation and scholarship. Arts foundations and institutions, as well as environmental, local and state government agencies must come together to educate visitors so they may become individual stewards. Awareness and accessibility, combined with the elements discussed in this thesis, will allow Land art to thrive and live on. The research for this thesis included a curatorial internship at Dia Art Foundation, thorough reading and analyzation of key literature on the topic, and a series of comprehensive interviews with a diverse panel of scholars and members of Spiral Jetty partnership organizations.
Johnson, Samara, "Contemporary Methods of Preserving Land Art: A Case Study of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty" (2019). MA Theses. 25.