Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Floating Island

(image from

Nothing too original,
but you got a few days left (until September 25th 2005) to catch a view of Robert Smithson's posthumously (and newly) built Floating Island, a tiny emulation of Central Park that circulates on the Hudson River around Manhattan for this period.

I didn't embark "on it", so I don't know how or if "general people" are allowed to climb on it at some point, but it's probably one of the best piece by Smithson ever, whom is honored by a travelling retrospective these days for which I got mixed feelings, partly because I deeply regret it have not been set in exterior conditions, away from the confinements of museums.

I was hearing a presentator while visiting Whitney talking about an institutional wish to preserve Smithson's delicate artworks, which I thought was ridiculous, since many of his works in contemporary museums are actually replicates. Hence, a Smithson work would make sense when you're able to replicate it: it's not about an "original". Just like building the Floating Island: the piece makes total sense even though we know it was mostly built by his wife Nancy Holt.

The obsession of the artworld about signature and authenticity totally move
Smithson's art beyond his intention. Or if I'm simply imposing an interpretation
on Smithson's legacy that is not really his, than here's a fine opportunity to oppose it.

For if a portion of Smithson's art speaks about the nonsense of materiality (always in state of ephemerality), than this vision should be encompassed by a curatorial project who claims to support it. Instead, here we are presented with "documentary photographic sets" that seems (selon the press release) to be presented as the "objets d'art" themselves, the precious "simulacras" presented to a public unable to visit the works for real. Archiving strangely doesn't suit well with Smithson's "message".

For example, I am confused about the best way to receive a Smithson's preparatory drawing. Visually, the drawing for Floating Island seems self-erasable compared to the spectaculory physical realization of the project. Yet the drawing is the signature, the project a replicate. When does a Smithson's art piece begin to materialize? How does authorship contravene with a signalization of entropy ?
Why not have simply painted a wall saying "Go Visit Spiral Jetty In Utah Or Fuck Off!!", instead of throwing us with an array of design drawings for something that was foremost meant to be outcasted from institutions?? Sounds like I'm way off my hat but...the compromise to save Smithson's artistic legacy is perticularly paradoxical and could lead the viewer to misunderstandings about aspects of his work.
I could be wrong and, in fact, maybe Smithson's was wrong and reached a lot of limits about what art can express and how it is able to express it.

Finally, is it so important to preserve a pile of dust
with mirrors that functions as a metaphor for entropy?

Or rather: is that pile of dust, THE ONE pile of dust, or does any pile
of dust speaks the same?

Cedric Caspesyan