Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty threatened

Posted in CF Writing by chrisfremantle on February 5, 2008

Some of the many histories of Spiral Jetty


20 years ago a massive campaign led by Nancy Holt, and supported by cultural activists across the world, saved Spiral Jetty from a plans to pump oil from under the Great Salt Lake. Arguing that Spiral Jetty and its context were of international importance, a swift and successful international action was mounted. The UN declared Spiral Jetty a World Heritage Site, putting it in the same category as Machu Pichu and the Great Pyramid of Giza. On the back of this campaign, the Dia Foundation secured donations in excess of $1 billion. With this funding they were able to secure land around all the major Land Art sites – De Maria’s Lightning Field, Heizer’s Double Negative and Holt’s Sun Tunnels. They joined these parcels up to create Entropy Park which now forms a complete ring around the State of Utah. Arguments continue to rage amongst art historians and critical theorists.


20 years ago a spoof email and web site initiated one of those brief flurries that characterised the early 21st century internet. The email suggested that Spiral Jetty was endangered by a proposed energy development which would involve pumping oil from beneath the Salt Lake. Although it did not come from Nancy Holt, it intimated her involvement in a campaign. The net result was that Jonathan Jemming, a Planning Official in Utah State, received approximately 1,500 emails within a one week period. These emails, from artists and academics, museum directors and critical theorists, were in turn abusive, erudite, impenetrable, passionate, and in every case objected to a planning application that did not exist. In fact Jonathan Jemming had never heard of Robert Smithson or Spiral Jetty. Meantime arguments raged amongst art historians and critical theorists.


20 years ago, despite protests by Nancy Holt and others, they started pumping oil from under the Great Salt Lake in Utah, near Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Unfortunately no one realised that, due to a lack of maintenance, pressure would build up in the underground pipes and explode on July 20th 2033. The blast made a crater nearly a kilometre across and caused a tidal wave to travel across the lake. No one was killed. Spiral Jetty ceased to exist. This caused outrage in the art world. The Dia Foundation secured donations of $1 billion to reconstruct the work as well as undisclosed damages from the ExMoBphell conglomerate operating the installation. In the past 5 years no work has been done to reconstruct Spiral Jetty. The Dia Foundation have bought additional parcels of land encompassing the whole of the crater and its surroundings. They have designated this Entropy Park. Arguments continue to rage amongst art historians and critical theorists.

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