Broken Circle/Spiral Hill

Robert Smithson
1971
Emmen, The Netherlands
Water, earth, topsoil, sand, and boulder
Broken Circle: diameter: 140 ft. (42.6 m); canal: 12 ft. (3.6 m) wide, 10-15 ft. (3-4.5 m) deep; Spiral Hill: diameter: 75 ft. (22.9 m) at base

In a sand quarry in the Northeastern Netherlands, Smithson has carved into the shoreline, flooding the resulting dikes to form an interlocking canal and jetty. At the sculpture’s center lies a single glacial boulder, while the hillside above features a winding spiral path - a manifestation of Smithson’s fascination with spirals and their elusive promise of a final destination. The work iterates the irreversible impact of industry - the land can never go back to what it was before - yet its hypnotizing beauty calls for a reevaluation of the relationship between nature and construction.

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