The Eliminator

Robert Smithson
1964
Metal, reflective panels, neon
27 x 21 3/4 x 20 in. (68.6 x 55.3 x 50.8 cm)
Sylvio Perlstein Collection, Antwerp

Fashioned out of a zigzagging glass tube of flashing red neon light housed in a reflective metal frame, ​The Eliminator ​is a piece entirely comprised of its alternating presence and absence as the lights turn on and off. The effect is purposefully disorienting, leaving the viewer intermittently dazzled and blinded, with nothing of permanence to ground their perception - the mirrored surfaces reflect only empty space. Named after the winner in a drag-race, ​The Eliminator nods at the cheap thrills of American Pop culture, its dearth of physical substance indicating a vacuous preoccupation with appearance.

Writing

Writing by the Artist
Robert Smithson

The Eliminator overloads the eye whenever the red neon flashes on, and in so doing diminishes the viewer's memory dependencies or traces. Memory vanishes, while looking at the Eliminator. The viewer doesn't know what he is looking at, because he has no surface space to fixate on; thus he becomes aware of the emptiness of his own sight or sees through his sight. Light, mirror reflection, and shadow fabricate the perceptual intake of the eyes. Unreality becomes actual and solid.

The Eliminator is a clock that doesn't keep time, but loses it. The intervals between the flashes of neon are "void intervals" or what George Kubler calls, "the rupture between past and future." The Eliminator orders negative time as it avoids historical space.
 

Published in Jack Flam (ed.), Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, University of California Press, Berkeley, California, 1996, p.327

See Also