A heap of Language

Robert Smithson
Graphite on graph paper
6 1/2 × 22 in. (16.5 × 55.9 cm)
Collection The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Something between a drawing and a text—or, as Smithson referred to it, “Language to be Looked at and/or Things to be Read”—​A heap of Language ​offers a series of linguistic terms confined by the mathematical parameters of a numbered graph. Its shape is something of a pyramid (a symbol of rigorous structural precision), yet it is constructed from the top down, defying the laws of gravity. This work could be considered a concrete poem. Cleverly evading definitive classification at every turn, ​A heap of Language embodies Smithson’s love of paradox.

Note: Smithon's use of lowercase "heap" is followed in the title of this work


Scholarly Text

A heap of Language

Craig Dworkin

σάρμα εἰκῇ κεχυμένον ὁ κάλλιστος, φησὶν Ἡράκλειτος, [ὁ] κόσμος

[the most beautiful world is like a heap of rubble tossed down in confusion]

—Heraclitus of Ephesus 

See Also