The Hypothetical Continent of Lemuria

Robert Smithson
Brown ink, crayon, graphite, and collage on paper
22 ¼ x 17 ¼ in. (56.5 x 43.8 cm)
Collection: Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Closely related to Smithson’s slidework Hypothetical Continent in Shells: Lemuria (1969), this two-dimensional work provides conceptual details around the object of representation. Lemuria, a theoretical continent whose existence was quickly disproved by the scientific community, comes to life through the artist’s attention. “You don’t have to have existence to exist,” Smithson asserted in Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan (1969).

The collage includes maps of both the fictional island and the placement of Smithson’s sculptural rendition, thus connecting the concepts while simultaneously emphasizing their removal from one another. Similarly to Smithson’s Nonsites, which bring attention to places often overlooked or elsewhere, The Hypothetical Continent of Lemuria resuscitates an idea from pedagogical obscurity.

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