Our Scholarly Text Program commissions and publishes new writing on single artworks by Holt and/or Smithson.

A tool for researchers at all stages, our Scholarly Text Program invites thinkers from a range of disciplines to write 1,200 words on a work by Holt and/or Smithson that is necessary and urgent for today. The authors explore how Holt and Smithson’s ideas resonate through artistic and cultural production in the present, exploring topics ranging from geology to ecology, poetry, architecture, science fiction, public art, sculpture, drawing, film, exhibition histories, philosophy, and all the stops between. The Scholarly Text Program will publish two essays on each work, presenting differing opinions and approaches. Each essay includes images selected by the author, a short bibliography, citation reference, and endnotes pointing to the author’s references.

Scholarly texts

Haunted: Robert Smithson’s "My House is a Decayed House," 1962

Suzaan Boettger
October, 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-20-4

“History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors.” If the sardonic analogy sounds like Robert Smithson, you’re close: it was written by his favorite poet, T.S. Eliot. The line could apply to the aged Renaissance and Baroque architecture jumbled on a dusky hillside that Smithson depicted in a gouache, ink and collage painting on paper in 1962.

30 Below

Sarah Hamill
September, 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-13-6

Inside, we observe nature as if through the wrong end of a telescope: the sky above appears detached; clouds pass as if on film. When occupied, the tower is converted into an observatory from which natural phenomena are contemplated as images, their own representation.

--Craig Owens, “Environmental Art,” Art at the Olympics, 1980

Voice and Vision in "Swamp"

Lori Zippay
July, 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-12-9

The film opens with a disembodied male voice and a landscape in motion. “Just walk in a straight line,” the man directs, as the camera advances tentatively towards an expanse of tall grasses. “I think, I think I am,” replies an unseen woman, the camera inching forward into the reeds. “Straight in…to that clump,” the man continues. “It’s OK, Nan, you’re on fairly solid ground. Straight in. Just go right in.…”

Robert Smithson’s "Texas Overflow" (1970)

Leigh A. Arnold
September, 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-21-1

In early December 1970 Robert Smithson traveled to the Dallas-Fort Worth area at the invitation of the Northwood Institute—a private business college located just outside of Cedar Hill, Texas.

Pine Barrens

Kelly Baum
August, 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-11-2

In 1975, Nancy Holt created Pine Barrens, an experimental film shot on a tract of land in the dead center of New Jersey known mostly for its cranberry bogs, sand pits, and stumpy pine trees. Pine Barrens is a brilliant rumination on one of modernity’s central dialectical knots: the relationship between center and margin. That it does so not from a metropolis but from a periphery lodged within a periphery makes it prescient indeed. As Holt well recognized, no better place to explore this particular antinomy exists than the Pine Barrens.

Island of Broken Glass

Charlie Hailey
May 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-10-5

Robert Smithson searched for lost islands. He might have found one in Miami Islet, but a telegram from the Canadian government in January of 1970, just two days after the seventieth anniversary of the shipwreck that gave the island its name, stopped the Island of Broken Glass project as it would also halt one hundred tons of green-tinted glass on its way to Vancouver’s coastline.

Nancy Holt: Zeroing In

Sarah Hayden
May 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-09-9

Nancy Holt strove to provoke the “concretisation of perception” by isolating “limited visions through holes and things” that would cause people to “really focus, really perceive intensely the thing seen.”1 Holt’s 1973 video Zeroing In is a conversation, a game, and an experiment.

Mono Lake: Ring of Fire

Aurora Tang
June, 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-08-2

At any location on earth, as the rock record goes down into time and out into earlier geographies it touches upon tens of hundreds of stories, wherein the face of the earth often changed, changed utterly, and changed again, like the face of a crackling fire.1

–John McPhee

Robert Smithson, "A Nonsite (Franklin, New Jersey)" (1968)

Phyllis Tuchman
May, 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-05-1

In 1968, Robert Smithson realized an important group of works he collectively called Nonsites. This series features bin-like structures in which the artist deposited rocks, sand, broken concrete, and other elements he collected  at various sites in New Jersey. Accompanying these sculptures, Smithson hung on gallery walls photographs he’d snapped at the same Garden State locations, as well as fragments of maps that could lead other people to these places.

Swampy Ecologies

Bridget Crone
May 2020
ISBN 978-1-952603-07-5

You are in the middle of an expanse of tall thick dry grass, head height. As you look and move through this, a world unfurls that you become immersed in feeling, hearing, seeing, and experiencing fully in each moment. Expansive. The experience feels vivid and rich despite the difficulties of movement across uneven ground and against a fierce wind. Immersive. You cannot see beyond your immediate surroundings. There is no horizon.

Doubling Down: Nancy Holt’s Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings

Barbara Miller
June 2019
ISBN 978-1-952603-00-6

Circles everywhere! Upon entering Nancy Holt’s 2018 solo exhibition at Dia Art Foundation in Chelsea, New York City the observer is engulfed by a network of flat circular line drawings, round cast shadows, and orbicular light pools. Circles also appear dimensionally: as dark voids cut into walls and as mirrored surfaces shaped into orbs. Very tangibly Holt’s circles telescope out, forming lens-less viewfinders. As one stoops to look through cast-iron spyholes, for example in Dual Locators (1972), a tunneling effect occurs: circles become layered onto circles.

A heap of Language

Craig Dworkin
May 2019
ISBN 978-1-952603-03-7

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 

Spiral Jetty

Gary Shapiro
November, 2019
ISBN 978-1-952603-02-0

Robert Smithson designed and directed the construction of his iconic work the Spiral Jetty in April 1970. The Jetty is a site-specific work, meant to interact with changing conditions of the surrounding water, land, and atmosphere. While located in a relatively barren, unpopulated place, Smithson chose the site not only because of the vast surrounding landscape, but with reference to nearby abandoned oil rigs and the Golden Spike monument marking the 1869 completion of the transcontinental railway.