Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971-2011)
A video on Robert Smithson’s Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (Emmen, 1971)
Produced by SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain and Land Art Contemporary
Directed by Nancy Holt and Theo Tegelaers
Cinematography 1971 – Nancy Holt, 2011 – Benito Strangio
Editing Walter Stokman Films
Sound Rik Meier, field recordings; Jeroen Goeijers, sound editing
Executive Production Carlijn Diesfeldt
Online Editing Wouter Betting, Filmmore Amsterdam
Color correction Benito Strangio
Consultants Dee Dee Halleck, Tom Martinelli
Communication and PR Bureau van Beers
Financing Land Art Contemporary, SKOR| Foundation for Art and Public Domain,the province of Drenthe, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe Investing in Rural Areas (LEADER), the city of Coevorden, the city of Emmen, Cultuurfonds BNG and the Sanders!Ten Holte family.

Special thanks to Gerard de Boer and his family
Thanks to Trudy van Riemsdijk-Zandee, Serge Paul, Marc de Verneuil, Staatsbosbeheer, Nils van Beek, Elyse Goldberg, Rieke Vos, Bob Fiore and the employees of Zand- en Exploitatie-Mij, Emmen B.V.

© Nancy Holt
September 2011

Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971-2011)

During the execution of Robert Smithon’s (1938-1973) land art project ‘Broken Circle/Spiral Hill’, which was commissioned by Sonsbeek Buiten de Perken in 1971, his wife and artist Nancy Holt filmed about thirty minutes of footage on 16mm of the work in progress. Smithson had made a scenario and storyboard himself for some scenes, camera positions and camera movements that he intended to use. Not all of these scenes were executed, on the one hand because of a lack of time and financial funding and on the other hand because Smithson was still struggling with the boulder that lay in the center of the work. The presence of the boulder was a fact and Smithson wondered if he should bury it or remove it from the centre. Ultimately, he decided to leave the stone intact as an indefinable reminder of the Ice Age. According to Smithson, the film could, with its successive bursting of dams and, as a result, water washing as in a flood over the land, be considered a micro cosmos for the disastrous floods in Zeeland in 1953. Smithson wanted to incorporate this event in the film by the inclusion of documentary material.

Smithson thus saw the film as an integral part of the work and several months after the completion of the work wrote a letter to Sjouke Zijlstra. In this letter he requested if the for that reason newly installed Sonsbeek Unlimited Foundation would take care of the restoration and the maintenance of the work, and could make means available for the completion of the film. Later, in another letter to the foundation’s chair Mr. P. Sanders, he asked again if he was partly prepared to commission the realization of the film. Due to his tragic death in an airplane accident in 1973, while searching locations for a new work in Texas, Smithson never completed the film.

The video BREAKING GROUND: BROKEN CIRCLE/SPIRAL HILL (1971-2011) draws a picture of Smithson’s intentions in relation to the disastrous floods, the megalithic tombs, the quarry itself and the geological history of the area, based on the available directions of the artist. In this video, realized forty years after the completion of the work itself, the original 1971 footage is combined with two recent recordings of video and sound, which include aerial shots and scenes shot from the quarry lake.

Theo Tegelaers, Senior Curator
SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain