SPIRAL JETTY, 1970, by Robert Smithson (32 minutes) color

This film, made by the artist, Robert Smithson, with the assistance of
Virgina Dwan, Dwan Gallery & Douglas Christmas, Director, Ace Gallery, (the
aforementioned Dwan & Christmas also assisted Smithson financially with the
making of the Spiral Jetty), is a poetic and process minded film depicting a
"portrait" of his renouned earth work -- The Spiral Jetty, as it juts into
the shallows off the shore of Utah's Great Salt Lake. A voice-over by Smithson
reveals the evolution of the Spiral Jetty. Sequences filmed in a natural
history museum are integrated into the film featuring prehistoric relics that
illustrate themes central to Smithson's work. A one minute section is filmed
by Nancy Holt for inclusion in the film as Smithson wanted Holt to shoot the
"earth's history". This idea came from a quote Smithson found ..."the
earth's history seems at times like a story recorded in a book each page of
which is torn into small pieces. Many of the pages and some of the pieces
of each page are missing". Smithson and Holt drove to the Great Notch Quarry
in New Jersey, where he found a facing about 20 feet high. He climbed to the
top and threw handfuls of ripped pages from books and magazines over the
edge of the facing as Holt filmed it.


Smithson stated:

"Back in New York, the urban desert, I contacted Bob Fiore and Barbara Jarvis
and asked them to help me put my movie together. The movie began as a set of
disconnections, a bramble of stabilized fragments taken from things obscure
and fluid, ingredients trapped in a succession of frames, a stream of
viscosities both still and moving. And the movie editor, bending over such a
chaos of "takes" resembles a paleontoligist sorting out glimpses of a world
not yet together, a land that has yet to come to completion, a span of time
unfinished, a spaceless limbo on some spiral reels. Film strips hung from the
cutter's rack, bits and pieces of Utah, out-takes overexposed and
underexposed, masses of impenetrable material. The sun, the spiral, the salt
buried in lengths of footage. Everything about movies and moviemaking is
archaic and crude. One is transported by this Archeozoic medium into the
earliest known geological eras. The movieola becomes a "time machine" that
transforms trucks into dinasaurs.

The film recapitulates the scale of the Spiral Jetty. Disparate elements
assume a coherence. Unlikely places and things were stuck between sections of
film that show a stretch of dirt road rushing to and from the actual site in
Utah. A road that goes forward and backward between things and places that
are elsewhere. You might even say that the road is nowhere in particular. The
disjunction operating between reality and film drives one into a sense of
cosmic rupture.

As I looked at the site, it reverberated out to the horizons only to suggest
an immobile cyclone while flickering light made the entire landscape appear a
quake. A dormant earthquake spread into the fluttering stillness, into a
spinning sensation without movement. This site was a rotary that enclosed
itself in an immense roundness. From that gyrating space emerged the
possibility of the Spiral Jetty. No ideas, no concepts, no systems, no
structures, no abstractions could hold themselves together in the actuality
of that evidence. My dialectics of site and nonsite whirled into an
indeterminate state, where solid and liquid lost themselves in each other.
It was as if the lake became the edge of the sun, a boiling curve, an
explosion rising into a fiery prominence. Matter collapsing into the lake
mirrored in the shape of a spiral. No sense wondering about classifications
and categories, there were none."

Quotes from Smithson's "The Spiral Jetty, 1970, published in Robert Smithson:
The Collected Writings, edited by Nancy Holt, New York University Press, pp.
109-113


RELATED WORKS:

DRAWINGS:
Spirals n.d. circa 1970
Spiral Jetty in Red Salt Water n.d. circa 1970  

EARTHWORK:
Spiral Jetty, April, 1970

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