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Spiral Jetty

Seminar to Travel to Utah to Study Smithson's Spiral Jetty

February 9, 2015

Professor Rachael DeLue’s class “Terrains of Knowledge” will travel to Utah for first-hand study of Robert Smithson’s iconic Spiral Jetty. The seminar examines the history of landscape in the United States, taking as a starting point the idea that making an image of the land is not a neutral act, but has always been a matter of producing and communicating knowledge. The class will examine landscape in the American context in terms of the concept of “terrain,” a term that evokes simultaneously a physical place or space, a visual representation, and a domain of knowledge. From pictures of the New World made by European explorers to land art in the contemporary period, the seminar will explore diverse manifestations of landscape in a variety of media, including maps, scientific illustrations, paintings, photographs, and built environments.

First-hand examination of material artifacts at area museums, including the Princeton University Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, will play a vital role in the seminar. The semester will culminate in a trip to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, site of Robert Smithson’s monumental earthwork Spiral Jetty. Created in 1970, the Spiral Jetty is one of the most important and seminal works of post-war American art. The class’s visit to the site will generate a rich conversation about post-war art, land use, westward expansion, ecology, landscape tourism, development and deindustrialization, and intersections between art and science—every one of these a concern pertaining to landscape now. The trip, funded by the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Fund, the Council of the Humanities, and the Department of Art and Archaeology, will also provide an irreplaceable experience of a major monument of modern art that simply cannot be captured through pictures alone.