Conversations in Paper

Dialogues with Michael Heizer + Nancy Holt + Robert Smithson

Collaboration with Bobby Glass, 2017

Published in Ground Up Journal: Issue 06 Of Process

In the 1960’s and 70’s, a group of artists took their sculptures outside of the gallery and into the landscape “digging holes or talking about digging holes, making performances out of the process.” 1 While some of these artists have passed and others have moved to different scales or mediums, many of their formative early works and influential experiments remain in the American Southwest. While on a journey through this landscape, we recorded our interactions with four of these pieces- Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, Robert Smithson’s Amarillo Ramp and Spiral Jetty, and Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels.

Our tool of engagement was a roll of butcher paper, salvaged from an Oakland sidewalk and transported over the winter across deserts, valleys, grasslands, mountains, and all the spaces in between. In every instance, the interaction between the paper and the landscape made visible some typically experiential or otherwise unperceived quality of the environment. At Double Negative, the rustling paper fluttered in and out of the canyon’s shadow, cracking like thunder as it caught the light. At the Amarillo Ramp, wind and gravity sent the roll tumbling and ripping down the slope, but the paper was quickly caught by surrounding rocks and brush. At the Spiral Jetty, snowflakes falling and melting onto the paper were reminiscent of the lichen on adjacent rocks. At the Sun Tunnels, the paper pulsed with the gusts of winter air moving through the concrete tubes.

1 Kimmelman, Michael. “Art’s Last, Lonely Cowboy.” The New York Times Magazine. 6 February 2005.

Photographs by Gita Khandagle / Haiku by Bobby Glass

wrinkly crinkle

slipping, twisting, shaken cold

rug folded, smudged red

over slippery surface

melted snow stains canvas fold

center of a spin

rock anchors paper

push, roll, fly, fall, bounce, rip, plop

wind swirled channel twirl

perspectival shift

carpet cascading calmly

caught, sinking, and soaked