The Measure of Land


Santiago Mostyn, still from Drawing for Bellevue Estate, 2018

Santiago Mostyn, still from Drawing for Bellevue Estate, 2018


“To travel without a map, to travel without a way. They did, long ago. That misdirection became the way. After the Door of No Return, a map was only a set of impossibilities, a set of changing locations.” 

- Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes on Belonging

“The earth’s surface and the figments of the mind have a way of disintegrating into discrete regions of art. Various agents, both fictional and real, somehow trade places with each other—one cannot avoid muddy thinking when it comes to earth projects, or what I will call “abstract geology.””

- Robert Smithson, A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects

This semester we will begin our collective exploration by learning with and from notions of land, specifically from what has been historicised as Land Art. From “muddy thinking” (Smithson) to “tentacular thought” (Haraway) we will look at artistic projects that question models of the world under imperial grids, colonial maps and western cosmologies of the Anthropocene. By engaging land itself, shaping and forming it, sometimes devastating it, sometimes fighting for it, sometimes dying for it, and sometimes thriving with it, land art practices are formed. We will, thus, look at how art relates to, and impacts ecology, ecosystems, and environments - past and present.

Starting with the work and writings of Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt, and by engaging with the theories of Donna Haraway and Kathryn Yussof, we will explore the conceptualisation and critique of the notion of “Anthropocene”. From an anti-colonial and ecofeminist perspective, we will look at the history of land art, and what was omitted from such a history of art, specifically different indigenous practices that dealt with the relationship to land, counter-mapping and counter-archiving. We will ask: on whose land is art realized? And who bears land art’s ecological, economic and environmental costs? These questions aim to entangle both human and more-than-human worlds, in order to understand processes of geology, biology, and social relations developing in the critical zone, the thin layer of the earth’s crust on which life can thrive.