Formations of Erasure: Earthworks and Entropy

844 Robert Smithson’s Partially Buried Woodshed, now a mound of dirt in a wooded area on the Kent State University Campus, Ohio.The contemporary artform known as Earthworks is land art that is made mostly of in-situ earthen material. Works in this category comprise most of the major “iconic” examples from the late 1960s and early 1970s canon. Some of these works, like James Turell’s Roden Crater and Michael Heizer’s City Complex, have never been finished, while others, like Herbert Bayer’s Earth Mound, and Robert Morris’s Johnson Gravel Pit, are maintained by their owners in a state of stasis. The rest have been let loose into their respective contexts, to mutate by erosion, human destruction, and temporal restructuring. This last group, in a sense, is alive, and interacting with the dynamic world, gaining new meanings beyond those intended by the artists that made them. In fact, the significance of earthworks can even increase in an inverse relationship to their physical existence.