I never understood american landart. Smithson and the rest of them were too abstract for me, although I thought that maybe I could change my opinion if I could ever go and see what they had done onsite. But I recently stumbled accross an excellent article about the beginning of land art in america which quoted Smithson, and I was most impressed by what he had to say so I went looking for more and here’s what I got;
“Cultural confinement takes place when a curator imposes his own limits on an art exhibition , rather than asking an artist to set his limits. Artists are expected to fit into fraudulent categories. Some artists imagine they’ve got a hold on this apparatus, which in fact has got a hold of them. As a result, they end up supporting a cultural prison that is out of their control. Artists themselves are not confined, but their output is. Museums, like asylums and jails, have wards and cells- in other words, neutral rooms called “galleries.” A work of art when placed in a gallery loses its charge, and becomes a portable object or surface disengaged from the outside world. A vacant white room with lights is still a submission to the neutral. Works of art seen in such spaces seem to be going through a kind of esthetic convalescence. They are looked upon as so many inanimate invalids, waiting for critics to pronounce them curable or incurable. The function of the warden-curator is to separate art from the rest of society. Next comes integration. Once the work of art is totally neutralized, ineffective, abstracted, safe, and politically lobotomized it is ready to be consumed by society. All is reduced to visual fodder and transportable merchandise. Innovations are allowed only if they support this kind of confinement.”
That is far and away the best critic of galleries I have ever come accross. It makes me want to read more.