Spiral Jetty [film]

Robert Smithson
Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake, Utah
16 mm film on video, color, sound,
Duration: 35 minutes

Featuring Smithson’s earthwork of the same name, ​Spiral Jetty ​is an artistic endeavor of its own identity. Juxtaposing the industrial violence of Spiral Jetty’s construction with the peaceful beauty of its surrounds, the film provides an ambivalent, disorienting perspective of Smithson’s earthwork. A jarring ambient soundscape and readings from a conglomeration of texts underscore footage of the site, which is intercut with shots of maps, books, and at one point, a dinosaur exhibit. History, geology, and philosophy blend together, ultimately giving way to a visceral experience of ​Spiral Jetty.


Writing by the Artist

The Spiral Jetty

Robert Smithson
My concern with salt lakes began with my work in 1968 on the Mono Lake Site-Nonsite in California. Later I read a book called Vanishing Trails of Atacama by William Rudolph which described salt lakes (salars) in Bolivia in all stages of desiccation and filled with micro bacteria that give the water surface a red color. The pink flamingos that live around the salars match the color of the water. In The Useless Land, John Aarons and Claudio Vita-Finzi describe Laguna Colorada: “The basalt (at the shores) is black, the volcanos purple, and their exposed interiors yellow and red. The beach is grey and the lake pink, topped with the icing of iceberg-like masses of salts.” Because of the remoteness of Bolivia and because Mono Lake lacked a reddish color, I decided to investigate the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

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