[-empyre-] Nonsite as recovery

Renate Ferro rtf9 at cornell.edu
Mon Jan 14 00:46:01 EST 2008


We have been reading your postings on Matta-Clark and Smithson with 
great interest partially because the "non-sites" and "earthworks" you 
cite remain for us significant material "situations" in our daily 
work.  Renate teaches in the Cornell College of Architecture, Art, 
and Planning where Matta-Clark studied and met Smithson , while Tim 
recently inhabited the director's office of Cornell's Society for the 
Humanities which is housed in the A. D. White House, formerly the Art 
Museum, which hosted the 1969 "Earth Art" that  featured Smithson's 
spectacular salt installation (we phantasize that certain stains on 
the hardwood floors formerly housing the galleries bear the traces of 
Smithson's work...).

For, their works have a continual ability to disrupt--not only the 
complacent satisfaction of contemporary art with its own so frequent 
return to celebration of the commodity but also the rigid conceptual 
and historical boundaries of art and its history, exemplified by 
Matta-Clark's cross-historical reflection on fold and space in 
"Office Baroque" (one of the unspoken inspirations for Tim's 
forthcoming book, Digital Baroque: New Media and Cinematic Folds).

What remains important to us about their legacy, in keeping with our 
recent -empyre- topics on "critical spatial practice"  and "memory 
loss: art, archive, accident," is precisely how they worked so 
tirelessly to configure the artistic and architectural commodity in 
order to confront us with the thought boundary, performance, 
contingency, and montage.

What we also note is the political resonance of the Cornell earth art 
projects with activist new media projects concerned with the 
environment and global warming.  One of Smithson's well-known 
collaborations for the Earth Art show was with Dennis Oppenheim for 
the latter's "Beebe Lake Ice Cut."  As we have spent the past week in 
Ithaca confounded by 65 degree weather, we  passed by Beebe Lake 
everyday while noting the melancholic strangeness of its lack of a 
single trace of ice.  Perhaps a new media intervention is now 
required that would layer the Lake's glassy surface  with layers of 
digital crystal that then might be etched for a virtual ice cut....

We're pleased to read your marking of their legacy as what lies at 
the heart of new media studies, whether in its spatial disruptions 
and reconfigurations (both material and virtual) and its openness to 
immaterialized conceptualizations from the past (Tim would join 
Matta-Clark in fingering the baroque).


Renate and Tim

Timothy Murray
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
Director of Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature
Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video
285 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

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