Land Arts of the American West is a “semester abroad in our own backyard” attracting architects, artists, and writers (from Texas Tech and beyond) to camp for two months while traveling six-thousand miles overland to experience major land art monuments—Double Negative, Spiral Jetty, Sun Tunnels, The Lightning Field—while also visiting sites to expand our understanding of what land art might be. Our itinerary takes us from the pre-contact archeology at Chaco Canyon to infrastructure at Hoover Dam, from industry at the Bingham Canyon Mine to scientific exploration at the Very Large Array and military-industrial operations in the Great Salt Lake Desert.
To negotiate the multivalent meaning of these places and shed light on strategies to aid their comprehension the Land Arts program invites the wisdom of field guests—writers, artists and interpreters—to join specific portions of our journey. Over the years guests have included art historian Ann Reynolds, Center for Land Use Interpretation director Matt Coolidge, design/builder Jack Sanders, and writer Lucy Lippard among many others. As we travel students make their own work in the landscape to calibrate and test the expanding range of their understanding. The field season concludes when this work is exhibited on the Llano Estacado to the university community and beyond.
Land Arts situates our work within a continuous tradition of land-based operations that is thousands of years old. Analysis of sites visited provides a basis for dialog and invention. Issues of spatial and material vocabulary, constructional logics, and inhabitation serve as the foundation for an investigation through making. Students construct, detail, and document a series of site-base interventions in a context that places emphasis on processes of making, experiential forms of knowing, and transdisciplinary modes of practice. The immersive nature of how we experience the landscape triggers an amalgamated body of inquiry where students have the opportunity of time and space to develop authority in their work through direct action and reflection. Land Arts hinges on the primacy of first person experience and the realization that human-land relationships are rarely singular.
Land Arts was founded in 2000 at the University of New Mexico by Bill Gilbert with the assistance of John Wenger. From 2001 to 2007 the program developed as a collaboration co-directed by Bill Gilbert and Chris Taylor, then at the University of Texas at Austin. In the fall of 2008 Taylor moved to Lubbock and now Gilbert and Taylor operate the program autonomously at the College of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico and College of Architecture at the Texas Tech University. For information about the program at UNM see http://landarts.unm.edu/. In January of 2009 the Nevada Museum of Art announced the creation of the new Center for Art + Environment and the acquisition of the archive of Land Arts of the American West.
Operational and curricular material about Land Arts at Texas Tech can be found on the College of Architecture website. This site is regularly updated to include current information and hopefully will be widely updated to provide greater access to the program archive. Please contact Chris Taylor for any additional information.