Jessi DiTillio:
I'm Jessi. This is Mike.

Michael E Stephen:
And we both reside in LA. We've been here since last August so it's been about a year.

John Whitten:
And I'm John

Katherine Spinella:
And I’m Katherine.

So we're here in Portland, Oregon, living here for the past seven years. The four of us were part of the initial experience that led to our collective, and we have carried it through to the second iteration, though this time we have a few other artists that we had invited.

It all started with a trip to the Lightning Field, the artwork by Walter de Maria. The maximum number of people that can go to it at a time is six, so our group being six people was dictated by the rules of the artwork. But since we've continued and are moving on to different art pieces and different experiences, we’ve decided the group could shift over time, be fluid or dynamic.

Ron Linn:
Excellent. A question that I have just to start things off and to expand on what you’ve been saying is: how has that group dynamic grown and how does it inform the way that you've put together these experiences and then the exhibits that come after them?


Dr. Jessi DiTillio, Michael E. Steven, John Whitten, Katherine Spinella

Edited Transcript
August 17, 2021
In the first iteration, the Lightning Field, we actually went just as six friends who all met in grad school and just wanted to get together again because we had been living far apart for a couple of years, and wanted a chance to have an art-related experience. Actually during the course of our stay at the Lightning Field we decided, “Oh, what if we made an exhibition about this experience that we're having?” That's what planted the seed for this collective.

The first round was decently successful. We got two shows out of it, and we got to travel to both of those places, talk about the work, and engage with the local communities. I think we were kind of on this high, so to speak, from that experience, so we decided we should visit another Land Art site on a trip. And at that point we didn't really know what the second site would be. We had kind of a list of places, and I think we're still adding to that list…

I think narrowing and honing in sometimes is a little bit more challenging.

Our publication that came from the first iteration was in large part a huge collaboration between us four specifically, though all six of us helped contribute. That was something I don't think any one of us had really tackled before. Every part of us is totally present in the exhibition design and layout and the writing, so it feels almost like it's this nice tight package, but it has all of our hands in it.

For how labor intensive that [publication] was, it very much felt effortless.

As the art historian in the group, I always felt like collaboration was essential to what made engaging with Land Art interesting to me. I was kind of skeptical about, and I’m still skeptical about, Land Art in general--in the sense of it often being white men out in the Western landscape in this kind of Manifest Destiny way. Like “we're gonna go out there and we're gonna make this huge thing that's you know, a lot of
Asphalt Rundown
Robert Smithson, 1969
Manifest Desitiny
John Gast, 1872
Those aspects are our way to remind ourselves to maintain a levity about the situation. Things can just be very much about the engagement that we have with each other. It's so strange that aspects of this project have some sort of personal reference to a 90’s rock ballad. We've called our second project, “Black Hole Sun” [after the song by Soundgarden] which connects with the Sun Tunnels, but there are also all these connections to the band Soundgarden. They had a music video that they filmed at the Lightning Field, and even named their band Soundgarden after another Land Art piece outside of Seattle ["A Sound Garden" by Douglas Hollis]. Even though the ballad reference seems like an inside joke, it circles back to have relevance with the work as well.
One of the things that really impressed me about your work is that you're engaging with something that is, at least within artist’s circles, well known. Each piece has its own character and history, and that's such a rich thing to draw from. I like how you are balancing this respect or interest or critical look at what is there, with also making your own work.

A lot of our first experience was framed by the fact that the Dia Foundation, [the organization that funds and maintains the most famous works of Land Art] is so restrictive about replication of the Lightning Field, so we knew that it couldn’t actually be represented in our work. Which was such an exciting parameter. There’s not that restriction about the Sun Tunnels, but there are other unique aspects about them. We knew that we wanted to honor the way that Nancy Holt had constructed these to interact with the winter and the summer solstice.
And how many people were going to show up pre-dawn.

A lot of people.

We were one of three base camps of about 5 people each. But then we were woken up to a line of 50 angry individuals.

I know that [this frustration] probably holds a lot of my own personal psychological reaction during this unvaccinated COVID time, where there was this dense congregating of people in an incredibly narrow field of view for this solstice experience, the alignment of the sunrise with these tunnels. And this was in contrast to our last experience going to the
She also mentioned that if the moon is at least a quarter-full the moon casts light through the holes that are in there. [The Sun Tunnels] have a life that is very much throughout the entire calendar year. We planned our trips with a little bit of wiggle room, so that we could have a couple sunsets and a couple sunrises, to really make it worth the pilgrimage out there, but then also hopefully to mitigate a little bit of the crowd.

I’m sure it would be a lot more pleasant [weather-wise] to visit during fall or spring.

But we did want to play to the extremes of the solstices.

The wind! My memory of Mike driving that RV from the Sun Tunnels to the Spiral Jetty, and the way that he was white-knuckling the steering wheel because the wind was so relentless. The thing that really stood out to me was the extremes of that experience, where understandably, you are at the extremes of your experience with either the longest day or the longest night of the year. The amount of freezing cold that we endured for the winter compared to how relentlessly we got sandblasted by the wind in the summer.

Sarah Brinton:
Well, I will say that's part of the advantage of going when there are a lot of people going, because when we went and we were the only ones out there, it
25 satellites that are huge, 800 feet tall, that can vary in their configuration.

Yes, they are on these moving tracks and they're listening to space.

They use radio waves to then create images of deep space. So we saw this man-made creation which is going to expand on our knowledge of the known universe, which is pretty exciting. Then we went out in the middle of nowhere and saw a similar configuration, but on a different scale at the Lightning Field.

We’re thinking and talking about what makes a work of land art a “Land Art,” as opposed to these other types of human-built structures in the landscape. This constell-
The Lightning Field
Walter De Maria, 1977
Little Pigeon,
Katherine Spinella and John Whitten, 2021
Clay, HD Video on tablet with sound
Tarot Reading (detail)
John Whitten, 2021
Graphite pencil on black paper
Kristin Hough, 2021
Acrylic on Canvas
Michael E. Stephen, 2021
Altered Kenner Care Bear plush (1983) &
therapy lamp looped on time intervals
(18 sec. On / 21 min. Off)

(Interacting with Jessi DiTillio's
"Some Tunnels" in second photo)
Some Tunnels
Dr. Jessi DiTillio, 2021
Stoneware, dirt from Wendover, UT,
Thunderstruck 2.0: black hole sun installation view at Carnation Contemporary September 2021

(image foreground) C-Curve, 2021, Katherine Spinella and John Whitten, Memory foam, Wood, plastic, HD video projection, dimensions variable

(image background far left) Tarot Reading, 2021, John Whitten, Graphite pencil on black paper, 23 x 30 inches

(image background center left) Perseus, 2021, John Whitten, Graphite pencil on black paper, 23 x 30 inches

(image background center right) Mooning Nancy, 2021, John Whitten, Katherine Spinella, Dr. Jessi DiTillio, and Michael E. Stephen, HD Video on monitor & spellcasting salt on acrylic
Salt ingredients: Himalayan Pink Salt, Pink Bath Salt, Bonneville Salt Flat Salt, Black Lava Salt, Charcoal, Bourbon, Sand from Sun Tunnels, Burnt Wood from Sun Tunnels, Iré Ayé, Ori, Afoché, Frankincense, Bergamot, Rock from Spiral Jetty, Glacier Water, Cayenne, MoonPie Fur, Palm Fronds, The Last Orchid Flower, Rosemary, Dragon, The Egg of DGAF, Crystals, Crushed Quartz, Ash and Smoke of the CBD Baby, Chenille Firetail, Toenail of Fran, Critical Mass, Poppy Petals + Magic.

(image background far right) Little Pigeon, 2021, Katherine Spinella and John Whitten, Clay, HD Video on tablet with sound, 14 x 12 x 6 inches
Spiral Jetty
Robert Smithson, 1970

Ashlin Aronin, 2021
Magnetometer, accelerometer, PyBadge, Raspberry Pi, Unity, Max for Live, sound, light

For Backscatter, Aronin created a logging device to record fluctuations in magnetic fields and movement through space. The device recorded members of the Thunderstruck Collective in their unique engagements with the interior space of Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels. Aronin turned this data into sound and light, visualizing the magnetometer and accelerometer data as 3D comet trails to show their spatial correlation, and sonifying the same data using a resonant metallic synthesizer, along with modulated recordings of the sharp wind at the site.

Your Moon In My Sky

Sand That Moves/ Strong Will-ed

Morgan Rosskopf, 2021
Mixed media on hand cut paper & duralar
Thunderstruck 2.0: black hole sun is the second in a series of exhibitions inspired by journeys to classic land art sites in the American West. For this exhibition, three artists and one curator traveled to Western Utah to see Nancy Holt’s 1973-76 work Sun Tunnels on the Winter Solstice, shivering and windblown. For the Summer Solstice, the original four returned with three new companions, expanding the collective to seven artists, blasted by sand and sun. The artists participating in Thunderstruck 2.0 bring diverse materials into their work--drawing, painting, photography, dirt, salt, magnetic waves, sound, light, and more--in order to transport viewers and offer an authentic sense of place. At the same time, Thunderstruck 2.0 asks questions of the Sun Tunnels… How does this site frame our perception of light, scale, and emptiness? Who did Holt make this work for? What is the relationship between land art and spectacle?

Curated by Dr. Jessi DiTillio, the Thunderstruck Collective is a growing group of artists committed to collaborative engagements with the land arts of the American West through exhibitions and publications.

Current participating members are in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Portland:

Katherine Spinella @katherine.spinella

Michael E. Stephen @michaelestephen

John Whitten @john.whitten

Kristin Hough @kristinhough

Morgan Rosskopf @morgan_rosskopf

Ashlin Aronin @scenictanker

Part travelogue and part creative revisionism, the Thunderstruck project conjures new responses, affective, energetic, and communal, to art historical sites designed for isolation, solitary contemplation, and transcendence.

Death Spiral
Michael E. Stephen, 2021
Pulverized rocks from the Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake salt & dirt collected from the Sun Tunnels, cast into Monster in my Pocket Reaper collectibles
Very Large Array
New Mexico, USA
Golden Spike,
Promontory Point, UT
Sun Tunnels
Nancy Holt, 1973-6
A Sound Garden
Douglas Hollis, 1982-3
*You can find more images, information, and updates on Thunderstruck Collective's present and future projects at @thunderstruckcollective on Instagram

**all images of the exhibition "Black Hole Sun" courtesy of John Whitten

***photos of the Sun Tunnels, Spiral Jetty, and The Lightning Field from the DIA Foundation. Click on the images for more information about each work
We have a really long Google Doc.

Thunderstruck 2.0 ideas just grew until it felt like we were at Thunderstruck 3.0, or maybe even 4.0 and we actually needed to start narrowing it down a little bit.

I'd say the four of us are kind of the core of the group, in the sense that we’re the most excited about it, and continually provoking each other to new ideas and new adventures.

And then grew the idea to add new people that we knew in some way to the second round. We think we will continue to work with this format for future iterations, but also maybe fold in people from past collaborations.

How has the role of collaboration worked in this project? I know, at least looking through some of your recent Instagram posts, that John and Katherine are collaborating on work. Has that always been a goal, to have artists collaborate within the group--or has everyone been responding in their own way?
It’s open for the participants to make things that are more uniquely their own, but if collaborations happen, we encourage that as well. During that very first round Jessi and I worked on something together: I had a print and she had some texts that we incorporated into the print.

This project has been something I've been really interested in; trying to form those little seeds of sharing and making work together. I can have a little more freedom to make something really different than my own practice. John and I are partners, so we have collaborated informally on things before, but I wanted us to more consciously work on things together.

I will say this is the first time that Jessi, Mike, Katherine, and I have all collaborated on some ideas as well. I'm never against collaboration, but it's not what I gravitate towards with my own studio practice. I tend to just so easily go into an idea by myself, and put headphones on, and work on my own individual thing--so this project was a very exciting excuse to collaborate.

I think that [collaboration] comes out of the trip and spending time together and having conversations. Those [connections] start to form between experiences and ideas of other people that are part of the group.
money and involves construction and it has this imposition on the landscape in this really intrusive way” sometimes. For the Lightning Field, when you read Walter de Maria’s writing about it, he's all about isolation. He says that the transcendent experience of the landscape is what the work is all about. To me, working collaboratively and thinking about these experiences as a group, and what our group dynamics and relationships and friendship did to our experience with the artwork, was really important as a counter to what the artwork was originally intended to do, or the popular narrative of what Land Art is supposed to be about.

I'd love to hear some more about your experiences with that, specifically with Land Art and the ways in which you engaged with it or worked against it.

Some of my initial writing that went into the publication was about bringing personal experience to these works that are supposed to access some element of the universal. The way the artists describe these works--I just cringe at that kind of language that treats art as something that's supposed to present universal experience accessible to all people in the same way. Especially in works, [like the Lightning Field], that are so inaccessible to most people not engaged with contemporary art or art history--or the problem of how you even get to these sites.

As our conversations evolved, things that we were bringing into the work became these inside jokes that evolved out of stuff we did on the way to the art. I started to think about how all of these stories and associations and jokes could all become a part of the legacy of the art, even if they had nothing to do with what those artists originally intended. You know, if we want to name all of our shows about land art after weird nostalgic 80s and 90s rock ballads, we can do that.
A lot of the works that we made for the last exhibition, and the ones that we’re making for this one, really focus on the nuance of our collective or individual experience, and in that way it pans back from that [classic] narrative of Land Art and focuses instead on the minutiae or small moments.
I feel like these Land Art pieces are kind of like Utah's claim to fame in terms of the Contemporary Art World. So often we talk about them in these really strong, reverential terms, but I’ve never really had that experience with them myself. It's always been more about the journey out to them, the people you're with, and the connection that you feel to the place.

Aloe Corry:
When you go to something preexisting, like some Land Art or Public Art or monument, how do you balance that aspect of pilgrimage with the creation of something else? I’d love to hear how you guys balance that.

We always start with a bit of research like reading about the artists who made the Land Art, or initial statements about the piece. We usually try to learn about the process of making the piece and think about that [as well].

But we’re also trying to navigate a space that isn't always highlighted when a Land Art piece is talked about: the location prior to that piece, who inhabited that place, the origins or identity, rather than this space that becomes whitewashed by the pilgrimage of these white men [and sometimes women] dominating the Western landscape. With the Lightning Field there is so much to mine from that site. Mainly because I feel that de Maria was such a conceptual artist. There are definitely things that he wanted to control and curate within that experience. And even though we may have had some of those same experiences and feelings that he wanted us to have, we were also trying to kind of circumnavigate around that and see what else we could gather on our own.

Working with newer artists this round, we wanted them to have the same kind of platform to investigate and do their own research, but also [have the option] to focus on more personal relationships or connections with each other and what they had with the site. We definitely want to be critical of these pieces, but we also don't want to be so dry about it.
During the winter solstice we just couldn't have a comfortable camping situation with multiple people. So just the four of us were there for the winter solstice, and then we were able to go back for the summer solstice with seven of us. We thought that it was going to be like a miniature Burning Man for the summer solstice, but it was actually a kinder crowd than the one we had with the winter solstice. There were some individuals that were getting a little grumpy about people being in the way of their time-lapse photos.

That's a real pilgrimage situation there. You're seeing all these pilgrims with these different ideas about the experience. It makes me think of seeing something like the Mona Lisa. When I was at the Louvre, when I saw the Mona Lisa, I was really interested in the painting, because I'm a painter, but I was also really obsessed with the people taking pictures of the Mona Lisa. After a while I just wanted to look at the crowd. Does that happen with some of these sites? And does that experience end up making its way into your work? Watching other people watching?

[With the Sun Tunnels,] we definitely were thinking about the contrast with the Lightning Field, in experiencing the moment of the sun going through the tunnel, but also with the people echoing that same action by intensely gathering and then dispersing. We thought about that a lot. We tossed around an idea--which we are not going to do-- of having a really bright light outside of the gallery and having a big line to enter. That was definitely part of the experience there. Especially in the winter, just because it was so extremely cold. In the summertime it was an entirely different experience. Because it was warmer, we could be out there at night, and we could spend time inside of the tunnels. I found myself focusing more on being able to be inside the tunnel throughout the night and how it held warmth--these kinds of things that weren't only about the visual aspect of the sun coming through the piece.
After our experience with the winter crowd and their grumpy attitude, we thought: what if for the summer solstice visit, we mediated everyone else's experience by wearing DIA shirts and having stanchions…

Or carry clipboards, so people think we're in charge of what's happening…

Just because of how abrasive the experience felt during the winter, especially in contrast to the Lightning Field, where it was just us and we were able to socialize and have moments to ourselves. [The Sun Tunnels] was definitely the complete opposite. And so, for better or worse, we thought it'd be great to put a wrench in everybody else's spokes--but we decided that that wasn't probably the route we wanted to go.

Maybe in our next book it'll be an assignment or an activity that you can do. Like a Conceptual Art piece.

It was something I didn’t expect, but there was a feeling of territorialism around this public space. In order to have as comfortable of a camping experience as we could during the winter solstice, we got an RV. And it was still absolutely frigid at night, so cold, but we got out there and were able to catch the sunset, so we just parked the RV to camp for the night. And then we were woken up by somebody knocking on the door of the RV and realized that we had actually parked right in the sweet spot of the solstice alignment [of the artwork]. We had miscalculated where the sunrise was going to take place…
Sarah Brinton:
Did you consider visiting the Sun Tunnels not during a solstice? Most of the year, they just sit there and don't do the thing they were supposed to do. I've actually never been during the solstice; I've just visited at a random time when no one cared that it existed, besides me and my friend. I even slept in one of them by myself. What would you think about going when it wasn’t the solstice, and seeing it not doing what it was made to do, and being subverted in that way?

When I appreciated the work most was at night, when there was nobody there and we could just lay in the tunnels. Maybe that felt similar to an off-season.

During the summer visit, we four had all been there during the winter. We stayed two nights during the summer, and on the last morning half of us didn't even get up to see it. You're just kind of like, “Oh, seeing it doesn't matter.”

To more directly answer your question: I picked up a book by Nancy Holt called “Sightlines.” It provides a really comprehensive view of her work, and it talks about how there's 10 days prior and 10 days after the actual solstice that the sunrise and the sunset still align, because the position of the sun doesn’t sway that drastically in such a short amount of time. So you don't necessarily have to be there on the solstice to see that phenomenon…

Going four days after the solstice can [give the same experience] without being so crowded.

Lightning Field, where it was just the six of us. There, we had the entire space. With the Sun Tunnels, it was like “Wow, this is actually pretty crowded.” And we had to try to have a sense of what the social dynamic of this situation was: the person who sets up their camera on the tripod first is the one who draws the line. There's a social politeness--you don't get in front of that person.

But when the sunrise took place and the solstice alignment happened, it was a struggle of feeling compelled to walk through these tunnels, which appeared as this sort of portal. I was struggling with the social niceties of--ah, but they set up their camera on a tripod first.” But these photographers are also claiming something that’s not claimable. That this is a public space and for somebody to feel like they can claim ownership over taking video or a time lapse of the entire thing--it only made me feel more that I needed to walk through [the tunnel]. Going from the Sun Tunnels to the Spiral Jetty, we realized that it really wasn't that long after Nancy Holt's husband Robert Smithson had passed away that she had made this piece. Even though it's not necessarily something that she writes about, there is this portal experience that seemed like a very rich part of this space. So I decided: “Sorry photographers, I have to walk through this, and you’re going to have to edit me out.”

During the second visit, when it was the seven of us, we decided we were going to do this all together as a group--we were going to enter the tunnels, right at the moment when we would all be getting in the way of what everyone else wants to see. But then, you know, it's not like the sunrise is just one second and you walking through the view is going to ruin the experience for everyone.

[The photography aspect] was also really absurd to me, because they’re taking a picture that a million people have taken before. If you Google “Sun Tunnels,” you can see tons of photos of the sun rising through the tunnels, all exactly the same. So what is this compulsion that people have to need to photograph this exact moment in this kind of pure way? It made me wanna mess with people who were interested in doing that.

Which I think also lends to the idea for us all that replicating the image of the Sun Tunnels was not really something we wanted to do. It's already out there; it exists. That helped carry over that notion that we had at the Lightning Field--how can we navigate the space and create an exhibition without using the image of the site?

crossed my mind that if we break down, we're on our own. The Utah landscape is unforgiving and that's maybe part of the appeal for the Land Artists in the first place.

I was gonna ask another thing: your Instagram bio talks about the non-art places surrounding the Land Art, and I'm interested in what you found along the way that was surprising to you, and how it might have influenced your work.

When we were visiting the Lightning Field, there was the Very Large Array, which is this installation of satellites…
ation of human efforts to experience the environment, to learn more about it, or to put their mark on it. And then, one of the other [non-art places] on that trip is this tiny town called Pie-town--the whole town is just two pie shops across the street from each other. There was this spectrum of microcosm/macrocosm experience, from the super large scale/super small scale. There was something really compelling about thinking of the Very Large Array, and the Lightning Field, and Pie-town as this conceptual network of strange human actions In the landscape.

I forget which pie shop we selected. We got blueberry pie and it was delicious. We mentioned we were going to Lightning Field, and the shop knew all about it and told us, “You’ve got to get a pie, you have to go and take one out there.” They even knew that there was an oven in the cabin that we could use to heat the pie. They were very, very well aware of the site--they probably had a lot of visitors that stopped on their way to the Lightning Field, got a pie and shared their story--and then that experience became their story.

Like you have to go and buy a pie to take to the Lightning Field…

John: an offering to appease the Lightning Gods

Not to hammer the pilgrimage thing, but like you have to choose between which of the two pie shops, which sell the same thing, and take one with you…

The pilgrimage idea was such a predominant experience with all of these trips. Both revolved around these really defined moments, the sunrise and the sunset. The Lightning Field is booked from May through September, when there is high lightning activity. Of course, the expectation is to see a lightning bolt strike one of these poles. And while we were there, it didn't.There might have been the reaction that we got a dud of an experience. But it didn’t feel that way. We were dropped off at two in the afternoon, so the sun was right above the lightning poles and they just disappeared into the landscape with no shadows cast. Then as soon as that sun started to set, it hit the tips of those poles and the space looked like a field full of candles. As the light starts to change, it looks like somebody just flipped on a switch and it becomes a field of fluorescent tubes, just totally reflecting the pinks and yellows and oranges.
The Sun Tunnels [were also most activated] in the morning and evening, and for the rest of the time we were either in a cabin or in an RV trying to shelter from the wind or heat or cold. The majority of the experience was very much about us just hunkering down and hanging out and chatting, or Jessi reading our Tarot, or other experiences with our group that just happened to be facilitated by this place.

I feel like we have more examples of non-art sites from our first trip that are a little more concrete. But on our last visit, we went through Las Vegas, and the contrast of going through that place, which I had never been to before--it's such a spectacle.

On the winter trip we stopped at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake.

And the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I've been thinking about the Sun Tunnels, and the idea of spectacle and the strange social network that surrounds the tunnels during the event. We definitely also experienced that at the Mormon Temple when you're walking around at Christmas.

Spectacle is very big there around Christmas time.

And the Salt Flats..It’s in a lot of John and Katherine’s work, the significance of salt to the Utah landscape! Collecting salt there, and thinking about salt in the lake, and also salt as this central resource throughout the space, something that makes it a very unique landscape and that drew people to see it as this kind of promised land, was all very interesting to us.
The Lightning Field and the Very Large Array both felt like human efforts to evoke an interaction with the heavens. This is just the beautiful thing about working with Jessi. The smallest little thing that she might say will profoundly change the focus of our thought. For example, we were trying to figure out what our second round was going to be about, and there was a lot of talk about solar fields and about atomic test sites and energy.

Jessi made this comment about rather than focusing on “energy,” thinking about “energies” in a literal sense, with the constellations in the tunnels and the reading of the stars through astronomy and astrology. And previously this was all Lake Bonneville, so it is very much a space that's built out of salt. I started to read a book about the history of salt, which is fundamental to our bodies and health, which also gets into all the mystical properties in salt as well. That was where I realized that I had maybe limited my scope of thinking about the non-art site as needing to be this sort of feat of scientific engineering. Why does a scientific site have to be categorized as non-art? Why can’t we expand this to the elemental? This is where the Salt Flats and the earth and minerals and elements can also be brought into the experience to complement the space.

It is really interesting how certain narratives feel very connected across the expansiveness of the West. I don't know if you're aware of this, but right on the way to the Spiral Jetty, there's a rocket-booster testing site at Promontory Point, which is also where the railroad came together from the east and the west and met with the Golden Spike. That happened in 1869 and then in 1969, they’re going to the moon, and all this action is happening around this really weird place in the middle of nowhere. There is this strangeness about the expansiveness of the West that makes people look to the sky for some reason. An interesting connection between Space and space.

There's something interesting about how we keep returning to this idea of pilgrimage. Potentially, the analog within our modern culture is the road trip. I like how that starts to factor into things about these journeys that you're taking and where you stop along the way, and how they all add up. These [Land Art sites] are communal places where people gather, but when I went to the Sun Tunnels, we went through the Salt Flats and stopped there, and then we went to the Spiral Jetty, and [the process] becomes a communal itinerary of gathering and moving. And when you talk about the proliferation of photographs [of the Sun Tunnels] I think about how that happens a lot here in Utah in places like the National Parks, where people go and they gather and they all line up to take the same photo…

That photo of Delicate Arch…

Over and over.

I think there's something fascinating about that, or that propensity that we have to do that: to make journeys to these sites and to try to have the same experience that someone else had. I like how that's kind of coming through in the way that you're talking about the work.

It's the same experience and also it's different. These patterns emerge when you talk to other people who have done these kinds of trips, but then all the little quirks and everything make your trip individual.

That's what makes these projects feel powerful to me. There was that limitation that you talked about with the first round, where you couldn't depict the site. And then the similar limitation that comes from kind of an opposite problem, of there being too much depiction of the site. Going back to this idea of these Land Artists trying to present some sort of universal experience and then having that fail, I think it's really exciting.

I agree.

We really enjoyed hearing about your guys' work and how you've been navigating the weirdness of land art in the West. Thanks so much for talking with us.

Yeah this has been just so great, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the work that comes out of this newest round.

photo credit:
Morgan Rosskopf
Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson
at the Spiral Jetty, UT 1970
Pie Town,
New Mexico, USA