Smithson’s Site / Nonsite

January 18, 2009

Smithsons dialectic of Site / Non Site or earthwork / indoor earthworkSmithsons dialectic of Site / Non Site

Site                                                                       Nonsite

  1. open limits                                          closed limits
  2. A series of points                              An array of matter  
  3. Outer Coordinates                           Inner Coordinates
  4. Subtraction                                        Addition
  5. Indeterminate Certainty              Determinate uncertainty
  6. Scattered Information                   Contained information
  7. Reflection                                           Mirror
  8. Edge                                                      Center
  9. Some Place (physical)                   No place (abstract)
  10. Many                                                    One

The site is an illogical combination of the senses, where the non-site is a logical picture that is abstract, representing a site.

“Representation” is very important here. 

 The nonsite is closed limits.  This means that it is categorically contained to the field of, say, optics.  Within the limits set by Smithson, in his work, Enantiomoprphic chambers, the limits of optics allow Smithson to logically extrapolate the stereoscopic vision to its poles, its ends.  Under Smithson’s enantiomorphic optics, the illusionistic space of the fusion (the metting place, the “dinner table”) of the refracted light of the dual globes of the eye, (see diagram) that makes the world one image, is not within the limits of Smithson’s optics.  He is doing away with the binocular focul points of the eyes, and therefore is allowed to bring the light to its stereoscopic end through logic.  What he is adding is another image of the world… a double image.  This is what the extrapolated, categorically contained optical reflective, refractive “bounce light”, symetrical, dual images look like in Smithson’s optics.  In Mathematics, it’s called Trisoctahedron symmetry, found in the crystal’s of certain minerals:

“Trisoctahedron or Trigonal Trisoctahedron
The trisoctahedron is a form composed of twenty-four isosceles triangular faces, each of which intersects two of the crystallographic axes at unity and the third axis at some multiple
.” – Mining

This is my logical picture of what purple light would look like seen through this shape in three-dimensions.  There is one light source in the image, which may be called the “flash of the camera”:








Superimposed on top of the crystal is the refracted “bounce light” from the purple “wall” behind the crystal that is ultimately passing through the crystal onto something like a photographic plate, which would be the stereoscopic vision of only purple if it were to be percieved without the binocular focal range of our eyes.  (see optics diagram)

Concerning Smithson’s logical limitations on his own optics, imagine an infinite number of points in the visual landscape, like the grand canyon.  Then after imagining this, apply this “crystal filter” to every infinite point.  What would it look like?

The nonsite consists of Many, categorically contained logical extrapolations that are additive to the site (or earthwork).

More simply put:

The site is subtractive, and the nonsite is additive… or rather:

SiteOne whole experience

NonsiteMany logically contained, extrapolated categories that make up the subtractive experience of the Spiral jetty




















 …  ECT.,

The nonsites converge in the experience of a site, rendering the experience subtractive of the nonsites. For example, stereoscopic vision is an experiential (not logical) impossibility, that must be subtracted in experiencing the site. The mirrors of the nonsites become ambiguious reflections in the site.  So, this art (just forget about the categorical containment of “aesthetics”, and whether or not this fits into a category at all) is dialectical, in an inextricable relationship between a site and many nonsites.






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