Environmental Art Chills the Drills
How can art help protect the natural landscape? When art is the landscape. Robert Smithson's most famous work of environmental art, Spiral Jetty, offers a case in point. The large spiral of basalt rock and earth, which protrudes from the northeastern shore of Utah's Great Salt Lake, is arguably the most iconic work of its kind, so when a Canadian oil company attempted to do exploratory drilling in the lakebed earlier this year, art lovers launched a campaign to save the landmark. The director of the Dia Art Foundation said of their fight, "An oil spill could be disastrous for the lake, and therefore the jetty."
For now, the state of Utah has rejected the drilling proposal, ruling that the company must "make the necessary investment and professional effort necessary to match the challenges" of the project. The Dia Art Foundation is negotiating with the state to protect the work. Environmental art's relationship to environmentalism isn't always clear, but in this case, visual and aesthetic considerations may have protected of the surrounding ecosystem.
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