Monday, February 4, 2008

DD: Open Letter to Spiral Jetty Bandits!

Apparently the weird landscape around spiral jetty is under fire from Oil drillers, who want to install a rig within a couple miles of the art piece on the great salt lake. If you think this is a bad idea, forward your concerns to: or call him at 801-537-9023.

The permit request, along with maps showing the location of the drilling can be found here.

Here's my open letter to Mr. Jemmings. It's a bit blowy, but there you are...

Dear Mr. Jemming,
I wanted to drop you a quick word concerning the imminent damage threatening the surrounds of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, the most famous and emblematic work of art in Utah since 1970. An economic conflict, especially one concerning oil resources and an art object, is especially relevant at the moment and the implications of any decision are very far-reaching and indicative of our national problem-solving skills in the contemporary age.

The Jetty is located in a part of the Utahn landscape that is indicative of the 'great american west,' that free frontier so romanticized and tied closely with our national identity throughout the 19th and 20th century. The desert's vastness, its remote location, and solitude have brought out creativity and inspiration in all formats, from the individual who sees the space as a huge canvas, to a nation that roots its identification of freedom in the landscape, our famous erstwhile concept of 'manifest destiny.' This idea of freedom, of possibility, and of the sanctity of self-expression is a uniquely american ideal that has slowly died away with the buildup of civilization on this once 'wild' land. The Spiral Jetty is one man's articulation of that ideal space, and its existence carries a large and beautiful spiritual weight for all of us who still love the power and solitude of the American west. Building an oil extractor within the sight of such an immense and powerful piece emphasizing the sublime power of solitude and unworldliness would be the equivalent of opening fire during a Vivaldi concert or, more visually and patriotically relevant, emptying a sewage line down the side of Mt. Rushmore. Oil rigs and art is a combination that really screws with my notion of the American Dream.

Smithson's work carries with it an immense amount of social capital, a concept that we, as Americans, strive to articulate in terms of 'freedom' but rarely have to quantify in economic terms except in special situations like this one. Quite simply, there is no monetary reason connected to whomever is planning to drill in the salt lake to preserve this artwork. But it is important, very important, to consider what we're saying as a society if we damage a permanent icon of soul and expression for the pursuit of a few measly temporal dollars.

I do not care how much money stands to be made, nor do I care how minimal or negligible the damage to the spiral jetty may be. The motivation of this oil drilling is based on a sick and dangerous construct, that we must squeeze out every drop of oil regardless of environmental, social, or cultural impact before changing our attitudes and behaviors towards the resources we consume.

It is time to take a step back and realize what a awful eventuality we are headed towards. If Spiral Jetty becomes tainted by construction and oil, there is little left of value and decency in the American west.

Please, do not let something beautiful and indicative of all that is good and soulful in America become a casualty in the battle of mindless consumption.

David Davis

1 comment:

Davey D said...

I'm such a dork. I'm commenting on my own post before anyone's even read it!

I mentioned the whole spiral jetty vis-raping to Prof. Monty Paret, an Art History Professor at the U.

His response "I love what a jewel Spiral Jetty has become to people. I mean, I'm against the drilling from an ecological and an 'I think the Great Salt Lake is cool' perspective, but Smithson chose that site precisely because it was surrounded by wreckage and oil rigs. Not that what he thinks necessarily has to matter..."

He also told me that my argument of 'killing spiral jetty would kill the spirit of the american west' was poor :).

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