Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain, Emmen, The Netherlands

Still from “Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill.” (1971–2011)
© The Estate of Robert Smithson/Pictoright Amsterdam.
Camera: Benito Strangio.

September 17 – November 27, 2011

Forty years after the completion of the earthwork Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971) in Emmen, the film that land art artist Robert Smithson was never able to finish due to his untimely death, is now to be completed as a video with support from Dutch partners.

Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971–2011) will be presented in the context of the Land Art Contemporary program, which also includes an exhibition program and an extensive publication.

In June 1971, the American artist Robert Smithson (1938–1973) completed the land art project Broken Circle/Spiral Hill in a sand quarry in Emmen. Smithson made the work at the invitation of the Sonsbeek buiten de perken (Beyond the Borders) exhibition. Forty years following its completion, and after a highly eventful history, the work in Emmen is once again in good condition, and is the regular destination for those interested in Smithson’s work from all over the world.

Broken Circle/Spiral Hill is the only ‘earthwork’ produced by Smithson still in existence outside the United States. As an integral part of these works, Smithson made films that reveal the spatial and environmental context of the work. Aerial shots in a symmetrical pattern were combined with close-ups, documentary footage of the construction of the work and views of the surrounding landscape. In this way, visitors to galleries and museums were introduced to the earthworks produced by Smithson in barely accessible, remote locations. As a result of a tragic aircraft accident during a reconnaissance flight in 1973, Smithson’s life and work came to a premature end. Smithson was never able to finish the film about Broken Circle/Spiral Hill.

Forty years later, a video incorporating the original film footage is now to be completed on behalf of the Land Art Contemporary program in a collaboration between artist Nancy Holt and curator Theo Tegelaers of SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain. Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson made several films together and were married for a decade until his death in 1973. Holt currently works with a Dutch team in editing the video Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, including the original film footage she shot in 1971, and video recently shot recently in Emmen by a Dutch crew. The video will be made guided by Smithson’s film notes and drawings.

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