Land, Art, Liberation: Groundings of Revolutionary Ecology

Aaron Katzeman
Visual Studies
UC Irvine

This project critically revisits the American Land Art movement of the late 1960s and 1970s in order to examine its lingering impact on contemporary ecological art and to newly theorize “land” within art scholarship. The groundbreaking generation of Land artists were notable for their large-scale permanent installations in desolate landscapes of the American West, works that have since been both lauded and critiqued for their perceived environmental considerations or lack thereof. Intervening in these existing debates, I rearticulate Land Art’s underlying motivations within the context of U.S. settler colonialism and global imperialism, analyzing the movement in comparison to visual culture that emerged concurrently and was produced alongside resistance to military occupation, social movements for agrarian reform, and anti-colonial national liberation struggles. In addition to the continental US, I look toward places that have been similarly affected by American intervention—including Hawaiʻi, Brazil, and Palestine—to consider how artists have created works about “land” in a decisively different manner. Such a global comparative approach is pressing, as theorizing diverse cultural, political, and economic significances of “land” within the arts has serious ramifications for how we might better comprehend the origins of ecological disruption and divert from the worse of climate catastrophe.

Image credit: Jaime Lauriano, invasão (invasion), 2017, dermatographic pencil on red cotton, photo by Filipe Berndt