In the context of the time-based and dematerialised art movements such as processual art and conceptual art, Land Art developed in the late 1960s outside of studios and gallery spaces. It arose not least as a reaction to the increasingly overt commercial value of art and was the result of a critical strategy that aimed to create nothing of consumer value. Depending on the particular artist’s conceptual stance, Land Art is imbued with both romantic and socially critical potential.
Land Art is a site-specific art that chooses as its sites of action unpopulated deserts, denaturalized non-sites, and urban spaces; its scope ranges from small work fragments to works that cover entire swathes of land. The materials used, such as stone and wood in Richard Long‘s works, or soil, salt crystals, and basalt rocks in Robert Smithson‘s sculpture Spiral Jetty, are often found in such locations. In Land Art, only rarely does the work of art take on a fixed, permanent form. The works of Dennis Oppenheim and Stanley Brouwn also make reference to transformation processes in the urban sphere. The creation of the work of art and the fleeting experience of time and space are documented by means of photography, drawing, topographical maps, sculpture, audio, video, and film. Land Art as such is radically anti-commercial.
Gerry Schum’s idea for the film Land Art: Fernsehausstellung I, broadcast on German television in 1969, is in his words “the communication of art instead of owning art objects”. Schum describes the art movement’s general characteristics as follows: ‘The artists involved in Land Art attempt to find possible forms of expression that transcend the boundaries of the traditional picture on canvas. The “object d’art” is no longer the painted picture of a landscape, but the landscape itself, or more precisely the landscape as marked by the artist.’