Site-specific/responsive/Land Art

The desire to commune with nature is fundamental to many of us.  A growing number of artists are responding to this impulse by integrating the environment into an artistic process, using the environment not only as the venue but also as the palette and canvas.

Land art is art created in nature, often site-specific and using primarily natural materials. From ephemeral fragments and found objects to massive mechanically manipulated landscapes, land art may have innumerable forms, scales and levels of permanency. This is reflected in the number of names used to define it, for example site-responsive art, environmental art, nature art; the list goes on depending on the place, material, concept and intent.

One might say art-in-nature began with the likes of Andy Goldsworthy’s fragile natural installations or Richard Long’s conceptual walking path across a field in the 60’s. But to draw a longbow, humans have practised art-in-nature for thousands of years.

The diverse geographical, cultural, historical and physical context of a site is often at the core of this diverse practice. Artists frequently work with the materials found locally and in-situ, respecting the inherent values of a place.

A range of sculptural media can be integrated into projects, driven by an event’s theme, available material and/or underlying concepts. Artists employ practices that cross media and genres, materially and conceptually and, whether large or small, lasting or ephemeral, demonstrative or almost invisible can take many forms: static or kinetic sculptural works, multi-media works incorporating audio, video, performance or other hybrids.

Making art-in-nature can be a personal and solitary immersion in the environment and/or a vital form of public art. Works in nature bring both an increased appreciation for this contemporary genre as well as ecological awareness through symposia, festivals and exhibitions or as stand-alone commissions.

Land art events or symposia may present opportunities for artists to collaborate with communities in the creation of some works and to share skills with the public through workshops, for instance. There is also the possibility for local authorities and businesses to invest through sponsorship and stewardship.

This land art has helped change the perception that art belongs to the gallery or museum. Instead land art brings the viewers’ focus to natural arenas and removes the barriers of institutional and high street expectations. Land art invites passers-by to engage with their environments on levels they may never have considered before, making it an enlightening and uplifting form of public art, available to the many rather than the few.

Donald Buglass