An image from our trip to NYC to see the Smithson Floating
Islands in the Art World and other constructed
Robert Smithson's Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan
The Living Barge project is visually closest to an art piece conceived in
1970 by landscape artist Robert Smithson. Smithson proposed the creation
of a park on top of a barge that would circumnavigate Manhattan. This proposal,
titled "Floating Island to Travel around Manhattan" was intended to play
off the idea of Central Park as an island in the city. As part of a retrospective
for Smithson at the Whitney Museum in 2005, Floating Island was realized
- thirty years after Smithson's death. While we didn't know about Floating
Island until the Living Barge Project was well underway, the Living Barge
Project has, more than ever, become a tribute to Smithson and his ideas.
An icon in the environmental arts movement, Smithson found the gallery and
the museum to be too intertwined with an elitist, capitalist paradigm. His
earthworks were not only set outdoors, but they directly related to, or commented
on, their surroundings. More like the great pyramids in Egypt or Mexico than
a piece of outdoor sculpture, Smithson's large earthworks are ceremonial
in nature and were not meant to be bought, sold, or transported from museum
to museum. Smithson also wanted to interact with new audiences in the
construction and display of his work.
These principles are something many artists - including Smithson - struggle
with. How can we make art that is not just a commodity? How can we bring
our art to a wider audience? Is it possible to use art not just as social
commentary or propaganda, but something that more actively affects change?
Given our own experiences in urban planning and community-based action, our
approach was to take tools from these realms and integrate them with the
Living Barge Project. We believe that art can respond uniquely to the community
in which it is placed and can also be a platform to discuss ideas and examine
particular issues in a unique forum. It creates something of which the community
is proud, and increases the capabilities of those who see it to think big
and envision what they want their community to be.
More Floating Island Links:
One of the nicest
of the Smithson barge - and an answer to a question we've been wondering
for a long time.
New York magazine article
and thorough article on Floating Island and the Smithson retrospective
at the Whitney, by John Haber.
Other Constructed Islands and
Art About Islands
on artificial islands - includes links to Tenochtitlan in Mexico, Dejima
in Japan, and some funky stuff going on in Dubai (Palm Islands and The World)
Andrea Zittel: Pocket Property
Pocket Property was a 54-ton concrete island that Zittel built off the coast
of Denmark. She lived on the island for several months. In this articulate,
magazine interview, Zittel talks about this project and how it is reflective
of contemporary American lifestyles.
Spiral Island is Richie Sowa's labor of love, a tennis-court sized island
made of a platform floating on 250,000 empty plastic soda bottles. Located
in a lagoon in the resort town of Puerto Aventuras, Spiral Island is an exercise
in self-contained living. Richie lives on the island with a dog and a couple
of cats in a simple house with a solar oven, a toilet, and a small garden.
Several mangrove trees hold the structure together and support the sand and
soil. Sarah visited Spiral Island during a trip to Tulum, Mexico in 2004,
shortly after she and Nicole had begun exploring concepts for what would
become the Floating Barge Project. Sadly, Spiral Island was
destroyed in the hurricanes along the Yucatan peninsula
in the fall of 2005.
Last fall, Seattle residents may remember a tropical island on Lake Washington
constructed by artists John Sutton, Ben Beres and Zac Culler. In collaboration
5 Productions, the trio spent about 24 hours on the island,
'shipwrecked' in torn suits and causing traffic jams on 520 in what turned
out to be a hilarious comment on civilization's messed up priorities (just
read the Stranger's
on the media coverage, which predictably focused on the traffic).
MAP / DIRECTIONS