Time Lapses: Robert Smithson’s Mobile Landscapes

In 1970, the artist Robert Smithson proposed a Floating Island to Travel around Manhattan Island. Composed of a tug boat and barge planted with trees and rocks, the small pastoral island would form a displaced geography against the looming skyline of that other urban island. While this project was never realized during Smithson’s lifetime (1938-73), the island materialized for the week of 17-25 September 2005. Developed by Minetta Brook (a New York arts organization), and in conjunction with a retrospective of Smithson’s work at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Floating Island is constructed from “a 30 x 90 foot barge, landscaped with earth, rocks, and native trees and shrubs.” This paper discusses the installation of Smithson’s speculative project, and considers the relevance of Smithson’s practice to the field of geography and beyond.

Co-authored with Kathryn Yusoff (Weather Permitting collaborator) and published in “Cultural Geographies in Practice,” Cultural Geographies, vol. 13, no. 3 (2006; ISSN: 1474-4740), 444-450.