ATACAMA LAB brought the interpretive frame and working methods of Land Arts of the American West to Chile to expand the definition of earthworks and open an exchange along the north-south axis of the Americas. Public events in Santiago brought together artists, architects, designers, and scientists to discuss these expanding definitions. A ten-day fieldwork session followed in the Atacama Desert where a small group explored the implications of this dialog by visiting sites of art, architecture, infrastructure, science and made work in direct response to the landscape.
The workshop was organized by INCUBO “a not-for-profit curatorial residency program based in Santiago, Chile” that “fosters ideas related to curatorial exercises and artistic practice, whereby the exchange is understood more as a field of research than anything else.”
Land Arts of the American West is a field program designed to explore the large array of human responses to specific landscapes across time. Working in the land and studio, this investigation extends from geologic forces shaping the ground itself to cultural actions that define place. Within this context, land art includes everything from petroglyphs to roads, dwellings, and monuments as well as traces of those actions. The program examines gestures both small and grand, directing our attention from potsherd, cigarette butt, and mark in the sand, to human settlements, monumental artworks, and military-industrial projects like hydroelectric dams and decommissioned airfields. Each year the program travels more for two months with students in the landscape of the Southwest visiting sites such as Chaco Canyon and Roden Crater, the Grand Canyon and Double Negative, the Wendover Complex of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Bonneville Salt Flats and Spiral Jetty, Marfa and Mata Ortiz, the Very Large Array and The Lightning Field. The program is funded in part by the Lannan Foundation and Andrea Nasher. Land Arts of the American West developed as a collaboration between Chris Taylor and Bill Gilbert and now operates from Texas Tech University and the University of New Mexico. In 2009 the University of Texas Press published a book detailing the history and development of the program.
The term ‘land art’ or ‘earth art’ emerged in the 1960’s and 70’s. The momentum created by the movement of artists out of the studio and directly within the environment continues today. The roots of land arts practices extend deep into history and these practices can be used to examine how humans comprehend and alter the land we inhabit.