July 11, 2012

ROBERT SMITHSON Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan (1969)


"I'm using a mirror because the mirror in a sense is both the physical mirror and the reflection: the mirror as a concept and abstraction; then the mirror as a fact within the mirror of the concept. So that's a departure from the other kind of contained, scattering idea. But still the bi-polar unity between the two places is kept. Here the site/non-site becomes encompassed by mirror as a concept- mirroring, the mirror being a dialectic. 

The mirror is a displacement, as an abstraction absorbing, reflecting the site in a very physical way. It's an addition to the site. But I don't leave the mirrors there. I pick them up. It's slightly different from the site/non-site thing. Still in my mind it hasn't completely disclosed itself. There's still an implicit aspect to it. It's another level of process that I'm exploring. A different method of containment.

From Selected Interviews with Robert Smithson: 'Fragments of a Conversation,' edited by William C. Lipke.



The following is excerpted from Robert Smithson's Incident's of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan (1969)

"...Looking down on the map (it was all there), a tangled network of horizon lines on paper called 'roads,' some red, some black.  Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas and Guatemala congealed into a mass of gaps, in a neat row: archeological monuments (black), colonial monuments (black), historical site (black), bathing resort (blue), spa (red), hunting (green), fishing (blue), arts and crafts (green), aquatic sports (blue), national park (green), service station (yellow).  On the map of Mexico they were scattered like the droppings of some small animal.

The Tourist Guide and Directory of Yucatan-Campeche rested on the car seat.  On its cover was a crude drawing depicting the Spaniards meeting the Mayans, in the background was the temple of Chichen Itza.  On the top left-hand corner was printed 'UY U TAN A KIN PECH' (listen how they talk) - EXCLAIMED THE MAYANS ON HEARING THE SPANISH LANGUAGE,' and in the bottom left-hand corner 'YUCATAN CAMPECHE' - REPEATED THE SPANIARDS WHEN THEY HEARD THESE WORDS.  A caption under all this said 'Mayan and Spanish First Meeting 1517.'  In the 'Official Guide' to Uxmal, Fig. 28 shows 27 little drawings of 'Pottery Found at Uxmal.'  The shading on each pot consists of countless dots.  Interest in such pots began to wane.

The steady hiss of the air-conditioner in the rented Dodge Dart might have been the voice of Eecath - the god of thought and wind.  Wayward thoughts blew around the car, wind blew over the scrub bushes outside.  On the cover of Victor W.Von Hagan's paperback World of the Maya it said, 'A history of the Mayas and their resplendent civilization that grew out of the jungles and wastelands of Central America.

'In the rear-view mirror appeared Tezcatipoca - demiurge of the 'smoking-mirror.'  'All those guide books are of no use,' said Tezcatipoca.  'You must travel at random, like the first Mayans; you risk getting lost in the thickets, but that is the only way to make art.'"


"...While in Mexico, Robert Smithson created the Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1–9) by installing 12-inch-square mirrors on dispersed sites. The resulting series of nine color photographs was published in Artforum to accompany Smithson’s essay “Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan” (1969). The mirrors reflected and refracted the surrounding environs, displacing the solidity of the landscape and shattering its forms. Part Earthwork and part image, the displacements contemplate temporality; while the mirror records the passage of time, its photograph suspends time."     
Nancy Spector


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