Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Filming The Land Arts Of The American West

Sunny Tang at Point Sublime, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, 9-2-2010; Land Arts

Filmmaker Sam Douglas is currently raising funds on the USA Artists crowd-funding site for his next project,  Moving Mountains: Land Arts of the American West.  Folks may have seen his last work, the excellent documentary of the life of Samuel Mockbee, the creator of the Rural Studio project in Alabama, Citizen Architect. (Our previous writing on the Rural Studio can be found here.)

Like this film, Moving Mountains promises to engage with a landscape and a local culture by documenting the ways in which a group of people are taught to perceive the valuable interchange between art, architecture and place. Here is a selection from the project's introduction:
Moving Mountains: Land Arts of the American West (working title) is a feature length documentary film exploring the evolution of Land Art in the West from early indigenous people to the Earthworks of the late sixties by major artists like Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer to the educational program known as Land Arts of the American West that uses the mythical western landscape as its classroom. [ ] 

The film Moving Mountains exists in a space between a road trip of discovery, a portrait of an arts movement and an exploration of human interaction with a spectacular landscape.  The film chronicles a group of students on their journey as part of Texas Tech University’s Land Arts of the American West program, traveling over 8,000 miles in two months through Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.  It’s what the program’s co-founder Chris Taylor calls “a semester abroad in your own backyard.”  We see their awareness of the environment evolve over the course of the trip, capturing the moments when perceptions shift, horizons broaden and the creative process blossoms

It's well worth a visit to the Land Arts of the American West site at Texas Tech for more information on this visionary program, and, perhaps as an introduction, to Randy Kennedy's recent article on the program for the New York Times:
But the heart of the program exists out on the road, where it has found common ground with a growing number of idiosyncratic, environment-focused art initiatives like it that have sprung up in the West over the last several years: quasi collectives like the Center for Land Use Interpretation, based in Los Angeles; the Center for Art and Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno; and in San Francisco, the For-Site Foundation, which describes itself as “art about place” and conducts a residency program in the Sierra Nevada foothills outside the gold-mining town of Nevada City, Calif. 
“For me, art is about making metaphors, and to do that you feed on new sources of information,” said [William L. Fox], who has served as a field lecturer for the Lubbock program. “In a sense that’s all artists are doing, the same as scientists: ‘What areas can we poke our noses into that give us new information and show us how to make work in a way we’ve never thought of?’ ”