Project 3 (Place in art) – Research Point

Artists mentioned in Dean and Millar’s essay whose work incorporates text and are relevant to place

  • Ian Hamilton Finlay – Little Sparta is a sculpture garden in Southern Scotland meant to evoke contemplation through its use of allusions to philosophy, poetry, history, time and art. There are words inscribed in the sculptures and other objects to help bring to mind specific ideas and to make the garden itself a sort of poem. Finlay references place in his work by literally creating a place that is meaningful and thought-provoking to its visitors.
  • Alec Finlay – Both an artist and a poet, Finlay’s poetry uses a visual language that is very connected to nature and the land. In his work titled Company of Mountains, Alec wandered through the Isle of Skye to observe the hills and mountains. He first hand-sketched a map of the surroundings to get an idea of where he was and to make the landscape his own composition. What I found most interesting about this project is what Alec calls ‘word-mntn’, a poem representing a mountain or landmark both visually and by name. He explains,  “Formally, word-mntn define an annular act: proceeding from a place and its given name, and then returning the name to its place, as a poem…the intention was, finally, the self-awareness of being as fully as possible in and of a place – the flare of a brief moment of belonging…”
  • Douglas Huebler – Most of Huebler’s work is a combination of photography and text focused in documentation, as in his piece titled Boston – New York Exchange Shape. In the downtowns of New York and Boston, he placed two identical hexagon shapes on each respective map. Each of the six corners of the hexagons represented a letter (A to F) and each letter represented a place. He visited and took photographs of each site, which then became part of the piece along with the statement, the hexagons and the maps. In describing his method of work, he stated, “The world is full of more or less interesting objects; I do not want to add any more. I prefer simply to determine the existence of things in terms of time and / or place.”
  • Robert Smithson – In 1967, Smithson carried through A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey, in which he toured the city and documented it with photographs and his narrative. He wrote, almost like a tourist, about the city’s “monuments”, which in reality were but common industrial elements such as pipes and bridges. His response to his birthplace might seem unnatural, because instead of reminiscing about Passaic, he saw everything with detached eyes and removed the familiarity of place
  • Marine Hugonnier – Hugonnier combines her art with philosophy and anthropology, as can be seen in Art for Modern Architecture. She chooses old newspapers with important events (such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first walk on the moon, and the death of Franco) and covers all of the images with color blocks that follow the Kodak color chart. This way, we can ponder about the role of images and titles in our perception of events. As Dean and Millar stated in their essay of place about how certain places absorb the important events that happened there (e.g. Chernobyl, Hiroshima, Berlin), so are we left mostly with this feeling in Hugonnier’s work; we are left only with our own memory of these important events and places.
  • Dan Graham – I found a simple text piece by Dan Graham titled March 31, 1966 that I find relates well to the concepts of place and distance. On a paper-bag, he counts the distance in miles to the edge of the known universe, then to the solar system, to the subway, to his apartment, until finally he arrives at the distance to his cornea from the retinal wall. What I like the most about this piece is that feels almost like a childish observation due to its sequence of sentences, but is actually talking about our place in the universe.
  • Doug Aitken – In Aitken’s text sculptures of RiotFreeVulnerable and Utopia, the words are in conflict with the image shown within the letters. For example, in Utopia, we are shown an image of a large multitude in the Altamont Motor Speedway. The word utopia brings to mind a place of perfect order, yet a quick research of this venue shows me that the Altamont Speedway was home to the Atlamont Free Concert held in 1969, characterised by violence and uncontrolled chaos. Because the places or images we are shown do not represent the words they are labelled with, we can’t help but think of their ironic relationship.
  • Roni Horn – In Thicket No. 1, she created an aluminium slab with text along two of its borders. One phrase reads ‘TO SEE A LANDSCAPE AS IT IS’ and the other reads ‘WHEN I AM NOT THERE’. Here we have a contrast between what we’re reading and what we’re seeing. Even though there is no landscape, I am still tempted to visualise one and to “see it as it is” and perhaps relate it to a “thicket” as the title suggests. I feel motivated to include some of her other work that speaks to me about place, even though they do not include the use of text. For example, in her series of books named To Place she shows her close relationship to Iceland via photography. Within that series, in the piece titled You Are the Weather, she took portraits of a woman in order to “elicit a place from her face, almost like a landscape” (Roni Horn, 2011).

Other artists mentioned

  • Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid
  • Caspar David Friedrich
  • John Constable
  • Joachim Koester
  • Jane and Louise Wilson
  • Alexander and Susan Maris
  • Graham Gussin
  • Mette Tronvoll
  • Guy Moreton


Ian Hamilton Finlay (n.d). Ian Hamilton Finlay. Little Sparta. 1966. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Company of Mountains (n.d). Còmhlan Bheanntan | A Company of Mountains. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Alberro, A. (2003) Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity
[online] At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Smith, R. (1997) ‘Douglas Huebler, 72, Conceptual Artist’ In: The New York Times [online] At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Museum of Modern Art. (n.d) Douglas Huebler. Boston – New York Exchange Shape. 1968. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Marine Hugonnier. (n.d) Art for Modern Architecture. 2009. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Doug Aitken Workshop. (n.d) Doug Aitken. Text Sculpture. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Reframing Photography. (n.d) Doug Aitken. Utopia. 2011. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Dolloff, M. (2014) ‘8 Big Reasons the 1969 Altamont Festival was a Tragic Disaster’
In: CBS Local Media [online] At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Guggenheim. (n.d) Roni Horn. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Art21. (2011) ‘Roni Horn: Words and Pictures’ In: Art21 [online] At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Hodge, D. (2015) Roni Horn. Thicket No. 1. 1989-90. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Fordham University Department of Theatre and Visual Art. (n.d) Dan Graham. March 31, 1966. 2001. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Culture Trip. (n.d) Robert Smithson’s Homage to Passaic New Jersey. At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)

Smithson, R. (1967) A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey [online] At: (Accessed on 22 December 2016)


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