A collection of essays about Land art, one of the most important artistic movements of our times.
An attempt to melt an iceberg with a blowtorch, an indoor lake of tequila, an ascent of Mt Everest, driftwood burnt with sunlight focused through a magnifying glass and a doorbell that emits the sound of a dying star; these are some of the extraordinary artistic strategies covered in this collection.
Gathering together texts published since 2002, as well as specially written new essays, In Land traces recent engagements with landscape, nature, environment and the cosmos.
Click on the circles below to see more reviews
Think Land Art and you might imagine huge macho earthworks by a handful of American artists, but Ben Tufnell’s excellent new book on this subject In Land shows how this misconceived this is. In a selection of eloquent and accessible essays written by Tufnell over nearly two decades, the book brings together the multifarious approaches to site and experience by artists from America, Europe and beyond. Most rewarding is the inclusion of many women artists who are central to this story, among them Ana Mendieta, Nancy Holt, Anya Gallaccio and Katie Paterson. Not just an introduction, but an insightful foray into this topic, In Land will no doubt be used by researchers and art enthusiasts for years to come. ~ Simon Grant, Editor, Tate
Rather than beginning with monumental works in the desert, Ben Tufnell’s collection of essays begins with ‘a small wooden object, small enough to be held in the palm of a hand’, a work by British artist, the late Roger Ackling. And, as with Ackling’s piece, in Tufnell’s writing fragments are connected indexically and allegorically to place, time and the solar system. These, as much as the physical stuff of the earth, are the materials of the Land art that Tufnell explores in this engaging and lucid volume. Land art inaugurated new forms of landscape art, but it also prompted innovative forms of art writing: notably the personal and autobiographical account of a journey or pilgrimage to a site, the revisiting of the picturesque ‘tour’ and musings on the wider place of humans in the universe. Tufnell eloquently discusses journeys to the locations of historic works of Land art as well as the explorations of more recent artists such as Cai Guo Qiang and Katie Paterson. Tufnell has spent many years working with artists, curating and facilitating their work, becoming a collaborator as well as a critic and historian. One of the most compelling texts in the book puts us on the road with artist Richard Long as Tufnell watches him make a work on Box Hill on the route used for road cycling in the London 2012 Olympics. Tufnell’s account is all the more convincing because he is also a cyclist. He writes as a fellow traveller on the same road. Tufnell’s introduction candidly reveals the aspects of his own childhood that predisposed him to appreciate and understand this art. In his journey around Land art we learn about his starting point and means of travel as well as about the destination. Tufnell is not one of those art historians who, as Hamish Fulton remarks, take an interest in the art but not the walking. As well as texts on contemporary artists, there are essays on early pioneers of Land art Nancy Holt, Ana Mendieta and Michele Stuart, in a welcome restoration of the gender balance in a history that is usually male-dominated. We find ourselves immersed in the subject rather than coolly observing it from a distance. As Tufnell’s text circles around its subject, it offers us insightful and shifting perspectives on a territory which, like the landscape itself, is continually changing and in process. ~ Joy Sleeman, Reader in Art History and Theory at UCL, author of The Sculpture of William Tucker (2007) and Roelof Louw (2018)
In Land continues the critically important writings Tufnell has authored concerning the Land art movement. His professional reach and personal experience moves us beyond a rigid definition of artists' engagement with the land, revealing the nuanced dialogues and intricacies artists often create, providing us with new lenses within which to experience our surrounding environment. ~ Hikmet Sidney Loe, author of The Spiral Jetty Encyclo: Exploring Robert Smithson's Earthwork through Time and Place
This collection of texts by Ben Tufnell is an erudite journey through the ways artists explore the land. Tufnell’s precise examination of artworks and their reception is a finely tuned analysis demonstrating how artworks address the problems of understanding our place in the world. With personal, poetic and political words, this book underlines the importance of art for our current times. ~ Lisa Le Feuvre, curator, writer and editor and Executive Director of Holt/Smithson Foundation