Curator's Essay

“The Plain of Heaven” is an exhibition about the desire we have for inaccessible spaces, and what happens after we discover them. It is about the nostalgia we develop for things not yet gone, and how it colors our present experience of those things. It is about how knowledge and experience come to bore us, about how we tire of understanding the world (or at least think we do). It is about how we consistently remystify landscape, looking for and creating new places to imagine and long for. It is about the transformative power of this desire, and its continual disruption and reinvention of the known world.

In the history of discovery in this country, the end of the 1960s was an amazing time. In relatively quick succession, Americans achieved two of the most captivating exploratory goals. In April 1968, an insurance salesman from Duluth, Minnesota, named Ralph Plaisted, became, with three companions, the first to reach the North Pole by an overland route. The following year, Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. Fittingly enough, at the close of the previous decade, the technological force through which we had first come to know and conceive of the terrain of our country had suffered a symbolic death: the last passenger steam locomotives were taken out of service by about 1960, replaced by diesel engines. As if on cue, those machines that had, at the dawn of their era, so disturbed the pastoral imaginations of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and other bards of the American landscape, faded away just as we turned to explore the North Pole and the Moon. Having traveled and learned America, we were looking elsewhere for the attractive mystery that terra incognita dangles before us.

At more or less the same moment of the Moon landing, with our knowledge of the world expanding, Robert Smithson published an importantly rebellious question: “Why not reconstruct one’s inability to see?”1 With his characteristic brand of postindustrial romanticism, Smithson was advocating for us to dispense with our learned perceptions of the world, with the notion of harking back to a pre-technological era of virgin visual interaction with our surroundings. Instead of seeking exotic locations, Smithson, along with Gordon Matta-Clark, encouraged us to find inspiration for discovery in places closer to home. With projects in dreary sections of nearby Passaic, New Jersey, or in derelict buildings in the Bronx, both artists strove to defamiliarize our experience of the urban and postindustrial landscape, and fashion it anew. As such, their respective spirits animate much of the exhibition. They ask us to consider the complexities that arise in trying to “unthink” a place, as Smithson put it; or, to weigh the challenge of, in Matta-Clark’s words, “convert[ing] a place into a state of mind.”2, 3 The seeming contradiction of these two goals illustrates the paradoxes of making and unmaking, of construction and deconstruction, of seeing and “reconstruct[ing] one’s inability to see” that mark this type of transformative process.

The timing, attitude, and location of “The Plain of Heaven” are prompted by a postindustrial wilderness in Manhattan that has arisen during the decades since the premature deaths of Smithson and Matta-Clark. The High Line, as it is known, is a disused elevated commercial rail structure built between 1929 and 1934 that runs twenty-two blocks along the west side of lower Manhattan. Since the last train traveled on it in 1980, a variety of wild plants have taken root on the rail bed, giving rise to meadows and grasslands that have remained largely beyond the view of passersby. There is no public access to the High Line, which is thirty feet above street level, and it remains the private property of CSX railroad. However, when a series of photographs of the site taken by Joel Sternfeld in 2000 were published in The New Yorker the following year, a national audience was introduced to the beauty of its inaccessible terrain. Sternfeld’s images helped ignite the popular imagination to the possibilities inherent in this romantic landscape, which many New Yorkers had never realized was there. It was saved from demolition by an advocacy group called Friends of the High Line, which has successfully implemented plans to turn it into a public open space. Sometime this year, the city expects to break ground on a design that will almost entirely remake the unkempt pastoral of the High Line. This redevelopment of the site coincides with a crescendo of interest in the work of Smithson and Matta-Clark, many of whose seminal ideas find expression at this site and in the public’s fascination with it. The paradox of making-through-unmaking that underpins Smithson and Matta-Clark’s work informs the High Line’s redesign. Because the concrete bed beneath the rails must be waterproofed, and because paths need to be created for pedestrian traffic, much of the very wilderness that has been the clarion call for the site’s preservation has to be removed and replanted. As such, the High Line becomes a new locus for the classic American anxiety over efforts to protect “pure” nature for our pleasure and use. Ansel Adams, whose grand photographs of our national parks agitated for their preservation, agonized that “wilderness is not wilderness unless it is reasonably pure: unfortunately, in order to keep it pure we have to occupy it.”4 Later in life, Adams sounded a more optimistic note, cautiously suggesting that “to experience need not imply to destroy.”5 But nature in the American mind is always already destroyed, and the ideals of progress that render it more accessible drive it further away. The destruction of the High Line’s accidental landscape to make possible a fictionalized version of itself, though a consequence of the exigencies of engineering and public safety, nevertheless finds a harsh irony in Umberto Eco’s famous assertion that “the American imagination demands the real thing and, to attain it, must fabricate the absolute fake.”6 The literature of the American landscape has tended toward such binary readings of the nature-versus-civilization scenario, placing it in the moral contexts of purity and corruption, or of a paradise lost and regained. “The Plain of Heaven,” it should be said, does not concern itself with such moral imperatives, focusing instead, without judgment, upon the aesthetics they engender.

Nevertheless, we can question how much value these rigid dialectics continue to have. To borrow Leo Marx’s phrasing, the machine eventually found a place in the garden—and as the High Line is only the latest example to show, the garden is finding a home in the residual landscape of the machine.7 Curator Peter Reed noted recently that “nearly every significant new landscape designed in recent years occupies a site that has been reinvented and reclaimed from obsolescence or degradation as cities in the postindustrial era remake and redefine their outdoor spaces.”8 With this confluence of industry and nature, one thinks of Smithson’s prescient suggestion from 1971 that “ecology and industry are not one-way streets, rather they should be crossroads.”9

While “The Plain of Heaven” takes transformation as a subject, it inhabits a building that is itself also in transition. Housed in a vacant and heretofore not publicly accessible meatpacking warehouse built in 1939 around the High Line at Gansevoort Street (which has been the Line’s effective terminus since developers demolished the lower portion in 1991), the show is being held on the site where the Dia Art Foundation hopes to construct its new museum.10 A permanent, domesticated landscape takes the place of a provisional wilderness of weeds, and alongside it, a museum is to be built on the site of this temporary exhibition.

To many visitors, the works included in the show may appear modest in comparison to the scale of the building, but each has a focus and intensity that allows them to speak to the issues raised in the exhibition. To provide something of the trepidatious and revelatory feelings that attend exploration and discovery, which are at the heart of this endeavor, we have left the building almost exactly as we found it, one of those increasingly rare pieces of New York that exists practically out of time, off the map, and below the radar of even those who walk past it every day.

Landscape Pictures

The exhibition derives its title from The Plains of Heaven (1851–1853), the last of a trio of outsized apocalyptic Biblical landscapes painted by the British artist John Martin near the end of his life. With distant mountains and waterfalls, the canvas suggests an elevated, idealized landscape beyond our reach, but employs a familiar, if embellished, pictorial vocabulary that legitimizes our aspirations to attain it. The work achieves a simultaneous remystification and demystification: nature is made transcendent, but the heavens reveal themselves to look a lot like the wilderness we know.11

The relative virginity of the American wilderness, lacking the ruins that dotted Europe’s countryside, provoked a less allegorical approach to landscape.12 Artists of the retrospectively-named Hudson River School, such as Frederic Edwin Church, heroicized the terrain north of New York City, but did so on nature’s own terms, mostly without explicit religious or political subject matter. The Hudson River School painters depict the wilderness in the epic terms of the unknown, though this mystery is largely one that has been recast over its peaks and valleys. Notably, we find that the majestic views that we associate with many of these scenes emerge as people are freed from having to work the land and negotiate the chaos of the wilderness firsthand. Nature, no longer quite so mysterious, is refigured as an unspoilt and unknown territory.13, 14 In many ways, photography reintroduced us to the land, but then quickly came to dominate our conception of it. During the second half of the nineteenth century, nature was increasingly commodified in pictorial form to feed the growing interest in tourism and in places, like Yosemite National Park, that were just becoming known.15 Joel Sternfeld’s recent photographs of the High Line have served a similar function, popularizing the site’s decaying beauty and its surprising vantage points.

A number of the works in the exhibition point to this authority that photography can wield over our experience of place. This power, along with its potentially corrosive effect, is one of the subjects of Song Dong’s Burning Photograph video, which links tourist snapshots with destruction. Extending a similar line of inquiry, Shannon Ebner’s shimmering diptych of the words “exit” and “glacier” indicts photography’s role in the broader development of tourism. Exhibited here as two paired stacks of newsprint images that are freely available to visitors, Ebner’s work implies that the medium has some responsibility to shoulder for the environmental harm tourism has caused. Indeed, as the railroad industry developed in the nineteenth century, it found common cause in photography’s provision of access to distant regions, and each seemed to reinforce the power of the other to reshape our sense of the national landscape—a mutually beneficial relationship to which Adam Cvijanovic’s painting of the Union Pacific Railroad alludes, based upon a photograph the artist took beside the tracks in Wyoming.16

Gordon Matta-Clark and the Urban Picturesque

In describing Day’s End (1975), his famous “cutting” of an abandoned building on a Hudson River pier one block from the exhibition, Matta-Clark noted that slicing the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad warehouse seemed like an appropriate gesture, given how the robber barons had “[cut] up American business and American holdings throughout the country.”17 While this particular connection between his cuttings and the history of the railroad was afforded by the identity of the work’s site, Matta-Clark’s wording is nevertheless consistent with the anti-capitalist overtones of his radical interventions into decaying architecture, the body of work for which he became best known during his short career.

Matta-Clark worked in New York during the 1970s, a period when empty and abandoned buildings were plentiful, and artists were beginning to locate projects in and around such spaces, often as efforts to engage a public audience. His work reclaimed buildings, refiguring them into gracefully disorienting new forms of expression. His process began with the contemplation of an urban ruin as a site for imaginative reinvention. As his friend the artist Les Levine put it, Matta-Clark “would nurture a building that had lost its soul, trying to give it an art transplant by performing major surgery.”18

Matta-Clark’s work took advantage of an era of decline. His thinking could have been aptly described by the explanatory text that Thomas Cole wrote to accompany Desolation (1836), the final work of his celebrated five-painting cycle, The Course of Empire: “Violence and time have crumbled the works of man, and art is again resolving into elemental nature.”19 Matta-Clark’s art, however, inverted Cole’s downward trajectory, springing to life from ruins. Fetishizing the crumbling works of man, Matta-Clark enacted a postmodern version of the picturesque, that aestheticization of landscape that was formulated at the end of the eighteenth century. As John Dixon Hunt notes in his description of the importance of ruins in the idea of the picturesque, it “is their incompleteness, their instant declaration of a loss which we can complete in our imaginations” that makes them attractive.20 The picturesque filtered nature through the lens of art, assigning value to those features and elements, such as ruins, that lent themselves to painterly description and elaboration.

Drama is a critical component in the industrial picturesque of the 1960s and 70s. We find it in Smithson’s description of a rock quarry, whose “walls threatened to come crashing down. Fragmentation, corrosion, decomposition, disintegration…were everywhere in evidence.”21 Compare this with Meriwether Lewis’s picturesque observation of a canyon wall as noted in his 1805 journal: “The water in the course of time in decending from those hills and plains on either side of the river has trickled down the soft sand clifts and woarn it into a thousand grotesque figures, which with the help of a little immagination and an oblique view at a distance, are made to represent eligant ranges of lofty freestone buildings….”22 The entropic decrepitude that attracts Smithson, though seemingly oppositional to the architectural prettiness that Lewis discovers in the rock, is in fact an equally aestheticized response.

It is this artificial, filtered gaze that defines the picturesque. Not content with the simple experience of landscape “felt by the organic sense of vision,” Richard Payne Knight demanded in a classic period text that nature be “embellished by art,” such that “those, who before overlooked or neglected [that beauty], discern at once all its charms.”23 Matta-Clark’s embellishments of vacant architecture served something of this purpose, awakening the trashed or forgotten to reveal their rich possibilities.

His cuttings exist today as photographs, drawings, and films that retrospectively monumentalize the liminal space between urban decay and redevelopment that characterized New York in the 1970s. His influence is palpable in the work of many artists working today, including a number in “The Plain of Heaven.” We find echoes of Matta-Clark in Adam Putnam’s self-professed “necrophilia” for dying architecture, and in Song Dong’s collection of fragments, not included in the exhibition, of traditional Beijing buildings that are being demolished in the course of the city’s redevelopment. New York, of course, continues to change, and Matta-Clark’s work finds resonance in real places such as the High Line, as well as in this disused warehouse that features our exhibition. In their suggestive and inviting emptiness, these industrial relics continue for a bit longer as “states of mind,” on their way to becoming designed, and inhabitable places.

Lost Cities, Blind Spots, and Floating Islands

As a chunk of civilization that has been reclaimed by nature, the High Line provokes a fascination not terribly dissimilar from the obsession explorers have with lost cities. The British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett, who vanished in 1925 on a fatal hunt for a vanished civilization in the deep Amazon, described the territory where he would eventually disappear as “the last great blank space in the world.”24 By extending Matta-Clark’s interest in places as “states of mind” and Smithson’s “reconstruct[ion] [of] one’s inability to see” to Fawcett’s notion of cartographic emptiness, we can view the work of these two artists as efforts to erase the conceptions we have of our surroundings, to efface little pieces of our mental maps through artistic activation.

Maps, like drawings, photographs, and paintings, serve to delineate and record places we have been to and to picture those we haven’t. But topography is not the same as landscape, and the emotional attachment we have to a place is something altogether different, and much less easily captured, understood, or controlled. Accordingly, as John K. Wright has written, “if we look closely enough…the entire earth appears as an immense patchwork of miniature terrae incognitae.”25

These blind spots of emotional specificity—or “nonsights,” to pun on Smithson—invite consideration of the broader metaphorical terrain of blindness.26 Some of the artists in the exhibition look specifically at how our imaginations function without the benefit of vision.

Like an inversion of Raymond Carver’s classic story “Cathedral,” in which a sighted character tries to explain the sublimity of a church’s interior to a blind friend, William Forsythe’s performance installation has been inspired by the different manner in which the sightless conceive of space. In an unlighted and inaccessible freezer room, Helen Mirra’s sound installation requires us to project our minds into the darkness to get a sense of the room’s volume. Her project recalls Matta-Clark’s remarks about the tiny parcels of land he bought in Queens for his Reality Properties: Fake Estates project (1973): “the description of them that always excited me the most was îinaccessible’…. What I basically wanted to do was designate spaces that wouldn’t be seen and certainly not occupied.”27 The meaning of Mirra’s project is located in its contradictory opposition of physical and mental occupation: the sound fills the space even as it delineates its emptiness, arguing against the fruitful coincidence of imagination and inhabitation. We find a related warning in Leandro Erlich’s installation Las Puertas (2004/05), whose idyllic illusion is betrayed by our attempt to reach it. This is a lesson that can be found in Smithson’s recently realized Floating Island (1970/2005), which consisted of a barge of local trees and plants that was towed around Manhattan, just offshore. Most likely intended as an homage to Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park (about which Smithson wrote one of his best essays), the work also satirizes Olmsted’s idea of a domesticated, inhabitable “natural” landscape. Smithson’s island is a place apart, an unreachable piece of fictionalized nature.

We can find an oppositional bookend to Smithson’s island in Jules Verne, whose fantastical voyages are considered to be the founding tales of science fiction. Verne wrote a story of a floating island that illustrates the difficulties that emerge from the habitation of such edenic spaces.28 His island was built as a preserve for American millionaires, whose selfishness eventually destroys it. The islands of Smithson and Verne “[coexist] but [do] not coincide with the real, contemporary world,”29 acting as the poles across which our notions of the Arcadian landscape are strung. One is an offshore preserve that mocks our desire for uninhabited nature. The other, a parable of “the course of empire,” sketches the path down which our destructive errand into wilderness can lead, toward the collapse of the entire capitalist experiment.

Nostalgia Before the Fact

Pending collapse seems to be the metaphoric condition of nature in America. Alexis de Tocqueville identified the melancholic aspect of this state, writing of the “consciousness of destruction” that he felt gave “so peculiar a character and such a touching beauty” to American wilderness.30 We find a similar kind of nostalgia before the fact in Matta-Clark’s “objects to be destroyed,” as Pamela Lee has termed them. “Because Matta-Clark’s work presupposes its own destruction,” Lee argues, “it internalizes this historical loss….”31 O. Winston Link’s photographs from the 1950s of the last passenger steam locomotives exhibit a comparable self-awareness.32 Link was consciously conducting a preservative exercise, and his undated audio recording that is included in “The Plain of Heaven”—a freight train struggling up a hill at night—connects the approach of the locomotive with its imminent extinction. The steam engine becomes a symbol of the very modernist ideal of progress that will lead to its eradication.

Paul Ramírez Jonas’s two contributions to the show are similarly tinged with a self-consciousness of their own expiration. His unfired clay tablet, typed with the source code for the oldest Web page online, is left to slowly degrade. Nearby, the artist has placed a water tank that he has converted into a kind of Roman clock, recording the passage of time by leaking water at a constant rate. Ramírez Jonas has calibrated his clock to empty itself during the final minutes of the exhibition. Also on that last day, Trisha Donnelly’s sound installation of organ music will have its simultaneous premiere and closing. Her twenty-minute coda of ecstasy and elegy takes collapse as its subject, and like Link’s work, becomes a monument to its own vanishing. Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings in a chapel-like room on the building’s top floor, however, will outlast everything. Unlike most LeWitt wall drawings that are loaned to exhibitions, these works will not be painted over at the conclusion of the show. They will stay on the wall until the building is either destroyed or reoccupied. As Matta-Clark’s Day’s End did for some time, LeWitt’s works will continue to exist even after we can no longer access them. Will the fact that they survive beyond our reach make them easier or harder to reconstitute in our imaginations?

Each of these works asks whether ideas—like “nature,” for example—are most powerful when they are constituted from the melancholic anticipation of their eventual disappearance. The very attraction of this question speaks, of course, to the distinctly human awareness we have of our own pending deaths. As the saying goes, every day not spent living is a day spent dying. This, perhaps, is the knowledge we grow most tired of. The various ways in which we remystify our environment can ultimately be seen as efforts to expiate certain mortal anxieties by projecting them further and further away from us. We come to depend upon the mere suggestion of magic that transforms the cow of Corey McCorkle’s video into a god. We wish we could suffer from the “inverted dream syndrome” common to astronauts that features in Saskia Olde Wolbers’ Kilowatt Dynasty, that perceptual shift when suddenly “the spaces and events in their dreams will look more real…than the everyday dark nothingness of outer space.” Perhaps in romancing distant lands or reimagining the world close at hand, we are looking to find refuge and distraction from the fatalism that comes with knowing too much. Thoreau, not surprisingly, provides us with some instruction on this topic.33 After musing over the possibilities of being “a mail carrier in Peru—or a South African planter—or a Siberian exile,” he decided that he would find greatest fulfillment at home.34 This champion of the deep mystery of the local, who believed that the whole world could be found in the woods just outside his cabin door, combines our twinned fascinations with the exotically far-flung and the immediately unremarkable. In urging us to “migrate interiorly without intermission,” Thoreau holds up a mirror, refocusing that exploratory desire back upon us.35

This essay, like its subject, goes to some length to defamiliarize the commonplace: in this case, that rather Thoreauian notion, by now well-romanticized, that whatever we are searching for in such places both distant and near is already intimately present within ourselves, lest we desire to seek it out. The landscape around Niagara Falls suggested to Smithson the age-old problem as to whether man is actually a part of nature, or separate from it.36 But standing at the Falls well over a century before, Thomas Cole exclaimed that “in gazing on it…we become a part of what we behold!”37 The High Line, in its heightened state of near-accessibility, reminds us of the pleasures of beholding, of imagination and discovery. In its wildness, however, it resonates with us because we have stumbled on an insistent, untamed spirit in this most improbable of spaces, a stubborn resurgence of natural force that reaffirms what Thoreau lyrically termed “the bog in our brain and bowels,” that base, chemical worldliness within our urban souls. If it was ever lost, we only imagined it so.

Peter Eleey
Curator & Producer



1. Robert Smithson, “Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan,” in Jack Flam, ed., Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 130; hereafter Writings.
2. Ibid, 122: “Gondwanaland is a kind of memory, yet it is not a memory, it is but an incognito land mass that has been unthought about and turned into a Map of Impasse.”
3. Mary Jane Jacob, Gordon Matta-Clark: A Retrospective (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1985), 10.
4. Ansel Adams, “Letter to David Brower, Executive Director Sierra Club,” in Andrea G. Stillman and William A. Turnage, eds., Ansel Adams: Our National Parks (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1992), 117.
5. Adams, “The Role of the Artist in Conservation,” in Stillman and Turnage, 114.
6. Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality: Esssays (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986), 6, 8.
7. Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964).
8. Peter Reed, Groundswell: Constructing the Contemporary Landscape (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2005), 15.
9. Smithson, “Untitled (1971)” in Writings, 376.
10. Carol Vogel, “The Museum at the End of the Line,” New York Times, August 7, 2005.
11. Martin’s triptych was exhibited in New York in 1856 and, with the aide of his well-circulated mezzotints of similar subjects, helped shape the sublime landscape language of painting in nineteenth-century America. See Andrew Wilton and Tim Barringer, American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880 (London: Tate Publishing, 2002), 18.
12. The major exception to this is Thomas Cole and those influenced by him, including Asher Brown Durand and Jasper Francis Cropsey. See Wilton and Barringer, 87.
13. See N. Katherine Hayles, “Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations: Rethinking the Relation between the Beholder and the World,” in William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1995) 410-11.
14. As artists distanced this local environment from us, they also brought the geographically remote back home. Frederic Church traveled extensively and delivered to New York audiences extremely popular scenes of South America and the icy north, places that most of Church’s spectators had never seen. These large paintings, such as Heart of the Andes (1859)—to which Church charged admission and encouraged viewers to bring opera glasses—set a new standard for the way in which images came to mediate the American experience of landscape.
15. See John F. Sears, Sacred Places: American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) 122-55.
16. See Anne M. Lyden, Railroad Vision: Photography, Travel, and Perception (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003).
17. Gordon Matta-Clark, “îGordon Matta-Clark: The Making of Pier 52,’ An Interview by Liza Bear, 11 March 1976,” in Corinne Diserens, ed., Gordon Matta-Clark (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2003), 178.
18. Jacob, 95.
19. Wilton and Barringer, 108.
20. John Dixon Hunt, “Picturesque Mirrors and Ruins of the Past,” in John Dixon Hunt, ed., Gardens and the Picturesque: Studies in Landscape Architecture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992), 179.
21. Smithson, “The Crystal Land,” in Writings, 9.
22. Gary E. Moulton, ed., The Lewis and Clark Journals: An American Epic of Discovery (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), 118-119. Lewis continues, “So perfect indeed are those walls that I should have thought that nature had attempted here to rival the human art of masonry had I not recollected that she had first began her work….”
23. Richard Payne Knight, “An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste,” in John Dixon Hunt and Peter Willis, eds., The Genius of the Place : The English Landscape Garden, 1620-1820 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988), 350.
24. David Grann, “The Lost City of Z,” The New Yorker, 81 no. 28, 58.
25. John K. Wright cited in Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (New York: The New Press, 1997), 77. Lippard explores some of these ideas in greater detail; see 75-82.
26. This pun is identified by Thomas Crow. See Crow, “Cosmic Exile: Prophetic Turns in the Life and Art of Robert Smithson,” in Eugenie Tsai, et. al., Robert Smithson (exh. cat.) (Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2004), 53.
27. Pamela M. Lee, Object to be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark (Cam-bridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2000), 103.
28. Jules Verne, The Floating Island (New York: Kegan Paul, 1990). This book was not in Smithson’s library, in which Verne was only represented by From Earth to the Moon.
29. David Meakin, “Future Past: Myth, Inversion, and Regression in Verne’s Underground Utopia,” in Edmund H. Smyth, ed., Jules Verne: Narratives of Modernity (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2000), 95.
30. Alexis de Tocqueville cited in Wilton and Barringer, 51.
31. Lee, 55. Lee provides a lengthy discussion of this aspect of Matta-Clark’s work.
32. O. Winston Link, The Last Steam Railroad in America: From Tidewater to Whitetop (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1995).
33. Given subject of this show, it is worth noting that Thoreau found inspiration one spring in the thawing rail bed near Walden Pond. The melting sand gave rise to a whole range of natural things in his mind, including leaves, vines and blood vessels.
34. Henry David Thoreau cited in Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), 577.
35. Ibid.
36. Smithson, “Entropy Made Visible, Inter-view with Alison Sky,” in Writings, 308.
37. Thomas Cole, “Essay on American Scenery,” in John W. McCoubrey, ed., American Art 1700-1960: Sources and Documents (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965), 105.


Robert Smithson, The Fountain Monument, Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey, 1967


Gordon Matta-Clark, Day’s End/Pier 52, 1975


Robert Smithson, Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan Island, 1970/2005


The High Line, 1933