Robert Smithson / Bernd & Hilla Becher: Field Trips

Robert Smithson / Bernd & Hilla Becher: Field Trips In December , the American artist Robert Smithson embarked on a field trip to the huge industrial complex in the Ruhr district of Germany His local guides were the Dusseldorf based artist duo of Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Konrad Fischer, in whose Dusseldorf gallery Smithson was scheduled to exhibit The Bechers had begun their own project of photographing the vernacular industrial architecture of Northern Europe in the early s, and had already spent several months photographing at Oberhausen as well as at adjacent industrial sites The different series of photographs made by Smithson and the Bechers of the same site foreground their respective preoccupations with the industrial landscape and the process of production and entropy, with systems and their inevitable dissolution Their contrasting bodies of work embody alternate perspectives on time the Bechers sense of historical time and Smithson s of the geological Though formally divergent, each artist s work comprises a radical rethinking of classical notions of beauty and landscape Neither the Bechers typologies nor Smithson s projects were possible without prospecting in neglected parts of the landscape, whose distressed state refuted the relationship between history and progress

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