Robert Smithson examines the protocols of the standard modern aesthetics. His arguments point to the development of a limitlessness approach into art inspection, whereby art may exist in the mind of the observer in an abstract fashion. He sees the natural world as the foundation on which the ideological characters of people’s concepts emerge. Smithson indicates that boundaries and protocols do not exist for all artists in the same way. The mind of the artists is as vast and abstract as the earth’s surface. In earth projects, both real and fictional elements interact and trade places. According to Smithson, this interaction is a fracture and the bleached world that would only be organized through an aesthetic process. This essay examines Robert Smithson’s arguments about dedifferentiation the artistic mind.
Smithson attempts to answer this question through his text: should artists put a fence, or set of restricting protocols around their work and should technological tools be considered as art? Smithson indicates that artists are likely to have guiding principles along which their work must always remain. Such artists, as Smithson implies, are likely to say that technological elements such as modern works of steel, cannot be art. However, Smithson believes that artists should let their work, as well as other technological elements, undergo dedifferentiation. Dedifferentiation is the process through which behaviors, structures, or elements that previously served a particular function become generalized. The author’s answer to his question is a resounding “yes” to technological ideals and “no” to limitation. He believes that art should be boundless and that human imagination should be limitless when regarding technological tools.
Smithson supports his assertion through several arguments. First, he shows the relationship between the earth’s geology and the human mind in terms of structure. The figments of the mind and earth’s surface disintegrate into regions of art. He states that everything in the world, which will become part of the earth’s geology may be considered in a limitless way. Steel structures, for example, will eventually rust and return to the earth’s surface. As such, the artist should not be physically engulfed and give evidence through a limited way of thinking about art.
Secondly, Smithson cites the collapse of the studio notions of craft in the 50s and 60s as evidence that “technology” and “industry” already started to become an ideology in artwork. Artists such as David Smith and Anthony Caro are pioneers in these art media. Steel and aluminum, whether painted or not, present clear evidence of technological ideology in art. Their toughness is a metaphor for their resilience, suggesting that technological values in art are going to have an enduring permanence.
Robert Smithson believes that technological ideologies are going to have permanence in art despite the limited thinking of some artists and audiences. He supports his assertions by drawing on the closeness of the human mind to the earth’s geology. This approach shows the boundlessness of the human brain and hints that notions of art should also be limitless. Tools of technology and industry, such as steel and aluminum continue to be adopted in art as traditional notions of art tools are deserted. Smithson believes that these events point towards an expansion of art protocols, and new ways of thinking. He likens them to the strata of the earth, whose arrangement evades rational order. Undoubtedly, Robert Smithson’s article is an exciting read for any artist who feels limited in their work.