In many ways, the artistic debates prevalent in the 1970s are recurring in our time: the relation between art and ecology, the position of the artist within a information and media society and the crisis of (neo)liberalism. Although the societal context and diameters of these discussions have changed profoundly, their basis can be found in the period from 1965 to 1975, considered a paradigmatic shift in art and society. But how well do we actually know our immediate past and what can we learn from it? Smithson’s artistic heritage provides an interesting and relevant case study in this respect. Rethinking Robert Smithson aims to open up a discussion about current concerns in art and theory at the intersection of art historical debate and contemporary art practice. Along the line of two thematic approaches related to Smithson’s work, Art and Ecology and The Cinematic Condition, topical concerns in artistic practice are reconsidered by internationally renowned theorists and artists.

09.30: Doors open
10.00 – 10.15: Introduction: Ingrid Commandeur
10.15 – 10.25: Presentation of the first copy of Robert Smithson: Art in Continual Movement to Reyn van der Lugt, chairman of Land Art Contemporary
10:25: Kick off symposium: Anja Novak

[I] Art and Ecology
10.30 – 11.15: Lecture: T.J. Demos
11.15 – 11:45: Lecture: Nils Norman
11:45 – 12.00: Short break
12.00 – 12.15: Statement: Gail Whiteman
12.15– 12.45:
Discussion panel with T.J. Demos, Nils Norman,
Maja and Reuben Fowkes, Gail Whiteman.
Moderator: Sven Lütticken
12.45 – 13.45 Lunch
13.45 – 14.00: The Ultraperiferic. Presentation by Nils van Beek

[II] The Cinematic Condition
14.00 – 14.45: Lecture: Ann Reynolds
14.45 – 15.30: Lecture: Sabeth Buchmann
15.30 – 16.00: Short break
16.00 – 16.15: Statement/performance Trauerspiel Earthwork: Ian White
16.15 – 16.45: Discussion panel with Ann Reynolds, Sabeth Buchmann, Ian White. Moderator: Eric C.H. de Bruyn
17.00: Word of Thanks
17.00–18.30: Drinks

Alauda Publications in cooperation with
Leiden University Institute for Cultural Disciplines (LUICD)
Ingrid Commandeur, art critic and art historian,
co-editor Robert Smithson: Art in Continual Movement
Marlies van Hak
Research group
Eric C.H. de Bruyn (art historian, Leiden University)
Sven Lütticken (art critic and art historian, VU University Amsterdam)
Anja Novak (art historian, Leiden University, KABK The Hague)
Department of Artists’ Theories and Artistic Practice (KABK)
Lectoraat Art & Public Space (LAPS), Gerrit Rietveld Academie


The symposium is generously supported by
Leiden University Institute for Cultural Disciplines (LUICD)
Leiden University Fund (LUF) and Mondriaan Fund


In recent years, there have a been a number of high-profile exhibitions, publications, festivals and conferences on art and ecology. Examples range from large surveys such as Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969–2009 at the Barbican Art Gallery in London in 2009, to more exploratory and research-oriented projects such as Foodprint currently at Stroom in The Hague. The latter forges connections between art and collaborative urban projects that attempt to practice more sustainable ways of living in today’s cities. The first panel will critically consider the various meanings of ‘ecology’ as well as the rhetoric of ‘sustainability’, recognizing these buzzwords as deeply political, contentious and ideological. The concept of ecological awareness is at the heart of Smithson’s practice in various ways. At the beginning of the 1970s, Smithson envisioned the artist as a “mediator between the ecologist and the industrialist” and questioned the increasing consumer culture. At the same time, Smithson was highly critical of what he regarded as the pastoral and picturesque fantasies of many ecologists. What can we learn from Smithson’s and other historical artistic practice when conducting a critical investigation into the current relationship between art, ecology and sustainability?


T.J. Demos
is an art historian who teaches in the Department of Art History at University College London. He writes on modern and contemporary art. Attendant to developments in poststructural and postcolonial theory, his present research considers new ways of comprehending photographic and video-based practice, contemporary art and the politics of ecology, socially-engaged art, and the recent restructurings of art institutions. He recently wrote the article ‘The Politics of Sustainability: Contemporary Art and Ecology’, Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969–2009 (London, 2009) and is the author of Dara Birnbaum: Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (Cambridge and London, 2010) and The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (Cambridge, 2007). During 2008–2009, he organized Zones of Conflict: Rethinking Contemporary Art During Global Crisis, comprising a series of research workshops in London and an exhibition in New York. He is currently finishing two book projects: The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (forthcoming, Durham) and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (forthcoming, Berlin).

Nils Norman
works across the disciplines of public art, architecture and urban planning. His work is informed by local politics and ideas on alternative economic and ecological systems, merging utopian alternatives with current urban design. He has exhibited internationally and has completed major public art projects. He also participated in various Biennials worldwide and has developed commissions for the Sculpture Center, Long Island City, New York; London Underground, London; Tate Modern, London; Loughborough University, Leicestershire; Creative Time, New York and the Centre d’ Art Contemporain, Geneva. At the moment he is developing two small-scale urban farming parks in the Hague that test and question the limitations and potentialities of Permaculture. He is the author of three publications: Thurrock 2015, a comic commissioned by the General Public Agency (London, 2004); An Architecture of Play: A Survey of London’s Adventure Playgrounds (London, 2004) and The Contemporary Picturesque (London, 2000).

Gail Whiteman
is Professor at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University, and Ecorys NEI Chair in Sustainability and Climate Change. She has a PhD from Queen’s School of Business in Canada. Whiteman is co-founder and the Director of the Sustainability and Climate Research Centre at RSM. Her research on sustainability has been published in leading management and ecology journals, including the Academy of Management Journal, Nature, Ecology & Society, Organization Studies, Business Strategy & The Environment, Journal of Business Ethics, Organization & The Environment, Journal of Management Inquiry, Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment, Human Relations, International Journal of Business Ethics, Qualitative Research in Management and Organization, as well as numerous book chapters. Before entering academia, Whiteman was an Account Director and brand manager in a variety of corporate communications and marketing companies.

Maja and Reuben Fowkes
are curators and contemporary art historians working from Budapest and London, whose work focuses on the theory and aesthetics of East European art from the art production of the socialist era to contemporary artistic responses to the transformations brought by globalisation. Their research on issues of art and ecology, which has looked at the ecological footprint of contemporary art, the roots of sustainability in the radical art of the 1970s, and the sustainability of biennial culture, has been published in book chapters, catalogue essays and journal articles. Their curated shows include the Revolution Trilogy (2006-2009) and most recently Loophole to Happiness (2010-2011). An archive of their collaborative projects and publications is indexed at They also run the SocialEast Forum on the Art and Visual Culture of Eastern Europe and the Symposium on Sustainability and Contemporary Art at Central European University Budapest. In 2010 their work was recognised with a grant from the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory.


Sven Lütticken
is an art historian and art critic. He teaches art history at VU University Amsterdam and publishes regularly in (inter)national art magazines such as Artforum, New Left Review, Afterimage, Texte zur Kunst and E-Flux Journal. Among his publications are: Secret Publicity: Essays on Contemporary Art (Rotterdam, 2006) and Idols of the Market: Modern Iconoclasm and the Fundamentalist Spectacle (Berlin, 2009) and as co-editor: The Return of Religion and Other Myths. A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art (Utrecht and Rotterdam, 2009).


Ingrid Commandeur
is an art critic and researcher. She holds an MA in Art History and Theory from the VU University in Amsterdam. From 2004 to 2010, she was senior editor of Metropolis M, Magazine of Contemporary Art. Ingrid Commandeur has published extensively on contemporary art. Among her publications as co-editor are Now Is the Time: Art & Theory in the 21st Century (Rotterdam, 2010) and Museutopia. A Photographic Research Project by Ilya Rabinovich (Amsterdam, 2012). Commandeur teaches theory at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and is Board Member of the Dutch section of AICA (Association Internationale des Critique d’Art). She is currently preparing a book, to be published in 2013, about the positions held in current art criticism, focusing on the reception of globalization, the art market and new models of presentation and research in the art scene after 1989.


A second aspect of Robert Smithson’s work that is highly relevant for contemporary art concerns its highly mediatized form of perceptual experience. Although Smithson may have entered the canon of art history as a chief protagonist of Land Art, his use of media was far more diverse. Ranging from earthworks to photo-essays, magazine writings to installations, it was the cinematic model that served the artist as an important means to dislocate the actual site of the earthwork and create an ‘in-between’ space. In this fashion, Smithson invented a new cinematic configuration in which avant-garde, classical, essayistic and documentary forms of filmmaking intersect, and which allows multiple forms of experience and comprehension to proliferate. As a result spectators are not provided a privileged standpoint from which to observe the work and become radically de-centralized. Without doubt, Smithson’s cinematic work constituted an important precursor of more recent filmic practices within the visual arts. Indeed it is often claimed that since the 1990s a veritable ‘filmic’ turn in contemporary art has taken place. This panel asks how examining Smithson’s legacy might provide us better insight into current artistic positions concerning the cinematic condition and spectatorship in art. To what extent do the set of institutional, technical and cultural parameters that determined the cinematic condition of post-minimal art, and Smithson’s work in particular, coincide with or, alternatively, diverge from our present?


Ann Reynolds

is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her recent publications include essays on Bob Fleischner, Jack Smith, and Ken Jacobs’ film Blonde Cobra; Zoe Leonard’s Dia Beacon installation So you see I am here after all; a co-edited anthology on the politics of emotion; Parker Tyler and queer animation; feminist exhibitions and publics circa 1970; and Ruth Vollmer, Eva Hesse, and the role of the cinematic imaginary during the 1960s. She is the author of Robert Smithson: Learning From New Jersey and Elsewhere (Cambridge, 2003) and is currently working on a new book Home Movies: Creativity and Community in New York, 1940-1970. Through this study she will address the cinematic and social circumstances of the integration of various creative communities in New York during the 1940s through the 1960s.

Sabeth Buchmann
is an art historian and critic. Currently she is Professor of the History of Modern and Postmodern Art at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Her recent publications include Denken gegen das Denken. Produktion – Technologie – Subjektivität bei Sol LeWitt, Yvonne Rainer und Hélio Oiticica (Berlin, 2006); Art After Conceptual Art, co-editor with Alexander Alberro (Cambridge and Cologne, 2006); Film Avantgarde Biopolitik, co-editor with Helmut Draxler and Stephan Geene (Vienna, 2009) and PoLyPen – a book series on art criticism, aesthetics and political theory, co-editor with Helmut Draxler, Clemens Krümmel and Susanne Leeb (Berlin). She is a board member of Texte zur Kunst and co-editor of the Exhibition Histories series published by Afterall. Furthermore, she regularly contributes to art magazines, catalogues and anthologies.

Ian White
is an artist working mainly in performance. His recent works include the solo exhibitions Ibiza Black Flags Democracy (daadgalerie, Berlin, 2010) and Hinterhof (KUB Arena, Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2010-2011). From 2001 to 2011 he was Adjunct Film Curator for the Whitechapel Gallery. In addition, he was Associate Curator of The Secret Public: The Last Days of the British Underground, 1978-1988 (Kunstverein Munich, 2006-2007) and a monographic exhibition of films by Emily Wardill (De Appel, Amsterdam, 2010) with whom he co-authored We Are Behind (London, 2010). He has written extensively on artists’ moving image and is the co-editor of Kinomuseum: Towards an artists’ cinema (Berlin, 2008). He is the facilitator of the LUX Associate Artists Programme, London and a tutor of the performance programme practice-theatre at the Dutch Art Institute, Arhnem for If I Can’t Dance I Don’t Want to be Part of Your Revolution. A major new solo work for the theatre, Trauerspiel 1, premieres at the Hebbel-Am-Ufer Theater, Berlin in March.


Eric C.H. de Bruyn

teaches in the Film and Photographic Studies programme at the University of Leiden. He has published in Art Journal, Grey Room and Texte zur Kunst among other places. His recent publications include ‘Entertaining Conceptual Art: Dan Graham on Dean Martin’ in Perform a Lecture (Berlin, 2011) and ‘Social Choreographies: On Florian Pumhösl’s Expressive Rhythm’ in Florian Pumhösl (Vienna, 2011). De Bruyn is currently completing a book on filmic practices in post-minimalism, called Film as Anomaly: Studies in Post-Minimalism.


Anja Novak

lectures in Art History at Leiden University and The Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague. She holds a PhD in art history from Leiden University and a BA in modern dance from Codarts University for the Arts in Rotterdam. Her fields of interest are contemporary art, art theory and aesthetics. In particular she is interested in how contemporary art forms such as installation art and performance art challenge traditional notions of art, aesthetics and spectatorship. Among her publications are: Space for Experience. Installation Art and Spectatorship (PhD, 2010) and ‘The Site of Installation Art. Hovering between Inner and Outer Places’ in Take Place. Photography and Place from Multiple Perspectives (Amsterdam, 2009). She is a member of the Dutch Association for Aesthetics, the Dutch Association of Art Historians and the Association of Art Historians.