Philip Ursprung: Earth Art: Between the Human and the Nonhuman

Black and white film photograph of an excavator moving soil.

Robert Smithson: Partially Buried Woodshed (1970). photo / provided

Edgar A. Tafel Lecture Series

Philip Ursprung is a professor of the history of art and architecture in the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich. Ursprung earned his Ph.D. in art history at Freie Universität Berlin after studying in Geneva, Vienna, and Berlin. He directs the research project "Tourism and Cultural Heritage" at Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore. He taught at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, Columbia University, the Barcelona Institute of Architecture, and the University of Zürich. He is the editor of Herzog and de Meuron: Natural History (Montreal, 2002) and Caruso St. John: Almost Everything (Barcelona, 2008), and author of Allan Kaprow, Robert Smithson, and the Limits to Art (Berkeley, 2013). His most recent books are Brechas y conexiones: Ensayos sobre arquitectura, arte y economia (Barcelona, 2016), Der Wert der Oberfläche: Essays zu Architektur, Kunst und Ökonomie (Zurich, 2017) and Representation of Labor: Performative Historiography (Santiago de Chile, 2018).

The short-lived artistic movement of Earth Art — a phenomenon that reached from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s and comprised the artists Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, Nancy Holt, Walter De Maria, and some others — remains a source of inspiration up to the present day. Starting with an interpretation of Robert Smithson's Partially Buried Woodshed (1970), the presentation will discuss the relationship of art, architecture, territory, and economy.