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definitions: Land Art & Earth Art, Environmental Art, & Environmental Sculpture, Landscape Design, Garden Design and Conceptual Art, Art and Design, Public Art & Urban Art - Site Specific Art and Free Standing Sculpture
It will be very interesting to discuss the differences, similarities and overlaps of Land Art & Earth Art, Environmental Art, & Environmental Sculpture, Landscape Design, Garden Design and Conceptual Art. Or even the tensions between Art and Design; certain overlapping occurs with terms like Public Art & Urban Art - Site Specific art and Free Standing Sculpture.
The definitions have not yet crystallized. Different people have different opinions. Also – the definitions and interpretations differ from one country to another. And these differences evolve and can grow into misconceptions in some countries. This is why I think it is very important for influential people and organizations to try to oversee the whole field and report in a broad way. Here in Finland (I was born in Holland, lived and studied 13 years in the U.S.) environmental art has gotten a different interpretation from that of the countries in which it actually developed. Here most artists, writers and critics think that a sculpture becomes an Environmental Sculpture when you put it into natural surroundings; move a sculpture from a museum into the forest and it will become an Environmental Sculpture (almost like transubstantiation - the change of the substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ). This last is subject to belief - but in the case of art the facts are quite concrete.
There is a lot to discuss, but I think this can all be put into words, and I shall do so in the coming time, on these pages.
The Netherlands Art and Architecture Thesaurus has the following definitions for 'environmental art' with which I do not agree for 100%:
"Use for 20th-century works of art, usually outdoors and on a grand scale, that surround or involve the participation of the viewer and that especially exploit or incorporate aspects of their sites. For such works that specifically manipulate the land itself, use "earthworks (sculpture)." For indoor installations that create surroundings that can be entered by the viewer, use "environments (sculpture)." For sculpture that is designed to be placed outdoors but is not especially site-specific, use "outdoor sculpture." For art that utilizes natural physical forces, biological organisms and processes, and performance to illustrate, question, and explain ecological and environmental issues, use "ecological art."
'site-specific art (and sculpture)'
"Use for works of the visual arts that are designed for specific locations, especially those that exploit or incorporate aspects of their sites."
With this statement I agree. I essence it is the case with Site Specific Art that the site was there first, and the art was made for this particular situation; it can be made later, but it is also possible - and I would say preferable - that it is made at the same time as the site. It can be possible that an existing work of art is actually suited for a given location, but Site Specific Art wants to be more; it is easy for critics to say: "they already had the sculpture and designed a description to justify it as a site specific sculpture." But a monumental rock that sank through the thinning layer of ice, left from a glacier from the ice age, wasn't designed for its site either, still we accept is as inseparable from its site.
Land Art is, by reason, site specific - it is made on location, from the materials one finds on that location. But, since there are no laws regulating art, using any exotic element or material can not be outlawed. Robert Smithson, with his Asphalt Rundown, did just that. In my own work I have done projects which can be classified as Land Art. One of the most obvious is my Homage to El Lissitzki in Lelystad in the Dutch Flevopolder. It is art in the land (man-created-land), constructed by using the land itself. One exotic artifact, a steel plateau has been introduced to punctuate the summit of the mound. But next to land art in the land, one can imagine similar projects arising in the urban area - in the middle of a city. If there is enough space and creativity, obvious-scale sites can be realized using urban, as well as natural, materials. Some of these kind of works, which I have done, are X-ing in Zwijndrecht/Hendrik Ido Ambacht, Holland and Urban Oasis in Ede, the Netherlands.
Urban Land Art
Land Art was usually made in a natural setting - void of any urban development, but when Environmental Art is made on the same scale as Land Art, I call it Urban Land Art. read more about my definition and description of Urban land Art.