SITUATION #30: Jan Dibbets, Richard Long & Robert Smithson, 1968–1979
6 February – 3 April 2016
At first sight nothing may seem as stable as the photographic capture of a landscape: framed, fixed and mechanically reproduced by the camera. In their artistic investigations of nature and landscape, British sculptor, Richard Long, American artist, Robert Smithson, and Dutch conceptual artist, Jan Dibbets, challenged this long-held understanding of photographic representation. The camera’s “power to invent many worlds” (Smithson) was an integral part of their conceptual artistic practice, recognising photography not only as a record of their ephemeral interventions in nature – Long’s minimal and often physically intense “lands walks,” or Smithson’s more forceful interventions like Asphalt Rundown (1969) – but as a work of art in its own right. Dibbet’s camera-based dialogue between art and nature exploited the neutrality of photography’s documentary status, challenging the supposedly stable parameters of photographic representation through simple operations of perspective distortion, creating a visually destabilizing effect.
At the intersection of sculpture, painting and photography, the printed matter works of these three artists from Fotomuseum’s collection point to a disruptive moment in the history of photography: a moment when, in the 1960s and 1970s, the conceptual power of photography was unleashed, raising questions about the nature of the medium and the art object that remain valid today.