Holt/Smithson Foundation’s ‘The Island Project: Point of Departure’ Features Joan Jonas and Renée Green

Renée Green. Partially Buried
ACT at MIT

The Holt/Smithson Foundation recently announced The Island Project: Point of Departure, inviting five artists to develop proposals responding to an island in Maine that was purchased sight-unseen by Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson on September 30, 1971.

Two of the artists chosen for the project are ACT Professor Renée Green and ACT Professor Emerita Joan Jonas, and both artists have a relationship with the work of both Holt and Smithson.

Jonas is a pioneer of video and performance art, and an acclaimed multimedia artist; a close friend of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, she can be seen in the 1969 collaborative video East Coast/West Coast and in Holt’s 1968 photographic works Over the Hill and Down Hill.

From a younger generation, Green is part of a cohort of artists reconsidering the legacy of Smithson in the 1990s. Her work Partially Buried in Three Parts (1996-1997) is a complex multimedia installation reconsidering Smithson’s Partially Buried Woodshed (1970), a site-specific work created by Smithson in Kent State University in Ohio, months before the shooting by the National Guard of students protesting the US involvement in the Cambodian war, resulting in the death of 4 people; the work then became a symbol of anti-war resistance; in Partially Buried Continued, Green put in relation Smithson’s ideas of entropy and site-specificity with those of Korean American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, while exploring the legacy of the Gwangju Uprising in South Korea, a state-sponsored repression event that resulted in the massacre of more than 2,000 people.

A five-year project, The Island Project gathers an inter-generational cohort of artists; besides Jonas and Green, other artists invited are Tacita Dean, Sky Hopinka, and Oscar Santillán.

From the Holt/Smithson Foundation:

At the mercy of the weather and rising sea levels, Little Fort Island is a small coastal island outside of Harrington, Maine that palpably demonstrates the changing state of our planet. Smithson made two drawings outlining potential projects for the island before visiting. When he arrived at Little Fort Island in 1972, Smithson decided not to proceed with the meandering earthwork proposals as he felt the landscape was too picturesque.

In the spirit of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, The Island Project sets out to develop innovative ways of exploring our relationship with the planet. The five invited artists will think with Holt/Smithson Foundation on and off location to consider how this island site can be a point of departure to generate ideas, raise questions, and inspire artworks. The resultant artworks might be a film, a soundscape, an unrealized proposal, a text, a sculpture, a performance, a radio broadcast, a digital project, a series of photographs, a suite of drawings, or something yet to be defined. The artworks might be experienced on-site, off-site, with partner museums, as broadcasts, as publications, with local partners: the location will be defined by each artist. The Island Project will develop over time, led by research and experiment, coming to fruition over the next five years.

Read the full press release here.

Renée Green (born 1959, Cleveland, OH) is an artist, writer, and filmmaker known for her highly layered and formally complex multimedia installations in which ideas, perception, and experience are examined from myriad perspectives. Her work engages with investigations into circuits of relation and exchange over time, the gaps and shifts in what survives in public and private memories, as well as what has been imagined and invented. 

Joan Jonas (b. 1936, New York, NY) works with video, performance, installation, sound, text, and sculpture. Jonas’ experiments and productions in the late 1960s and early 1970s continue to be crucial to the development of many contemporary art genres, from performance and video to conceptual art and theatre. Since 1968, her practice has explored ways of seeing, the rhythms of rituals, and the authority of objects and gestures. Jonas has exhibited, screened and performed her work at museums, galleries, and large-scale group exhibitions throughout the world.​