Apropos of the previous post, the only thing I’d love to be more than a landscape architect, in my fantasy world, would be a land artist. Let’s face it: Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer outcool Ken Smith and Peter Walker any day of the week. Sure, land art tends to be less than functional and often utterly ephemeral, but it more than makes up for it in beauty and sheer awe.
The most popular land artists are Robert Smithson and Andy Goldsworthy. But the one that really strikes a chord for me is Agnes Denes. She might be best known for her 1982 project in what would one day become New York’s Battery Park: Wheatfield: A Confrontation (you can see absolutely gorgeous images over at Pruned’s archives). At the time, this area was essentially a dumping ground for all the excess waste resulting from the construction of the World Trade Center. Denes turned the area into subsidized farmland for a full year.
And while it is a great, great piece, I think it is her best-known work frankly because it is the most photographic. For my money, her Tree Mountain project in Ylöjärvi, Finland is probably the most astounding piece of land art I’ve ever seen.
Denes planted a forest—let me just say that again; Denes planted a forest—on a mountain in Finland. And before I even describe the rest of the project, I’d like to also point out that before she planted the forest, she built the motherfucking mountain. This fact always seems to be a footnote wherever I’ve read about the project, but to my mind it is as just as mind-boggling as the rest. The forest is made up of 11,000 trees, each planted by an individual who is considered a “custodian” of that tree. The trees are planted in a complex mathematical pattern, and will take a full 400 years to grow into full maturity. Like all of her projects, the land was a formerly toxic sight which she reclaimed. Tree Mountain was paid for by the Finnish government, and was such a success that she repeated the project a few years later in Australia. Check back in 2396 to see how it all turns out.