This is the class web site for the Montclair State University Class on rethinking NJ + Cultural Practices + Robert Smithson.

Professor: Iain Kerr (iain6579@gmail.com)

Mondays 10am – 12:50pm Spring 2010


It is a very interesting time to be reconsidering NJ. It is the state where the questions of urbanism meeting ecosystems meeting industry is most prevalent, entangled and problematic. New Jersey’s complex entanglements is our global future.

As such it poses many critical questions for us as artists about how we understand the landscape and what new tools do we now need to come to terms with these contemporary issues.  Robert Smithson was someone who was beginning to try to come to terms with these questions. He was also someone who was trying to develop new methodologies to deal with our actual “natural condition” (site and non-site, anti-monuments, entropy, site specific interventions, differing scales of time etc.). But these ideas — for all of the impact that they had in the art world — can barely keep up with our current reality. Smithson’s concepts and ideas need to be creatively reconsidered, challenged, and reimagined.

Montclair State University is at the heart of these questions on many levels from its simple locations, to how global flows of people and information are circulating. In this class we will imagine Montclair State as a type of Field Station for forays to rivers, quarries, wetlands, superfund sites, and neighborhoods to really dig into these questions. And in doing this field work come back with new ideas, and practices that we develop and then send back out into the world.

Class Logics:

1. The class will consist of a number of guided research events: working with artists, urbanists, and ecologists visiting sites. There will be roughly 5 of these (1. artists, 2. urbanist, 3. passaic trip, 4. hackensack trip, 5. central park). Plus a number of other excursions to sites as a group (to museums and points along the transect).
2. We will work on three main projects of three differing scales: A tour, an actual site specific piece, and a speculative project that is for something the total size of our transect. There will be other smaller exercises. All of these will be multi-sited and multi-scalar etc.
3. We will make and present work to a larger public as a way to complete the class. Key to this will be a collective writing of a manifesto and various smaller publications along the way.
4. I will introduce the assignments and the timeline for the assignments during class #5.


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