Words after the fact: The spatial semiotics of Richard Long’s art


                         ‘The strata of the Earth is a jumbled museum. Embedded in the sediment is a text …’

                                                         —Robert Smithson, ‘A Sedimentation of Mind: Earth Projects’


                                                                                         ‘Say it! No ideas but in things.’

                                                                                                    —William Carlos Williams, Paterson, I


The Silent Practitioner


Until 1980 Richard Long was a remarkably laconic artist. However, in that year Long broke his vow of silence in the artist statement ‘Five, six, pick up sticks’ published by the Anthony d’Offay Gallery. The final line of the statement constitutes the title-quote of this essay. In the decades following, Long’s career was increasingly characterised by a spiralling proliferation of artist statements and ‘conversations’ – which formed the basis of Ben Tufnell’s book of ‘Selected Statements & Interviews’ (see bibliography). This in itself seems a powerful indication of the rising importance of the textual sign to Long’s artistic practice.


However, both the hierarchy inherent to this binary opposition and Long’s own statements, suggest that he is an artist whose primary site of concern is the ‘world’ itself. As he says: ‘My work is real, not illusory or conceptual. / It is about real stones, real time, real actions’ (Wallis 2009, p.143). It is therefore in terms of his sculptural, though transient involvement with natural materials and the ‘medium’ of the walk that Long has generally been discussed and understood. He has been described as a shaman or guru of the outdoors, whose elegant geometric forms express a formal though subtle radiance.


Though Long’s site-specific works, peregrinatory habits and ‘de-materialized’ art-object, place him firmly at the cross-roads between the performance art, conceptual art, land art and minimal art movements unfolding in the 1960s and 1970s in North America, this essay will strive to locate Long within another important artistic development of the period – what Hal Foster came to call ‘The Passion of the Sign’ (See Foster 1996, p.127).


Drawing upon the discursive and work-based contributions of Robert Smithson and his contemporaries as well as Long’s specific ‘place’ and text-based practices, we will demonstrate how Long’s work participates in a discourse that takes language rather than landscape –or rather the relationship between them –as its primary concern. Like Terry Tempest Williams whose ontological journey into the heart of American identity, takes her crouching and crawling through Alaska in the ‘Ground-Truthing’ section of her book (see Terry Tempest Williams, The Open Space of Democracy, 2010), I will argue that Long’s site non-specific investigations are essentially epistemological and hermeneutic at root. The site of Long’s work is to be located therefore, neither at the place of the text or the place of the site, but in the space between them.


Art as Text


In The Return of the Real (1996) Hal Foster argues that the 1960s and 1970s witnessed a ‘trauma of signification’ reflected to a large extent by a ‘new model of art as text’ (Foster 1996, p. 71). The treatment of the sign divided itself into two oppositional tendencies:


‘some artists sought to resist the dissolution of the sign, to ground it in other ways –first in new materials and techniques … then in actual bodies and sites (as in body art, site-specific art, performance)> Meanwhile other artists worked to exploit the dissolution of the sign, to demonstrate either the reification of aesthetic language (as in the tautologies of much conceptual art) or its fragmentation (as in the ephemera of much installation art).’

He notes that the mood of the times for Rosalind Krauss was also summed up by ‘the semiotic order of the index’ (Foster 1996, 86) which was either conceived as codeless and reified, or grounded in physical presence.


Robert Smithson


Within the context of this ‘trauma of signification’ the practices of Robert Smithson – the prolific writer, theorist and architect of the Land Art movement – are key in terms of creating the links between linguistic and spatial practices that may have inspired Long. Though works like Spiral Jetty (1970) and Partially Buried Woodshed (1970) proposed a material engagement with ‘site’, it is clear that this material intervention was used to allegorize textual and epistemological concerns.


For Smithson, as for Richard Long, site-specific practices provided metaphors for textual structures and semiotic relationships. This is clearer if we turn to Smithson’s work. Much of Smithson’s writing and unpublished poetry reflects an anxiety about the ‘reification and fragmentation of the sign’, and its uncoverable loss of meaning. In ‘The Lamentations of the Paroxysmal Artist’ Smithson mourns: ‘My mouth is full of think paint. It’s dripping down my chin in long purple drips’ (Flam 1996, p.319). This impotency of language is also reflected in ‘From the City’: ‘The tongue / Did burst / Into a Bloody Word./ Unlost:/ It stared / Back into /The mouth / From whence it came.’ (Flam 1996, p.317, ll.1-8).


Word Sculptures


However, in his essay ‘A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects’ (1968) Smithson extends this crisis of reference to his understanding of the earth itself:


‘The names of minerals and the minerals themselves do not differ from each other, because at the bottom of both the material and the print is the beginning of an abysmal number of fissures.’ (Flam 1996, p.107).


This overlap between spatial and linguistic structures, between language as ‘an alphabet of sites’ and sites as fossilized words – is played out provokingly in Smithson’s work. The ‘sculpture’ A Heap of Language (1966), for example, is compromised of a pyramid of words written in graphite pencil, whereas in Strata: A Geophotographic Fiction (1970), composites of rock strata are explicitly compared to layerings of words, and both shown to contain lacunae, gaps, pattern, areas of relief etc. Such spatialization and concretization of language reflects Smithson’s belief that language ‘is matter and not ideas’ (Flam 1996, p.319) and not qualitatively different from other raw materials.


Operating, therefore, on the interstices between earth and word, we can see how sign and site had become ideologically interchangeable in Smithson’s artistic practice – how the notion of the signified has become tabulated and integrated, as Krauss and Foster loosely suggested, into the index of the sculptural mark.


Earthwords and the Museum of Language


For Craig Owens also, Smithson’s work functioned as a site of critical engagement developing congruencies between language and material sites. Indeed in his essay ‘Earthwords’ (1979) Owens notes how many aspects of Smithson’s sculptural practice such as:


‘fiction … architecture … counter-architecture (or de-architecture, ‘entropy made visible,’…) … radiate from a mediation on the labyrinthine, abyssal nature of language’ (Owens 1979, p.122).

He uses Smithson’s landmark essay ‘A Museum of Language in the Vicinity of Art’ (1968) as a foundation for this conclusion. For Owens, it is precisely Smithson’s vision of the form of language which is key to an understanding of the form of his sculpture. Indeed if the site of sculpture was also the site of language, if nature itself was a ‘sign’, then Smithson’s cynicism about the competence of text to transfer or contain meanings, its rootlessness and lack of centre, also found a visual, physical parallel in his sculptural practice.  


The Non-sites


For Owens, the site-based equivalent of Smithson’s view of language as a sort of dead, vacuous cavity – ‘an infinite museum whose center is everywhere and whose limits are nowhere’ (Flam 1996, p.78) – materializes in his notion of the non-site, the ‘unfocused fringe’ where the centre ‘loses its boundaries and a sense of the oceanic pervades…’ (Owens 1979, p.122). It is precisely ‘this absence at the centre’ (Owens 1979, p.122) that both language/text and the non-site of Smithson’s art share.


This was not only expressed in the ‘radical dislocation’ of his art ‘removed from its locus in the museum and gallery to remote, inaccessible locations’(Owens 1979, 122), but in their implicit, sometimes violent negation of site and their tendency - like Robert Morris’ mirrored cubes – to absorb ‘site’. A prime example of this is the prismic structure that Smithson entitled ‘The Hum’ (1965). This sculpture resembled a large, baulking mirrored jewel and had the effect of swallowing up the exhibition space in which it was placed.


There is no site that is not faced by a non-site in his work. This negation and loss is powerfully exampled by his ‘works that vanish as they develop’ (Flam 1996, p.95). This can be clearly seen in his ‘earth maps’, which as a result of their leaden weight disappear into the ground. This aesthetics of site-related violence is also suggested by the rebarbative nature of his map-works which are either cut-up and placed in three-dimensional structures or which posit land masses composed of shards of glass.


For Smithson, all of his works including the ‘mirror displacement’, earth maps and ‘non-sites’ function like the Island, his projected plan to cover an entire island with glass: ‘The Island is not meant to save anything or anybody, but to reveal things as they are.’ (Flam 1996, p.197). Through the ‘unmaking’, ‘de-creating’ and ‘decomposing’ built into the nature of their design, they reveal an extreme and far-reaching doubt extending through ‘the visual to the verbal field’.


Smithson’s ‘sign’-based spatialized practice digests not the complete but the shattered linguistic sign – professes not the ‘grounding’ model of the index but rather the decentring and centrifugal ambiguity of the fissured, truncated postmodern sign. Concomitantly, though (most) of Smithson’s works were immobile and site-centred, they were not ‘indexical’, or codifiable, rather they instigated a disintegration of both physical and semantic sites, a radical turn away from the locus as center (of both meaning and content). Rather than asserting context as unproblematic, they exposed context (and therefore content) as untenable.


Smithson’s work confronts ‘the eruption o language into the aesthetic field’ (Owens 1979, p.126) with an extreme epistemological scepticism, and a belief in the irreconcilability of sign and reference which he plays out in the material ‘sites’ of his art. However if Smithson’s spirals, ‘non-sites’ and sunken maps disclose the art of the ‘bloody word’ then Longs’ function as the crystallization of the ‘white stone’ (Flam 1996, p.318). This difference could be paraphrased by the difference between Smithson’s notorious Regions of Monuments along the Passaic River (1967) consisting of a series of black and white photographs depicting dissonant ‘monuments’ in a peripheral, void and industrial landscape and the photographic novel that Richard Long created in 1997 entitled A Walk Across England - in many ways its antitype.


Designed for a children’s book press in California, this work provides a compelling educational pretext for Long to stage a witty tour de force of semiotic play. In this photographic ‘text’ Long instigates a game of signification, of visual ‘I-spy’, which touches the core relationship between image and word. Unlike Smithson whose dialectic between text and sculptural mark leads him to perceive a profound rootlessness and decentralization in both – Long’s art, especially A Walk Across England acts as an affirmation of the sign and the world-object to which it relates.


A Walk Across England


A Walk Across England describes ‘A Walk of 382 Miles in 11 Days / From the West Coast / To the East Coast of England.’ It contains 130 colour illustrations of ‘sights’ that Long observed on the way. Beneath these, textual statements are appended or laid out on facing pages. These statements are sometimes banal (‘A bird dropping’ opposite a photograph of a bird dropping), sometimes literally true (‘An old gate’), sometimes romantic (‘The smell of fresh summer rain’) and sometimes semantically ambiguous. In these cases the relationship between the photographic, sculptural ‘sign’ and the textual label is more obscure or deliberately complicated. Thus the label ‘Resting and gazing and seeing a kettle in the clouds’ refers to a tin kettle sun to the bottom of a river which reflects the sky above it. Though these semiotic breakages profess a kind of indeterminacy and deframing, their whimsicality also suggests a general optimism felt by Long about the ability of words to relate to ‘things’. Equally, though the pseudo-scientific typeface and uppercase lettering of the labels propose a kind of objectivity, many of the labels, for example, ‘The sound of cows munching’ are openly impressionistic and subjective.


Through a catalogue of verbs and nouns, Long provides us with a sensory and phenomenological account of his journey through England – his sense experiences and encounters with objects of the world. Though much of this ‘artist book’ is playful and tongue-in-cheek, it does not argue for a cleavage between the ‘sign’ and ‘sculptural; mark, rather it asserts a unity and transparency between them. Indeed this ‘book’ contains pictorial nods to many of Long’s thematic preoccupations, like the ‘line’ of the road or path or the appearance of splashed water, which those familiar with his art will spot right away. This summa of Long’s tropes functions as an extended ‘textwork’ projected into large-scale.


The ‘sculptural’ aspect of this book resides in his curation of sights which quote indexical or sculptural formal relationships that have parallels in his own work (confirming Long’s repeated claim ‘I use the world as I find it’ (Wallis 2009, p.139)). It can also be found in the experience of the walk itself, which is conceived as one, extended, sculptural mark. This is a text about representation and communication, as the multiple photographed signposts indicate.  These signposts – of falling rocks, or drilling – make the meta-artistic, semiotic nature of this work explicit. The work as a whole functions as a counterclaim to Smithson’s pessimism, presenting as it does, an allegory to the effect that the sculptural mark is already out there in the world and can be constituted by language.


Long’s Text-walks and Text-works


A Walk Across England presents a compelling case for the significance of ‘text’ to Long’s artistic practice. The model of text/world upon which he builds is not splintered, fragmented and dichotomized as it is with Smithson – but as the smooth transition guiding us between the pages of this sculpture-text suggest –unhindered, systematic and continuous. The text and the act of walking are made continuous. If, as Owens suggests, ‘the Jetty is not a discrete work, but one link in a chain of signifiers which summon and refer to one another in a dizzying spiral’ (Owens 1979, p.128) then A Walk Acoss England suggests a ‘chain of signifiers’ placed in harmonious and contiguous, metonymic relation to each other. This artistic narrative describes a complete and finished journey. The discrepancy is clear. The textual ‘mode’ of Smithson’s transmission of his works (in the forms of documents which can be photographic, diagrammatic, textual etc), proposes an atomization, ‘a radical dislocation of the notion of point-of-view’ (Owens 1979, p.128). But for Long the documentary map of his sculpture functions as a composite, self-sufficient unit of meaning with a narrative drive and entertaining, functional purpose.  


Physicality, the Index and the Word


The use of text in Long’s work was not always as prominent as it is in A Walk Across England. But it is interesting that from a very early stage, text was present in some form. For Long it wasn’t sufficient to have the titles of his works printed out onto gallery-plaques, it always had to be part of the work itself – handwritten in guidelines underneath or printed out in typeface. Thus the photographic work England 1967 is mounted on white board and contains a graphite inscription ‘England 1967’ on parameters beneath. Text is always a context in the work of Richard Long.The paradox lies in the emphatic materiality of Long’s work. As he says: ‘Nature is the source of my work. The medium of my work is walking (the element of time) and natural materials (sculpture).’(Sleeman 1998, [p.9]). Long is an artist who physically intervenes, investigates, patrols, moves away, sweeps aside and ‘rearranges’ landscape. He achieves this in a number of ways, whether it is picking flowers, rolling snowballs down mountains or scattering chalk powder into rivers.


This vigorous art practice is also a feature of Long’s work in gallery space. Here he often physically stamps the material of the outside world onto the gallery walls or ground. Thus Footprint Line exhibited in the Galleria Tucci Russo in Turin (1989) consists of white-paint footprints printed on a stretch of black cloth and River Avon Mud Hand Circles displayed in Rosc, Dublin (1984) actually uses mud sourced from the River Avon in Bristol. The documents and texts are made retrospectively to counterpart and complement these vigorous, physical sculptural activities, be it a ‘monument’ or a mark made by strenuous hiking over a number of days.

It could be argued that the textual element of Richard Long’s work is also inherent in this corporeality. For in-keeping with the climate of semiotic spatial practices which we have located in the work of Robert Smithson, it is precisely the material intervention and the textual mark or index which is seen as one and inseparable. As Long writes: ‘it’s the touching and the meaning of the touching that matters’ (Brades 1991, 17). In this sense we see Long working within the tradition of the expressive ‘diaristic gestures’ (Solnit 2001, 268) of Jackson Pollock or the nimble catapulting arm of Richard Serra who tossed ladles of molten lead onto the walls of an industrial warehouse in Splashing (1968).


As Daniel-McElroy states:


The works are traces of staying and passing: each marks what was the centre of the world when he was there. The forms are forms of movement, like the straight line or the spiral, or forms of staying like the circle and the cross. (Daniel-McElroy 2002, 43).


These sculptures may be ‘forms’ but they are also marks, inscriptions, insignia and alphabet. ‘X’, ‘I’ and ‘O’; the cross, the line and circle form the basic repertoire of Richard Long’s visual symbology. But these are letters not just forms or shapes. They are also, significantly, prime symbols of space and site itself. ‘X’-marking the spot, ‘I’ pointing to the continuous line, path or journey and ‘O’ suggesting containment, are all visual signs for different types of spatial coordinates or relationship. The letter, the sign and the action of the impress, the index, are at the heart of Richard Long’s physical, materialist practice and establish the text as irrevocably connected to his spatial site.


The Map-works


Another field of Log’s activity which is pertinent to the cross-section between language and space are his ‘map-works.’ Maps are a system of cartographic signs that include textual and visual language. They are configured through textually and spatially denoted landmarks. As Long writes in his ‘Notes on Maps’ (1994): ‘A map is an artistic and poetic combination of image and language’ (Seymour 2002, p.84). Moreover, since they present a stratified grid, they posit a stable structural and mathematical delineation of space which interfaces with and is comparable to the Saussurean view of language as a fixed structure or grid.


Thus maps function as a structure for signification which operate on a spatial level, but which also evokes the phantasm of the linguistic structure as a stratification of signs. Long’s map-works offer another excellent point of comparison with Smithson. Just as Long’s sculptures posit a mark that is completed and whole, that complements rather than ruptures their sites, just as his walks suggest an epistemological process which has a beginning and an end, integral both to the meaning and shape of the artwork (unlike the promenade sculptures of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty for example, which destabilizes the viewer-pedestrian-participant) – so too are his maps excellent counterexamples of Smithson’s map-works.


Smithson’s subterranean earth-maps sink into the ground and suggest the loss and disorientation of meaning and site – Long’s map-works function as hypertexts for the walks that he performs after making them: they are realized and enacted, thus the chain of signification is completed. Onto these map-works, Long superimposes a shape (which symbolizes the shape of the performance-walk to come). These visual itineraries can reflect regular shapes such as lines or crosses (see A Ten Mile Walk, England 1968 or Two Walks, Dartmoor), or more complicated shapes (the series of concentric circles reflected by Concentric Days, Scotland 1966), or completely irregular shapes which play with the notion of spontaneity and the formless within a rigid and precise structure (such as Nowhere, A Walk of 131 Miles within an Imaginary Circle, Ten Days and Nights, Scotland, 1993).

So even if Long’s walk does not actually adhere to a shape itself, it still acknowledges shape and form as essential to it, as we see in this last example. Long did not walk the circumference of the ‘imaginary circle’ but her certainly didn’t stray beyond it either (and thus tacitly suggests shape, by hollowing-out its centre). Long does not challenge the authority of the map as a structure and coordinator of meaning, rather he valorises the map, and through the performance of the work forges a direct, physical and sculptural equivalence between the domain of signification and terra itself. Such rural site work does not convey history and space as loss or absence as Dorothy Cross’s hulking Ghost Ship (1999) which cast adrift from the shore only gains presence at night when it gleams sulpherously green, or suggest the self-consuming, internalizing dissolution of space as Smithson and Morris’ mirrored prisms do, rather it re-establishes the authority of the sign as a vector of meaning.


The Text-Pieces


However, nowhere is the ascendency o the textual sign more in evidence than it is in his so-called ‘text-pieces.’ Long began these conceptual exercises after the era-making exhibition of conceptual art When Attitudes Become Form at the Kunsthalle, Bern in 1969. After this exhibition text-pieces become increasingly important to his work.


Earlier it was stated that text is always a context in Richard Long’s art. Increasingly however, especially with the rise of the ‘text-work’ since 1977, text becomes the only context. If works such as Robert Smithson’s A Heap of Language spatialize language, then works such as Tide Walk, 1992 or An Exchange of Stones at a Place for a Time on Dartmoor, England 1977 which consist solely of typeface on white mount-board, represent the verbalization or textualization of space.


The formats of the textworks show a great deal of variation: some of the earliest are superimposed upon, or facing a photograph, others involve no photograph, but are superimposed onto a kind of ‘material’ surface such as Walking Lines 1997 which printed text onto a mount board surface of finely sedimented clay. But most of these textworks contain no vestigial trace of the visual or material artefact at all and have become completely embodied by text. Thus the work Midwinter Night’s Walk entails only text denoting in skeletal form the logistical outline of  a walk, whereas in others Long’s approach is less empirical, as he poetically recalls his subjective experiences and sense impressions: ‘From waves pounding borders in pouring rain to the smell of a tuft fire…’ (A Walk Across Ireland, 1998). In some of the most abstract of these works Long has created an effect that is not dissimilar to concrete poetry –arranging his text to create visual forms and shapes. Thus the work A Circle of Middays (1997) displays twelve ‘Midday’ labels striating around the edge of a circle.


Long and Conceptual Art


Such art seems to fully announce what Lucy Lippard termed the ‘dematerialization’ of the art object – reducing it entirely to a concatenation of signs. Except, of course, and this is an important exception –that there are always two halves to Long’s work. The text must always gloss an action (the sculptural mark). And the action always exists. Indeed as Long notes, speaking of the artist Lawrence Weiner:


Lawrences’ idea that ‘a work need not be made’, replacing the object with language, was a great imaginative step … II admire Lawrence’s objectless art, but my pleasure is in the physical-factual life of my work … For Lawrence the object is redundant or hypothetical; my preference is for engagement and actuality. (Wallis 2009, p.48).


The power of Long’s art and the characteristic which differentiates it so starkly from the work of other artists contemporary to him, is that the text always expresses a relation with the thing in-and-of-itself, it posits a linguistic relationship rather than merely a linguistic object. He is able to do this precisely because his work does not offer up the language-parole paradigm as a lesion or a wound at the centre of site, as Smithson and Cross’s does, rather his work shuttles happily between them. In this respect Long is not a postmodern artist, since the sign is not broken down, but confidently re-implanted. As Fuchs observes, speaking of Long’s attitude to language: ‘Words, compared to maps and photographs, are very easy to handle. They are precise. They are the most common form of human communication. They are found, just as stones are found along the way.’ (Fuchs 1986, p.101).


Sculpted Books


For Long the documentary sites of his art all exist in a state of complementary relation to each other, the texts and the marks are not divorced but united, they interrelate and interchange, they are never unpartnered or lost. Typical then, of this understanding of Long as a textual artist, is the attention he pays to books. This not only manifests itself in his many artist ‘books’ such as the binding of ‘watermark’ impressions that he turns into a text (such as River Avon Book 1979), but also in his attention to exhibition catalogues about him, which he often helps design (See A Walk Across England and Richard Long: Walking the Line in Bibliography). Splicing together commentary text, his text, and his photography – text and image become mutually reinforcing. But perhaps most interesting of all, and a process that held great fascination for Long, were the artist books for which the pages are actually made from pulped clay, as seen in works such as Nile, Papers of River Mud (1990). Here the site and sculpture has literally become the page, the text; and the text has become the site.


The Site of Richard Long’s Art


Richard Long’s art is difficult to situate in contemporary discourse.  Though aspects of his work are site-specific he does not work to interrogate ‘site’ as a politically, socially and economically determined mechanism like other institutional critics or minimalist sculptors did of his generation, mainly of course, because he is not an urban worker, he is a rural walker. He therefore does not really partake in de Certeau’s anthropological understanding of ‘space as practiced place’ (Kwon 2002, p.51), rather for Long ‘place is practised space.’ The mobility of Long’s art occludes it from the site-based practices that Krauss identifies in her ‘Expanded Field’, but even Miwon Kwon’s designation of the ‘nomadic artist’ does not really apply to Long, since his art does not really constitute an ‘aesthetics of administration’ (Kaye 2000, p.5), nor he the displaced, modern avant-garde artist-subject. In a sense he is a performance based, process-based artist, but his work is invisible and private; and does not invite a spectator. His walks do not suggest the cynicism of the Dada deambulators or the voids of non-sites, but professes a quiet affirmation. It is easy to see why Long might be regarded as Romantic, old fashioned and why he has perhaps fallen into the periphery of discourse. However, this essay has sought to reposition Long in a particular social and intellectual discourse evolving in the 1960s, especially with the writings and sculpture of Robert Smithson. This essay has suggested that Long’s achievement, following Smithson, was to augur in the return of the text for sculptural practice. However, the return to the text in Long’s work does not constitute a return to ‘figuration’ or ‘representationality’, rather Long’s artistic practice acts as an endorsement of language and a counter-force to the fragmentation of the sign instigated in other areas of postmodern art, most notably, for this essay, in Smithson’s.


But how can sculpture invoke the text? This essay has argued using Owens’ and Smithsons’ critical writings that this conceptual breakthrough was enabled by a growing consciousness among theorists and practitioners located in the Land Art and site-specific movements to the structural and therefore metaphorical and allegorical parallels that existed between semiotic and spatial structural models. It is the writings of Smithson mainly however, that established this kind of sculptural engagement with ‘earth’ as a linguistic activity. In the light of these developments, Long’s work does not only become formally ‘radical’ but also conceptually very sophisticated. Through his text-works, map-works, artist-books and ‘indexical’ sculptural practice Long proposed a spatial semiotic in response to Smithson’s pessimism: if ground, site and space were linguistic, then language was also space, ground and site. There need not be a hermeneutic breakdown as there was in Smithson’s art, whose poetry shows his passionate disaffiliation and trauma with the sign. In this light Long’s nomadism itself seems to be conditioned by a linguistic drive. His pedestrianism does not represent the epistemologically ambiguous status of the homeless artist, but on the contrary an understanding of the ‘site’ as a textual, temporal process, as ‘human reconnaissance’ (Fuchs 1986, p.105). If there is a quiet radiance or beauty in Long’s work, a muffled sublime, then it represents the click of the sign returning to its locus – the earth.


Bibliography & Further Reading




Baudrillard, Jean. 2010. America (London and New York, Verso).

Buskirk, Martha. 2003. The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art (Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, MIT Press).

Careri, Francesco. 2002. Walkscapes (SA, Barcelona, Editorial Gustavo Gili).

Danto, Arthur C. 2000. The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World (Berkeley, Los Angeles & London, University of California Press).

Flam, Jack. 1996. Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (Berkeley, Los Angeles & London, University of California Press).

Foster, Hal. 1996. The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, MIT Press).

Foster, Hal. Hughes, Gordon., ed. 2000. Richard Serra (Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, MIT Press).

Kaye, Nick. 2000. Site-Specific Art: Performance, Place and Documentation (London & New York, Routledge).

Kwon, Miwon. 2002. One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, MIT Press).

Lydenberg, Robin. 2005. [Gone]: Site Specific Works by Dorothy Cross (Chicago, University of Chicago Press).

Robertson, Jean. McDaniel, Craig. 2005. Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art after 1980 (Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press).

Rugg, Judith. 2010. Exploring Site-Specific Art: Issues of Space and Internationalism (London and New York, I.B. Tauris).

Shapiro, Gary. 1995. Earthwards: Robert Smithson and Art after Babel (Berkeley, Los Angeles & London, University of California Press).

Solnit, Rebecca. 2001. Wanderlust: A History of Walking (London, New York, Verso).

Stallybrass, Sally., Broekman, Pauline can Mourik., Ratnam, Niru., ed. 2000. Locus Solus: Site, Identity, Technology in Contemporary Art (London, Blackdog Publishing).

Suderburg, Erika ed., 2000. Space, Site, Intervention: Situating Installation Art (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press)>

Tufnell, Ben ed., 2007. Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews (London, Haunch of Venison).


Exhibition Catalogues


Brades, Susan Ferleger. 1991. Richard Long: Walking in Circles (London, Thames & Hudson).

Daniel-McElroy, Susan ed. 2002. Richard Long: A Moving World (St Ives, Cornwall, Tate publishing).

Fuchs, R.H. 1986. Richard Long (London, Thames & Hudson).

Long, Richard. 1997. A Walk Across England (Venice, California, Children’s Library Press).

Schneider, Christiane ed. 2003. Richard Long: Here and Now and Then (London, Haunch of Venison).

Seymour, Anne. 2002. Richard Long: Walking the Line (London, Thames & Hudson).

Sleeman, Alison ed., 1998. Richard Long: Mirage (London, Phaidon Press).

Wallis, Clarrie ed., 2009. Richard Long: Heaven and Earth (London, Tate Publishing).




Krauss, Rosalind. 1979. ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, October, 8: 30-44

Owens, Craig. 1979. ‘Earthwords’, October, 10: 120-130