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‘The Sedimentation of the Social: Smithson’s Egypt and the ruins of the death drive’

Corby, Vanessa (2017) ‘The Sedimentation of the Social: Smithson’s Egypt and the ruins of the death drive’. In: Society for Literature, Science and the Arts European Annual Conference, 20-24 June 2017, Basel.

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Abstract

To describe Spiral Jetty (1970) as a well-trodden example of twentieth-century art is something of an understatement. Nevertheless the conceptual, historical, material and social forces that unfolded during the production of this canonical work still hold the possibility of saying something new. This essay foregrounds the significance of Smithson’s fascination with the pharonic ruins of ancient Egypt and Sigmund Freud’s thesis of the death drive (1920). They were fundamental to the formulation of the remote monuments and thus Smithson’s articulation of the self-destructive ‘whirlpool’ of American politics in the 1960s and early 1970s. This essay draws on postcolonial scholarship in the field of Egyptology and Smithson’s interest in the ‘dialectical situation’ of his work, however, to foreground the physical emergence of Spiral Jetty in and of the social. As such Spiral Jetty marks the point at which Freud’s thought and Smithson’s practice part company and facilitates a critique of the asocial vision of humanity that underpins Freudian psychoanalysis.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Published
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Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
D History General and Old World > DT Africa
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
School/Department: School of Art, Design & Computer Science
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/3073

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