The Spiral Jetty and the Palm Jumeirah: Robert Smithson’s Art and the Art of the Islamic Culture.


This paper intends to focus on the on some of the similarities and differences between the artist, Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”, 1970, landform monument, created from sand and stone, and the Emirate of Dubai’s “Palm Jumeirah” 2006, landform monument, also created from sand and stone. While drastically different in scale, the “Spiral Jetty” is 460 meters in length, while the “Palm Jumeirah” is 78 kilometers in length, both landforms have had a tremendous cultural impact, both endemically, and as I will argue, a source of aesthetic rapprochement between Western and Islamic traditions. The condition of entropy is the basis for my thesis, entropy the " lack of order or predictability, gradual decline into disorder", or as Smithson considered it, a lack of differentiation, or a moving toward “sameness”. His consideration of time and history moved outside the canons of Western art history and progress, and reintroduced a conception of time that was geological, and based in the earth. Dubai is a city that evolved from one of the most arid regions on earth, a desert of which the vastness is defined by sand, the epitome of entropy. Islamic art and architecture while not specifically addressing “entropy” nonetheless address issues of the ‘transience of matter’, ‘dedifferentiation’, ‘dematerialization’, ‘decentering’, all of which are seminal to Smithson’s writings and art.

Author Information
George Newlands, American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2015
Stream: Education and post-colonialism

This paper is part of the ACE2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon