Robert Smithson's Partially Buried Woodshed

At the risk of getting political, or self-indulgently artsy, I wanted to take a second to talk about Robert Smithson's partially buried woodshed -- a piece I have been thinking about a lot lately. in January of 1970, Smithson, with the help of students, unloaded 20 truckloads of earth onto a woodshed found on university property until its central beam cracked under the weight of the pressure. He intended for the piece to grow organically, swallowed by vegetation, and be tended to appropriately until it had run its course.

Following the Kent State shootings in May of that year, the words ‘MAY 4 KENT 70’ were painted onto the woodshed in white. The work had become a piece to commemorate the wounded and the dead, as well as a symbol of protest against gun violence, the war in Vietnam, and frustration with systems which had allowed for both.

The piece became a subject of controversy, but was allowed to remain for almost 14 years until someone, no one is quite sure who, quietly and quickly removed all evidence that the work was ever there -- save for the concrete foundation of the initial structure.

In the wake of so much systemic violence and sadness, I wonder how much pressure we can take before our central beams crack, and how long we will be permitted to remain before someone quietly cleans us away.

Last winter I wrote a very early Twine game (which is perhaps mostly a poem) from the perspective of Smithson's woodshed.