Making large scale interventions in the landscape as art, was pioneered by the Land/Earth artists of the 1970s, such as Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Richard Long etc., and James Turrell, who, like Daniel Dancer, is also interested in the sky, although his Roden Crater Project is infinitely more enduring physically. (Watching video of Daniel photographing his 'drawings' from a plane, also conjured up associations with Smithson who died in similar circumstances – The Icarus myth is a recurring theme in the artists’ psyche).
Big Horn Sky, Bishop, CA 2005 - 950 Kids and Teachers.
The form of his imagery is ancient; transcultural. Like many Land Art projects, it raises questions about the phenomenology of perception, which I think have been insufficiently interrogated in contemporary practice. This situation seems to be changing however, as the advent of GoogleWorld, the ready availability of GPS technology, ubiquitous CCTV and the 'Mobile Phone That Ate the World' have opened our eyes anew (while blinding us).
Daniel asks us to understand that we need to see the “Big Picture” if we are to make decisions that will give the world a future. Working often with children, he keeps the message simple, but the cognitive principle is sophisticated – although perhaps more accessible to the imaginative young mind of children (and other playful people). It means that we must reawaken our ability to experience the world from two places at the same time – to experience the material world, earth and body, while seeing the view from above – the “sky sight”.
In April, 2007, the Community Independent School in Pittsboro, North Carolina formed this nearly extinct bird in a pasture near their school with 100 participants and lots of clothes.
This reminds me of what has been told to me about how aboriginal people always live in a geography that is simultaneously the material world, and a “Big Picture” of story and myth by which to “make decisions that will give the world a future".
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
But perhaps this intelligence is an ability we are born with, and sometimes lose, and rather than focusing on surviving the dissonance we could think of a creative synthesis. This seems to me the paradigm Daniel is working with.
The Art for the Sky projects each produce a video for presentation and so live on as representation. They do not critique the Society of the Spectacle as put forward by Debord, although they want to give primacy to the immediate experience – perhaps it is impossible to avoid the S.O.the S. However to some degree it could be argued that many of the threats to the environment that Daniel Dancer seeks to change by resurrecting an holistic ‘living with the world’ are contributed to, if not largely caused by, the alienated, consumer driven S.O.S.
Any ambiguity of the position does not diminish the contribution he makes, anymore than the commercial compromises to the Burning Man event completely negate the power of the experience felt by attendees.
And lets hope next time that Gosford is a bit better organised. Preparation looked rather underdone on Saturday, and although Daniel will be presenting the video on Monday (tomorrow), no one knows where.