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Foregrounding the paper is a site analysis of 41.471963, -71.306755, which, plus approx. r=71’, describes the location of Sod Maze, an earthwork constructed in 1974 by the artist-and-RISD-alum Richard Fleischner on the grounds of a preserved mansion in Newport, Rhode Island.

Made of mounded earth, and “covered in the same grass as the lawn of the mansion” (source), Sod Maze utilizes the traditional unicursal templating of the Classical labyrinth. Though connection to the historical turf maze is most direct, I prefer to position the work as an oblique solute or melted product of the topiary, or hedge maze, given the proximity of another on-the-grounds-of-a-preserved-mansion feature, the Green Animals Topiary Garden (41.603775,-71.27583).

A broader relational standard is established through a broader landscape-exploration of Newport. A feature particular to the city is a high mass of grey-green (standardized non-color becoming one-color) spaces in the surrounding topographic organization. Newport is swaddled in courses (golf, college), concourses, and courts– products of multi-level bureaucratic strategies to beautify and fictionalize. The available-green of a tennis-blank lies just beyond the green-lighting of a Stop & Shop traffic turn-about.

I select and enhance a planned/organizational (governmental) understanding of space in order to cross-examine Robert Smithson’s vague nightmare – the duplicitous and phantom Establishment, able to absolutely level difference and confine “creative genius”. In the referenced essay (“The Establishment”, 1968), Smithson describes “maze-like” formations of waste and falsity that continually trend towards a darkening consumption. Smithson’s cold wordwork, however, is ultimately concerned with its own demise. His terminal morbidity is focused on assured entropy and the laying-waste of material– “all solids tremble and seem about to disintegrate”. His fear circles about that which directly effects the perpetuity and monumentality of Smithson’s own, highly material, work. Supreme material anxiety, here, has a direct relation to a personalized egoistic dread.

I hope to provide an alternative construction of maze-meaning through the employ of the form in service of a feminist temporal expansion. Sod Maze, though made with monumental purpose, of a specific material, and directly remarking on a teleological inevitability, actuates, for me, not a dead ending or an absurd, absolutist sand-pit but a textured, experiential elongation of time and, furthermore, an opportunity for non-spatial construction-work.

My longer analytic arc investigates walking, siphoning, and winding procedures as gateways to Grosz’s immersive temporalities and alternative methods for experiencing planned space. The quasi-computational activity of path-following affirms and composes materiality, texturally grounding experience and drawing a tactile connection that softens the monumental and constitutes a body of ontogenic marking. This reading gestures towards a feminist cybernetics – the habit of formation and the formulation of material complete an act of becoming in holding hands (following adequate romance-processing-time).

In order to garner a bit more material, and also in service of formally mirroring the sedimentary deposit of repeated experience, I will apply dead-pan formal analysis to a number of maze-constructions. Ephemera like the paper shape-mazes and computer text-adventure games popular in the 70s, along with home-grown drawing experiments, allow a greater degree of mechanical observation and formal experimentation. The nondeterministic glossary produced will allow for side-ways entrance into the earthwork in particular, and will generally open the paper to winding of its own.

In content, the paper proposes to follow chaotic time through a unicausal pathway, allowing iconic monumentality to bleed into the nondirective and reapplying Smithson’s techniques of Noticing and Deadpanning as temporal nonfixities that sublimate his onerous doom. A personal love of the proposed site lends, however, a descriptive bias.

Sod Maze is situated on borderline-private property, and is well-experienced when trespassed upon. Site visits and documentary evidence will inform the work that I hope fitfully trespasses on constructive ground as it aims towards its own kind of appreciation.

-Anna

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