I created a slide show called the "New Jersey Wasteland Tour" that I hope you'll check out here. I took the pics with a digital camera (and later wrote accompanying blurbs) in a panic that the little "zone of rot" I frequently walk through was about to be fixed up by the city and/or state. The emphasis here is on Decrepitude and Folly, but I also find this area (between Jersey City and Liberty State Park) to be sort of beautiful. I've got shots of the Morris Canal at its toxic/fecal best, the Statue of Liberty from the viewpoint of a "Hazardous Materials Area," and some belated documentation of the parking lot that was hastily put in and removed in the patronage free-for-all that followed 9/11.
One more chance to plug Robert Smithson. Unfortunately, his seminal essay A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic is not available online, although the pictures for it are here. His Writings are available in book form, and should be sought out. Online, Entropy and the New Monuments, and The Crystal Land are relevant. Combining landscape, sculpture, writing and film, Smithson presaged post-modernism. His wise-ass nihilism and deep readings of pop culture revolutionized the stuffy form of art writing. I think he was the first (but hardly the last) to preface highbrow essays with quotes from lowbrow sci-fi stories. Dead almost thirty years, he's still ahead of the game.
"Monuments of Passaic" is a great essay, and the Smithsonian Entropy Tour is now firmly ensconced as a trope for artists to play around with. For example, Michael Ashkin made elaborate tabletop models of industrial landscapes and then, after he started showing at Andrea Rosen, began channeling Smithson (rather blandly, unfortunately) with photos and videos of the Jersey Outback. My purpose here isn't so much art as editorial photojournalism. Also, my thinking about the area I documented, such as it is, was much influenced by Frederick Turner's essay The Landscape of Disturbance or as I call it, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love FUBAR Ecosystems."
ran across this a few days back - spiral jetty rises.
That Dia page on the Spiral Jetty says: "Smithson considered adding further material to ensure that his artwork would be visible more often. As yet this has not been done.
"Dia intends to facilitate easier access to this reknown (sic) piece..."
Meaning what exactly? Add further material? Or just put up better signage? (A recent Artforum article was devoted to Nico Israel's efforts to find the piece.) Either way, they should just leave it be. The point has been made.
A friend of mine in Jersey City sent the tour link around to people who are more knowledgeable about area politics than I am. One neighborhood activist wrote him back to say that the delapidated bldg in the first photo is part of the Liberty Harbor North Development, and will be torn down within the year. She says eventually that whole area will be "new townhouses, hi-rise bldgs etc." The footbridge is going to be "repaired" as part of some state parking/road extension project. Repaired or made to look nice? I know I described it as "rickety," but it works perfectly fine now as a bridge.
If it's actually on the verge of collapse, or does collapse, then there will be a lot of pissed off people who use it every week to get to the park (to say nothing of lawsuits if anyone's injured). And of course the developers should pay to fix it (that's what the activist pushed for). But if it's not on the verge of collapse why spruce it up? So more nice people can move to the neighborhood?
I'm really sorry to hear about the townhouses. The spread of cookie cutter, upper middle class high rises (and accompanying Starbucks) throughout the New York area is another kind of entropy. Like a disease where tissues calcify and harden, squeezing the life out of neighborhoods. Now I'm really glad I took these photos, to document the area before it started to look like everyplace else.
Wow, and thanks. I work with Hazardous Waste as a state Inspector in Western PA. When traveling to New York with my family we stopped in New Jersey where the hotels were more affordable. As out of towners on the to do list was the Statue of Liberty. Imagine my suprise at seeing a large part of the access park surrounded in fence with signage "Hazardous Material Area". I felt right at home immediately. It is everywhere where grasses and plants grow on fenced contaminated soils. I had to have my photo taken by one of the "Hazardous Material Area" signs. Then my 3 kids hopped in the next picture with me, as my husband snapped the picture. We are happy and smiling next to the sign and fence. This is our homeland. This is our legacy. This is what we leave our children and theirs. Kind of crazy that it is "blights" like these that allowed me to feel so at home as I came into a new city, came to see a National Treasure. Thank you so much for the pictures. I wondered why the fence and signs were up, you answered my question in a way no sign in the park did. What a country.