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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathDeserts of the Political

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modernist to sum up the contradictions of American youth in a parable about the flight from urban politicization to the internal and external deserts of individual anarchy. It was one of the last grand productions of the old Hollywood studio system and ended in economic catastrophe (MGM never recovered from the financial debacle caused by «Zabriskie Point»). The latter is a film essay by a New York artist, who hailed from the Minimalist scene, created under the auspices of the gallery system: a film that relates to the Spiral Jetty sculpture like a para or meta-text, in which the symbolic and semantic potential of an artistic intervention in the open desert is dissected, mounted, and (according to Smithson s precise storyboard) composed. «Zabriskie Point» and «Spiral Jetty»? A different kind of art, a different kind of cinema, certainly. And two completely different concepts of «the desert«: in one, the white sand of Death Valley, in the other, the much less «cinematographic» salt desert of the Great Salt Lake. Yet both films nevertheless form an interesting, complementary relationship (which is not simply owing to historical coincidence).[27] Around 1970, both films helped to revive a discursive interest


in the desert as a cinematic and artistic option. Their very different approaches might provide clues as to how the desert, on one hand, increasingly changed from motif to dispositif, and on the other hand, was chosen to be the setting for and a function of a social and aesthetic project. As a place where one deserts, the desert is also a political place, even when it rejects any articulation of the political, such as can be seen at the beginning of «Zabriskie Point» in the discussion between students and Black Panthers. Circa 1970, the pressure to be involved in politics in the USA was high: Vietnam, the civil rights movement and the so-called end of the summer of love, Kent State & The increasingly tense, murky situation also progressively began to affect the art world. Discussions about the social function of art and its legitimacy in view of war, race riots, and social movements even finally reached the bastions of self-referential and apolitical modernism.

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