From ‘THE ARTIST AND POLITICS: A SYMPOSIUM’ – Robert Smithson
The artist does not have to will a response to the ‘deepening political crisis in America.’ Sooner or later the artist is implicated or devoured by politics without even trying. My ‘position’ is one of sinking into an awareness of global squalor and futility. The rat of politics always gnaws at the cheese of art. The trap is set. If there’s an original curse, then politics has something to do with it. Direct political action becomes a matter of trying to pick poison out of boiling stew. The pain of this experience accelerates a need for more and more actions. ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ Such loud actions pour in on one like quicksand – one doesn’t have to start one’s own action. Actions swirl around one so fast they appear inactive. From a deeper level of ‘the deepening political crisis,’ the best and the worst actions run together and surround one in the inertia of a whirlpool. The bottom is never reached, but one keeps dropping into a kind of political centrifugal force that throws the blood of atrocities onto those working for peace. The horror becomes so intense, so imprisoning that one is overwhelmed by a sense of disgust. [. . . ]
Artforum, New-York, 1970.