Emma Brack: Making the Stone more Stony: Affect, Experience and Magic in Robert Smithson's Broken Circle/Spiral Hill

School for the Contemporary Arts: Visual Art

This essay examines Robert Smithson’s work Broken Circle, Spiral Hill (1971) in relation to phenomenology, magic, and through the author’s firsthand experience of the site. Focusing on Henri Bergson’s concept of Intuition and Alain Badiou’s ideas of experience and the event, the paper explores the possibility of affect as a way in which to learn about, to understand, and to know the world--knowledge in the intimate sense of

connecting and relating to things themselves. The paper attempts to understand Smithson’s work through a questioning of the self and community in relation to sensation as an individual experience and as communal sensorium. The essay investigates the urgency of affect as a coping mechanism and as a condition integral to the making of art that holds promise for a new feeling of sensibility and as a possibility for a rupture in ways of seeing and being in the world.