Since 1999, Australian artist Andrew Rogers has traveled the seven continents creating modern geoglyphs with local populations, representing symbols significant to the area’s culture with indigenous stone. Andrew Rogers: Rhythms of Life ― A Global Land Art Project, out this month from Prestel, chronicles what’s proclaimed to be the “largest land art project in the world.”
“These connected drawings on the surface of the earth refer to the physical building blocks of history and civilization while addressing the interconnection of humanity throughout time and space,” Rogers writes in a book essay. The rest of the publication is authored by art historian Silvia Langen, who argues that what’s “completely new in land art is Andrew Roger’s inclusion of local people in the conception and construction of his installations.”
This is a tad dismissive of the ancient history of geoglyphs, especially the Nazca Lines in Peru, which are a huge source of inspiration for Rogers. It takes a village to raise an earthwork, after all, although Langen is more referring to other contemporary land artists who often morph a landscape with an individual vision. Andy Goldsworthy, for instance, works with the structure of a natural setting to create his more elegant earthworks; Michael Heizer molds nature to his own monumental vision.
Much of the text focuses on Rogers’s Rhythms of Life series, in which he collaborates with (paid) local workers and the historic symbolism of a region, whether it’s the Mojave Desert in the United States or the Chyulu Hills in Kenya. The 2012 “Sacred Fire” in Namibia was constructed at 46 feet in diameter over an abandoned Himba village and referenced the central fires of their communities; the colossal “Gift” horse (pun probably not intended) was based on a 6,000-year-old rock drawing in Cappadocia, Turkey. In that particular location, Rogers led the construction of 13 installations between 2007 and 2011 as part of a massive land art park, ideally suited to the area’s popular hot air balloon tourism.
Unlike the Nazca Lines, which are embedded into the earth, Rogers’s rock drawings are walls intended to be ephemeral structures on their mountains, deserts, valleys, and other terrains. Some only last for hours, like his gravel pattern formed on an ice lake in Antarctica, which was swept away the same day. Others will crumble over centuries. “The artworks are meant to deliberately enter the life cycle of nature,” Langen writes. “They weather, deteriorate, and disintegrate.”
Langen doesn’t get into the complications of an artist making these kinds of large scale contemporary statements at sites that already have their own archaeological history, as even the most remote desert has its geological and anthropological heritage. These are works that are intended to be viewable via satellite, thus impacting the character of a landscape. “For the first time in the history of contemporary art, an artist had high-resolution satellite images taken from an altitude of between 440 and 70 kilometers (275 and 480 miles) for the purpose of making his land art understandable for viewers as a global work of art,” Langen writes.
Rogers is more contemplative in his ambitions for the Rhythms of Life series: “It is the feeling of solitude at the end of the day when one sits upon the structure and thinks. It is the noise of the silence of the land.”
Andrew Rogers: Rhythms of Life ― A Global Land Art Project by Silvia Langen is out this month from Prestel.