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Spiral Wetland reaches back to the beginning of eco-art, but envisions the next stage of our thinking: to heal and transform the environment for the better.

SPIRAL WETLAND

Lake Fayetteville, Fayetteville, Arkansas

2013

Closed-cell foam, anchors, native plants

300 linear feet long  x 75 wide x 4 feet tall

Temporary installation for Artosphere Festival

 

Inspired by the Spiral Jetty (1972) by Robert Smithson, one of the most famous and enduring of the land art pieces, Spiral Wetland reaches back to the beginning of eco-art but envisions the next stage of our thinking: to heal and transform the environment for better.  These constructed wetlands help to remove excess nutrients from water by exposing the water to microbial processes facilitated by the plants and organic matter of the soil. They work to improve water quality and produce much needed wetland habitats for fish and other water creatures, while reminding us of the roots of land art.

 

A fixed matrix of mud and basalt rock are the primary components of Smithson’s installation. Spiral Wetland, however, is floating and flexible creates an island habitat of native plants.

Lake Fayetteville is an urban lake heavily polluted by nutrient runoff from farms and over-fertilized lawns. By combining engineering with the forms of land art, Spiral Wetland shows a way to treat this water pollution with a visually compelling solution.

Floating wetlands have been recently used for water treatment in New Zealand, Australia, China, Singapore, Canada and the United States. They are a form of bio-mimicry that recreates the natural processes at work in a typical wetland.

These constructed wetlands help to remove excess nutrients from water by treating the water with the bacteria growing on the roots of the plants.

These floating islands of native rushes make protected habitats for many species who live in the lake. Turtles and shorebirds all found refuge on the Spiral.

With a great deal of volunteer labor and support from the Walton Art Center, the floating wetland was installed with kayaks and fishing boats.

Over the course of a growing season, the plants grew substantial biomass, extending their roots and leaves.

The Walton Art Center’s flyer elaborates how Spiral Wetland alleviates Fayetteville Lake’s issue of too many nutrients.

The Spiral Wetland was a favorite spot for fisherman because the fish lived in the tangle of roots below the floating mat.

After years of being haunted by Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, it seemed like time to remake that form in a more generative and kinder to the landscape. After studying floating wetlands, and finding their forms dull and mattress-like, the artist wondered how to mesh the function of floating wetlands with the beauty of a natural form. The artist took this masculine mark in the landscape and reformed it through a feminist lens, creating a project that was supportive of environmental service.