Robert Smithson's monumental work of landscape art is being threatened by oil-drilling interests. On the one hand, I agree that this is a travesty & a threat to the existence of a pure & beautiful work of art. Anyone with a shred of aesthetic consciousness ought to contact Jonathan Jemming in Utah (801-537-9023 email@example.com)Â referring to application No. 8853 to protest the short-sighted writing over of this work of art with a work of commerce that is contrary to long-term human interests. But we need to think carefully about what we are protesting. I have been struck by the simplistic rhetoric of some of the appeals to "save the jetty." Art, especially an art like Smithson's, requires an ability go think past easy categories such as the aesthetic. Writing over Spiral Jetty with access roads & pipelines & cranes is, yes, akin to slashing an old master painting with a knife. An act of vandalism. And yet, it is, on the other hand, consistent with the conception of Smithson's art that the jetty would be threatened, even "ruined" by future human activity. Landscapes are inevitably changed by human activity -- I've seen whole mountainsides in Vietnam terraced into twelve-foot wide rice fields -- and Spiral Jetty will be transformed by human activity over generations. So I don't think we can rightly consider Smithson's great work of art in the same way we consider an old master canvas. That is, it cannot be "conserved" in the same way. And this is not just a matter of practicality or of semantics, but is inherent in the conception of the work. The question then becomes, What sort of change ought we to sanction? "We" being the citizens of a putatively free polity with an interest in our own human future. But the work itself asks us to consider the grounds of our defense. Do we act merely to preserve a pure aesthetic object in its (Kantian) "uselessness" or to defend a site that focuses our attention on the political implications of our interventions in the physical world? I think the purpose of Smithson's project is to call our usual ideas about art into question. His great work of art provides us an opportunity to act in favor of decency & beauty, but that also forces us to think past the usual and comfortable categories into which we put works of art. I suppose there is an opposing argument -- that we ought to preserve Spiral Jetty until "nature" sinks it into the geology of its location -- but such an argument assumes that we are not part of the natural order. An interesting thought experiment might be to ask ourselves under what circumstance might it be acceptable to alter or impinge upon Spiral Jetty.