At first, it was Earth Art, Earth Works, environmental art. Then, perpetuated as Land Art, it became an artistic approach with powerful impetus, vision and sacrifice. The movement appeared as a modest intention in the sketches and experiments at the beginning of the 1960s and materialised as an alternative artistic expression both in the USA and Europe at the end of the same decade. The initial intention that led to the launch of the movement originated in a critical approach of both the institutional perspective and the reassessment of the creative process and the way the artists work in their studio using various methods, sometimes considered out of date. At the same time, the new, invigorating air within the art world also suggested an attempt to bring man closer to nature, making him reflect on metaphysical dimensions through the experience of matter, which was presented more like thought than a simple geological element.

The Land Art artistic approach took shape in the works of American pioneers such as Robert Smithson (Spiral Jetty, 1970), Michael Heizer (Double Negative, 1969) and Walter de Maria (The Lightning Field, 1977). These three examples share a revealing attitude not only through their monumentality, as objective experience, but also their theme, which follows an existential thread. Other Land Art representatives are Nancy Holt, Dennis Oppenheim, Ana Mendieta; in Europe – Joseph Beuys, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy.

As a historical reference point for most of these artists, one should mention the prehistoric complexes built in open air, like the Stonehenge monument in England (3,000-2,000 BC), the vertical stones at the Callanish Neolithic Temple (the Isle of Lewis), the Nazca Lines in Peru (about 500 BC), cave paintings etc.

A special type of Land Art discourse is that of Agnes Denes, whose works relate certain natural elements to the social and political factor and man’s administrative and territorial organisation, the resulting contrast conveying a message about the current situation. Agnes is part of the artists involved in the 2021 Art Encounters Biennial in Timișoara, like other artists who show inclination towards Land Art or are at least close to this movement.

A relevant stage in the cultural and artistic history of the above-mentioned city is the active period of the Sigma Group in the 1970s, more precisely their experimental interventions in the environment –the banks of the Timiș or Timișoara’s central parks. Their activities took place either within the group or together with the Fine Arts High School students taught by Ștefan Bertalan, Constantin Flondor and Doru Tulcan – a didactic approach through which the teachers shared their artistic research work in class.

A significant moment in recent art history, relevant not only to Land Art and other alternative practices, but also to the entire curatorial perspective and the organisational artistic approach, is the exhibition entitled When Attitudes Become Form, organised by Harald Szeemann at Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland in 1969. In this exhibition, the working process, movement and attitude prevailed over form and the artistic object. The expression had an extremely plain and natural nuance, the artwork was in control and the viewer fell to the second place. Lawrence Weiner stated that it is not the artistic object that is unique and precious, but the idea, which can be neither altered nor lost.

A few years before the pandemic we are coping with now, the Romanian sculptor Ovidiu Maitec said in an interview that, “We are accomplices to a crisis, a biological crisis, a national crisis, a world crisis, a universal crisis. Given his condition and concerns, man holds an extremely fragile position.” Since then, things have come tumbling rapidly one upon another. Consequently, artists are left not only with their freedom, but also the responsibility to be honest, genuine and at the same time sensitive to those who passed on the torch to them.