Aaron Moulton and the Ghost of the Spiral Jetty

Aaron Moulton, curator for the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, gave a lecture to students at SNC on February 20th. The event was sponsored by the Capital City Arts Initiative. Moulton moved to Utah in early 2012 to take the position of curator after 10 years in London, describing himself as an “art-world anthropologist” (a full interview from The Salt Lake Tribune is here).


(Pic of Moulton from artistsofutah.org)

Moulton had a three-part lecture that touched on the topics: The Politics of Value,The Politics of Spectatorship, and The Politics of Storytelling.

Moulton shared elements of an exhibit he curated that revolved around language, titled “Cantastoria.” One piece in that show was Archive of Dead and Dying Languages by Mexican artist Pablo Helguera. Helguera referenced Thomas Edison’s wax phonographs, making phonograph recordings of a poem, song, or joke in an endangered language. One particular piece possessed a recording of Mary Smith Jones, the last living speaker of Yaqi, a native Alaskan dialect. Helguera used the phonograph to symbolize the frailty and silence of a dead or dying language.

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Another piece in the exhibit was 50,000 lb. wall of books created by Adam Bateman. Considering himself a minimalist, Adam views “art as language,” and the way he speaks is with books. He doesn’t read these books, though – he utilizes them to build a unified structure. In a profile for seatllepi.com, he’s quoted as saying: “The primary structure of my sculptures is the text of the books, the secondary structure is the form made of books. In that way, the books actually work as signifiers (like words) and so the structured arrangement I make with them is analogous to writing.”


In a nutshell, Adam stacks these books on one another to create a larger structure. The weight of the books keeps the structure from falling apart. The only type of adhesive he uses are liquid nails, which attach the top to the rest of the piece.

Moulton also spoke of his interest in the iconic piece of “land art,” the Spiral Jetty, near Salt Lake City. He talked about bringing artists to the site to experience its beauty. Many visiting artists see it as a sort of pilgrimage – encountering this famous artwork on its real turf, instead of through Google image searches or art books. Since it only can be seen above the water line for part of the year, most visits happen when it’s submerged. Moulton says of the artists he chaperones to the site: “They have to project their Google image onto the water.” He describes each trip as both exciting and wildly disappointing.

Here’s your own Google image view:


The final exhibit he talked about was staged at an abandoned house in an unknown location. Titled Each Memory Recalled Must Do Some To Its Origins, Aaron Moulton brings the viewer into a haunted and mysterious environment through a video tour. Aaron described his piece as a digital gallery. He dreams of some unsuspecting victim entering the gallery, not knowing the horrors inside. As we watch the video, sounds of babies crying and ominous voices tickle our ears. The audience is forced though an incredibly uncomfortable space – it looks like a building that was once inhabited by some strange cult. After the tour, the natural space outside of the house is like a breath of fresh air, free from the psychosis of society. Video below:

This post was written and edited by the “Fine Art Marketing” class.

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