Revisiting the Quarry - Excavation, Legacy, Return explores the quarry as changing physical, social and material site within the landscape. Examining it as an actual and metaphoric container, described and bound both by its displaced material and the void (hole) that this creates.

The survey exhibition Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979 (Touring: Yorkshire Sculpture Park 2014) shows us that there is an historic precedent for artists working in the landscape and engaging with the material stuff of the earth. This process of physical and material engagement remains relevant today as we acknowledge the material nature of our culture, understanding that even the most seemingly immaterial aspects of our technological infrastructure are part of the material relations of the physical earth.

In this context the quarry, as an actual and analogous site, presents us with ways that we can consider new artistic approaches to the landscape, identify new human relations, and propose new ways to contextualise Land Art histories and legacies.


Revisiting the Quarry - Excavation, Legacy, Return considers the following areas:


Charles Danby and Rob Smith (2014)

Download Press Release

Session One:

The first session draws on the status of the quarry in relation to Land Art practice as it moves from an active site of extraction to post-industrial void, considering the terms, including the legal terms, by which new human relations are established in the quarry, as it attracts new engagement in replacement of lost industrial narratives, through environmental, social, cultural and recreational use.


Joy Sleeman
Senior Lecturer at Slade School of Art, University College London, and co-curator of Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979

Title: Revisiting the Quarry in the ICE Age

Listen 39mins:

Joy’s presentation examines a number of quarry locations used by artists including The Coldstones Cut, Yorkshire (Andrew Sabin) and Oxted Quarry, Surrey (Robert Smithson), and considers the significance of quarry sites in the history of Land Art, in relation to land reparation, and more widely in our experience of life in the Anthropocene.


Luke Bennett
Senior Lecturer in the Department of Built Environment at Sheffield Hallum University, and Project Director of ‘Owner and climber attitudes to recreational access to abandoned quarries’

Title: Encountering the Law and Land Art in Abandoned Quarries - Excavation, Legacy, Return

Listen 29mins:

Luke’s presentation explores the (feint) intertwined presence of law, proprietors and enthusiastic ‘re-energisers’ within abandoned quarries. It draws on his former experiences as an environmental lawyer advising on the decommissioning and safeguarding of extractive industry sites, and on his position as an academic and active researcher of enthusiast groups who seek access to derelict spaces for recreational, creative or illicit purposes.



Session Two:

The second session draws on current practice-led approaches to quarry sites by artists, who as active agents in the landscape have also found themselves to be temporary occupiers and users of the quarry.


Onya McCausland

Artist and co-researcher of Turning Landscape

Title: Exposed

Listen 10mins (Incomplete):

Onya’s presentation describes a journey she made in search of chalk quarries around the M25. She outlines her relation to mineral extraction and quarrying through production and manufacture processes that focus on the materiality of colour (in the context of painting) by tracing its origins in the landscape. Her presentation was read alongside two films: Draft (2014) 1 minute 26 seconds and White Earth (Migration) (2010) 11 minutes.


Charles Danby and Rob Smith
Charles Danby: Artist, writer, curator & Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, Northumbria University.
Rob Smith: Artist and co-director of Field Broadcast

Title: The Quarry

Listen 25mins:

Charles and Rob’s presentation investigates the quarry as a site of active potential in relation to exploration, artwork production and the repositioning of art historical narratives. They describe a series of recent artworks produced across multiple quarry sites connected by a single geological chalk strata cutting through the East of England. And explain that these sites are also linked by the mis-archiving of a Robert Smithson artwork made in 1969, an art historical ambiguity hidden until corrected by art historian Joy Sleeman in 2010.


Mark Peter Wright
Artist and editor of Ear Room and researcher with CRIASP, London College of Communication

Title: The un-site of sound: a continuous de-tour of place and specifics

Listen 23mins:

Mark’s presentation draws on a visit to the abandoned Swinescaif Quarry, Yorkshire in 2014. He recounts his experience, drawing on his physical and sonic investigations of the site to test fact and fiction, borders and thresholds, presence and simultaneity.,393,0,0,1,0



Session Three:

The third session was prefaced by a screening of a Skoob performance by Neal White (Portikus 2014) originally performed by John Latham. An accompanying text by Neal White was read by Rob Smith. The session considers social, legal, ethical and artistic aspects of the future quarry, extending the range of the quarry, as a marker of human impact, to a second material site, that of the moon.


Neil White
Artist and Associate Professor in Art and Media Practice at Bournemouth University, Director of Emerge - Experimental Media Research Group, and founder of the Office of Experiments


Rob La Frenais
Critic and curator at Art Catalyst, and founder of Performance Magazine

Title: Republic of the Moon. Quarrying the Moon

Listen 2mins (Incomplete):

Rob’s presentation discusses artworks on the Moon and anomalies of space law that are leading to the Moon's surface becoming a disputed territory. It draws on the announcement by the Chinese Government of its intention to industrially exploit resources on the Moon, and considers the Moon as a site for Land Art, as a heritage site, and as a future quarry.
Manifesto for a Republic of the Moon




With thanks to the speakers, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Arts Council Collection and Northumbria University for supporting and making this event possible

Sarah Coulson
Chris Dorsett
Sarah Hanson
Ysanne Holt
Oliver Moss
Natalie Rudd
Lizzie Simpson
Damon Waldock