A sculpture of red soil and rocks on top of a mirror bisected by two other mirrors.
Robert Smithson
Nonsite (Essen Soil and Mirrors), 1969

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Nonsite (Essen Soil and Mirrors)
Artist name
Robert Smithson
Date created
soil and twelve mirrors
36 in. × 72 in. × 72 in. (91.44 cm × 182.88 cm × 182.88 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis and the Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Collectors' Forum, Doris and Donald Fisher, Patricia and Raoul Kennedy, Elaine McKeon, Helen and Charles Schwab, Norah and Norman Stone, and Robin Wright
© Estate of Robert Smithson / Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

Where does this dirt come from?

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SFX: sounds of shoveling dirt, pouring dirt, dirt sifting down and falling in lumps. 



The dirt comes from Essen, Germany. And that’s important, you know? If-If we run out of dirt, this particular batch of dirt, we have to go back to Essen and gather more of it.  



You’d think: dirt is dirt. But the artist, Robert Smithson, was interested in taking the very essence of one place, and bringing it to another. I’ll let curators Sarah Roberts and Caitlin Haskell describe it.  



There is sort of a sense that … that we’re in San Francisco, but there’s a little piece of Germany that’s right here, too.  



That’s sitting right here on the floor with us, and that there’s kind of this meta-connection in some way to another place, which is where the title comes from: … Non-Site.  



And what’s also fascinating, too, is that … you feel like you’re seeing the dirt that’s in the gallery with you; but a lot of times you’re seeing the mirror reflection of it –  






It’s an illusion that looks very real. So I think stand back, take it in as a whole, and then get close.  


ROBERTS/HASKELL MELANGE: [with laughter]  

Don’t touch it! Don’t touch the dirt! Don’t touch the dirt! Don’t eat the dirt!  

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