Beyond Land Art: Site, Body, and Self in the Work of Dennis Oppenheim, 1967-75


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Art History


Between 1967 and 1975, Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011) countered the historic preeminence of the material work of art by prioritizing site over object. He executed actions to the land or his body as a counterpoint to the space of the gallery or museum, and then exhibited corollary documentation. This juxtaposition engendered what Michel Foucault theorized as heterotopias—actual, marginal sites that converge with the spaces to which they are conceptually linked. This dissertation contends that Oppenheim positioned the fringes (his chosen sites) against the center (institutions), thereby questioning normative cultural models. It reconsiders the heterotopia as a model for assessing conceptual art, and is the first full examination of Oppenheim’s role in advancing that then-nascent movement.