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ROBERT SMITHSON: THE MONUMENTS OF PASSAIC, 1967

One Saturday in September 1967, Robert Smithson, equipped with a Kodak Instamatic and a copy of Brian Aldiss’ science-fiction novel Earthworks, took a No. 30 bus out of Port Authority, bound for Passaic, New Jersey. Passaic is, to put it mildly, an unprepossessing burg, a transit corridor between Smithson’s two childhood homes, Rutherford and Clifton. Famously, Smithson had been assisted into the world by Rutherford’s kindly pediatrician-poet, Dr. William Carlos Williams, author of the epic Paterson, which ponders the Passaic River, its falls, its power, its prehistory and history, and the social, economic, and spiritual consequences of that history. Smithson was on his way to consider the further corruption of those consequences.

He got off the bus just past the bridge that leads into town from Highway 3. He had found his first monument, the bridge itself. “Noonday sunshine cinema-ized

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