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NON-SITE UNSEEN: HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION

“There’s nothing to see. But if you want to head out there, more power to you,” said Nickie Smith, an employee of the Golden Spike National Historic Site visitor center, as she handed over a poorly photocopied map, her sidelong glance issuing a perceptible warning. This was an inauspicious way to begin the final leg of a ten-day journey.

Late last summer my friend Andrew Leitch and I drove from New York to Promontory Summit, Utah, in search of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, 1970. I still can’t say exactly why. Maybe it was the way Smithson pronounced “water,” northern New Jersey style, as he incanted his truth-to-materials recipe—“mud, salt crystals, rocks, water”—in the drony, stoned-sounding voice-over to the film he made of the then new jetty in the murkily reddish northern part of the Great Salt Lake. Or maybe it was simply the draw of the surrounding landscape, “the desiccated,

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