found art

I’m starting a new category of post today – it’s called Found Art. What IS art – it is a question that has been asked many times before but what the hell, I’m going to go right ahead and ask it all over again.

My interest in what I am going to call found art comes in part from thinking about how people might respond to the work I have been doing if they came across it while they were out walking. Would they see it as art? Maybe, maybe not. I am interested in the many ways in which people engage with the physical world as a form of expression or creativity – and I’m not just talking about professional artists – anybody. Perhaps it is time to illustrate so you know what I’m talking about. All of today’s pictures were taken near Depot Beach in southern NSW recently (and none of them were made by me).


So who made these piles of rocks? Did they think of it as art, or of themselves as artists? Actually, having passed this spot several times over a couple of days I happen to know it was added to over time (and I think by different people). What is the impulse that causes some people, when confronted with a pebbly beach, to make piles of rocks? You see it a lot on mountain tops too – and again the additive process – once one person makes a cairn, others will feel compelled to add to it. This is actually formalised within religious practice in some places, such as the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau.


This pebble face was just plain funny! A lot of this beach art seems to be akin to doodling, but with material things instead of drawn lines of pen or pencil. So you can start to see the kinds of things I’m going to be posting under this new category. Of course graffiti might qualify, but that’s not really what I’m interested in here – for starters it is ubiquitous and has been discussed at length already by others – it is also a more self consciously creative activity. I’m interested in the stuff that is a little more ambiguous in it’s purpose or creative intent. Today’s pics are fairly clearly the work of someone being creative – other posts will be more of a stretch.


Was this made by an Andy Goldsworthy fan? Or an expression of the innate human impulse to sort and categorize?

I’d love to hear your comments on this post. (I welcome comments on any post of course). Have you seen something lately that might be found art? Send me a pic and I’ll post it up.


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5 Responses to “found art”

  1. wreathconnection Says:

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  2. art ?? « art out and about Says:

    […] I introduced the idea of ‘found art‘, the examples I gave were quite clearly ‘creative’ in intent.Β  Today’s […]

  3. sean Says:

    this series of photos was highly inspiring to me, in particular the rock sorting and stacking(and smily faces). these simple photos raised some serious questions of my opinion of creative output. when is it intended or not? why is it intended? is it more common to be creativly expressive in certain places or at certain times?(like at the top of mountains or at the beach) is unintended creative output better in some ways than intended creative output? or are we always searching for some way to express ourselves?
    what started as a history report on romanicism has led me to your pictures which have really helped me develop as a casual artist/poet and helped me to try and be more aware of my own creative output.

  4. kendrajk Says:

    First, I really like your blog, just stumbled upon it and still browsing through it πŸ™‚
    I like found art, although the type of ‘found art’ in these photos and the others you’ve posted, I’ve at least usually heard it refer to as Earth Art(earth works) or Land Art, don’t think I’ve heard it called found art before. I generally use the term found art when doing a mixed media thing on paper and adding “found objects and art” onto the page. But its cool and works in this instance too!

    I think earth art / found art is amazing and I actually did a project on it for school once. Here are some of the photos that I took for my own Found Art, it was a bit more planned than those photos there feel free to take a look for inspiration or whatever πŸ™‚

    Also, here’s another earth artists that I found on Flickr that does amazing work on the earth and then creates great photographs to document them

    One piece of earth art that I love and was pretty famous was the Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson
    and i think the most famous was the Surrounded Islands by Christo and Jeanne-Claude

    Not sure if you knew about any of those or not but I love to share πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading my ramblings if you did lol

  5. Pete McLean Says:

    Hi Kendra
    Thanks for all your comments. I should try and clarify a little what I mean’t by my “found art” tag. It wasn’t really meant as a serrious deffinition of a type of art to rival terms like earth art or land art, and certainly some of what I labled as found art could fit into these terms. (And I am most certainly aware of the history of land art like Robert Smithson et. al.). What I was interested in when I was posting things I labled found art was the ambiguous boundary between what is art and what isn’t. Firstly it was quite literally things I found, stuff I stumbled accross on walks etc. Most of this stuff was not really made as art (or at least I don’t think so?) and yet it looks a lot like land art in some respects. Some of it WAS being conciously creative, like the pebble arrangements in the first post, but others were for another purpose alltogether, like the bike ramps crafted from red soil hidden in overgrown parkland. The creators made it as a place to do jumps on their bikes, but I looked at it (and presented it on this blog) with land art as my reference. I guess I was reflecting on the fact that lots of people make creative things and leave them in public spaces as trace of their prescence, and I kind of wonder who they are. Much as I hope others react when they discover the land art that I leave lying about from time to time.

    Another thing I should perhaps clarify. When I make ‘land art’, I do photograph it and present some of it here. These photograghs are not, however, the art. The art is the act of intervening visually in the world, the stuff I leave lying on the ground – ussually disturbed by wind or rain or walkers fairly quickly. The photographs are but a record of that event, lthough I do try to make them as attractive as I can. I don’t have any training in photography though and don’t think of myself as a photographic artist, though I take a lot of snaps.


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