Jan Robert Leegte, Remake of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty in Minecraft (2013).
Jan Robert Leegte’s title leaves little to be explained. From sunrise to sunset in 12 minutes, and from a fixed angle, we see the famous Jetty rendered in blocky pale yellow over equally clunky, rich blue water, below slow-moving Tetris-shaped clouds. With digital facility, Smithson’s piece has been taken from its Utah site and injected into the non-site of Minecraft. Gone are the inconsistent pinks, reds, and purples of numerous Jetty photographs. They’ve been replaced with the bright color blocks of a Minecraft world.
Minecraft—in which users are encouraged to “build anything they can imagine”—provides an ideal support for Leegte’s Jetty. The game has an inherent Romanticism, evidenced by its creation of an open, natural world, in which players wander, survive, marvel, and build. (Nicholas O’Brien’s video game The Wanderer (2012), may have most rigorously explored the implications of digital Romanticism.) Visually, Minecraft doesn’t disguise its particulate texture, foregrounding instead the raw pixelated material of synthesized images. The sun and moon emerge as squares from a flat horizon. The jetty itself has a too-perfect straight line and a clunky curvature, reminiscent of the balance of rough texture and precision in Smithson’s Jetty.
That Jetty is—by design—subject to the chaos of nature and decay. It was a place where, as Smithson wrote, “No ideas, no concepts, no systems, no structures, no abstractions could hold themselves together in the actuality of that evidence.” Leegte’s jetty, though, isn’t subject to that kind of change. The monitor could break or the lights could go out, but the Minecraft jetty won’t sink under water or crumble apart. It exists in an algorithmic landscape, which embraces variability within ...