Agnes Denes (Hungarian-born American, b. 1931) Rice/Tree/Burial, 1977-79 ©Agnes Denes. Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects.
Rice/Tree/Burial was first realized in 1968 in Sullivan County, NY, as a private ritual. In 1977-79, this ritual was re-enacted at a much larger scale at Artpark in Lewiston, NY which was a former industrial dumpsite near Love Canal. Denes planted rice to represent life (the rice grew mutant due to soil toxicity), chained trees to indicate human interference with nature, and buried a letter to people in the future. The act of burial symbolized passing, reconnecting with soil and earth, and transformation. A synthesis of Land Art and performance, the project paved the way for Denes’ commitment to ecology in monumentally-scaled site works, “I do very large projects because there’s no sense doing little things in the corner to teach the world what needs to be done.”