Richard Long’s “Land Art Projects” speak a simple, universal, and ultimately archaic language.They mark routes and places, they set a location apart from its environment.There are no towns in the remote landscapes that Long passes through on his nomadic sojourns but mostly uninhabited and trackless areas. Marking sites by arranging stones has been done by people of all ages and of all cultures in order to create landmarks, to draw boundaries, and to distinguish sacred places from profane ones. The shape of the circle attains particular significance in this context.
Centre and perimeter are the basic constants of the ways and means by which human beings experience the world. Whenever towns or hamlets were founded, for instance, the “axis mundi,” the world axis, as the centre of experience for the respective collective, often played a special role as connection between terrestrial and celestial spheres. The world axis could be symbolised by a simple staff that somebody, such as a mythic forebear, stuck into the ground in a place of vantage, or else by a sacred mountain, a special tree, or an outstanding or magic appearance. It is not rare to find temples, churches, or other meeting places at such sites even centuries or millennia later. Until recent times, it was a rule that no building of a town must exceed the height of this architectonic axis between high and low in which the significance of the nexus between the secular and the divine, the power of religion and thus of its representatives manifested themselves. From the axis mundi extended the orb, the known world, beyond which the zone of the unknown, the threatening, and the demonic was thought to begin. Depending on the respective technological or cultural state of development, this zone coincided with the scope of action for that culture’s individuals:In the late middle ages, Giordano Bruno defined the hypothesis that the infinite itself is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference nowhere.