© Estate of Dennis Oppenheim/photo Bruce M. White
Trench Fever
Dennis Oppenheim, American, 1938–2011
Dennis Oppenheim, American, 1938–2011

Trench Fever, 1974

Photo-documentation: color photography and text; location: shoreline near Newark, NJ: dug-out sand
Image: 101.6 x 152.4 cm. (40 x 60 in.)
Text: 25.4 x 152.4 cm. (10 x 60 in.)
Courtesy Dennis Oppenheim Studio
A pioneering land and performance artist, Oppenheim staged more than one dozen ephemeral interventions in outdoor locations in New Jersey–most of them spoiled and inhospitable–throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Trench Fever exemplifies the artist's interest in urban and industrial decay as well as language and the sculptural possibilities of drawing.

The phrase "trench fever," drawn on a beach on the outskirts of Newark, reprises an earlier project that Oppenheim intended for a 1969 exhibition on Long Beach Island. Here, the artist planned to create an "infected zone" by filling trenches with poison and kill traps, tainting a healthy host with foreign bodies. Contamination is a variation on a theme that long preoccupied Oppenheim: transmission or translocation.

The Fertility of Desolation