The Flatlands – A Weekend at Hotel Palenque


The Flatlands was first shown at Arnolfini, Bristol, UK, in July 2023 as part of OSR Projects A weekend at Hotel Palenque.

“In Simon Lee Dicker’s The Flatlands, the screen showing his film is nestled beneath the other side of the discarded tyre stack that towers up to the ceiling as viewers first enter the space. The film itself is a sustained piece of deft and subtle irony, playfully gesturing towards our predisposition to mythologise rural landscapes” 1

In 1969 artists Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt and art dealer Virginia Dwan left the ‘art-world’ for the “Western deserts and lush jungles of Mexico”2 staying at the dilapidated Hotel Palenque. In 1971 Smithson presented Hotel Palenque as a slideshow lecture to architecture students from the University of Utah, exploring ideas of entropy and de-architecturalisation, in a style accurately described by curator Neville Wakefield as ‘more stoner than statesman’.3 This work still resonates 50 years on and has been represented in galleries and publications internationally.

Exploring contemporary ideas of entropy, de-architecturalisation and edgelands in the rural landscape this work pays attention to what is airbrushed out of a collective imagination of the rural with a focus on what lies in the peripheral vision. In addition, the work speaks to the traces of the exhibition of Robert Smithson at Arnolfini in 1977, which included films presented in the same theatre space.

“Dicker’s film in many ways echoes back towards Smithson’s frustration at the dominant modes of artistic critique, constantly searching for clear meaning that can be easily packaged up. ‘You think there is a centre and there is not’4, Smithson said of the Hotel Palenque. And here, within Dicker’s film, the pastoral gaze — our centuries-long objectification of the rural landscape, neutralised in the aristocrat-inflected imaginaries of Gainsborough, Constable and their like — is carefully undermined.”5


A Weekend at Hotel Palenque’ was developed by Simon Lee Dicker for an OSR Projects takeover of Arnolfini theatre space. The exhibition took place on in July 2023 with work by Andy Parker, Sam Jukes and Simon Lee Dicker with guest writer Rosemary Shirley.

Download a digital copy of A Weekend at Hotel Palenque newspaper

Read the full exhibition review by Jack Young





1  ‘The Slow Violence of the Earth’: A Weekend at Hotel Palenque with OSR Projects. Review by Jack Young
2 + 3  Yucatan is Elsewhere – On Robert Smithson’s Hotel Palenque. Neville Wakefield
4 Taken from Robert Smithson’s lectures on Hotel Palenque recording, which can be found online here: <>
5 ‘The Slow Violence of the Earth’: A Weekend at Hotel Palenque with OSR Projects. Review by Jack Young