Hey, all you East Coast, Washington politics-obsessed drones, I bet you entirely missed this critical story from the West Coast – from LA, Baby! It all comes down to a rock – that’s our test of American society and culture. A fine geological specimen it is. But is this a triumph? Or a shame?
What I’m talking about is the procurement of a 340 ton granite boulder and its transport some 105 miles to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on a specially designed 176-wheeled transport cradle. For art’s sake. All for a mere $10 million price tag (thankfully no taxpayer funds were harmed in the making of this story, as they say).
Levitated Mass is an artwork by Michael Heizer comprised of a 456-foot-long concrete-lined slot constructed on LACMA’s campus, upon and at the center of which is placed a 340-ton granite megalith. As visitors walk along the slot, it gradually descends to fifteen feet deep, running underneath the megalith before ascending back up. Heizer conceived of the artwork in 1968, but discovered an appropriate boulder only decades later, in Riverside County, California.
The rock parade traveled through four counties and 22 cities and is so large and cumbersome it could only be moved at night on roads closed to traffic, and then only at 5 mph. Officials also had to plan a circuitous route to avoid any overpasses, streets or bridges deemed too weak to support the transporter and cargo. Work crews from about 100 utility districts were positioned to take down traffic signs, overhead wires and other obstacles to let the rock pass and then reinstalled them after the transporter passed. During the day, the rock was shrink-wrapped for protection and parked in the middle of the road.
The rock parade took a total of 11 cold and grueling nights. The media published the route and provided daily updates to the art-starved public. Reportedly, journalists from around the world and hundreds of onlookers, armed with cellphone cameras and noisemakers, turned out to welcome the big rock’s arrival at LACMA on March 11th. And this in a city where celebs are a dime a dozen.
Here in the Northeast and upper Mid-West we already have mechanism for moving 340 ton boulders – we call them continental glaciers. And every 100,000 years or so they’ll oblige you by chugging on down from the hinterlands of Canada (no, hinterlands start north of Montreal) and start moving stuff around, including two-story hunks of granite. Glacial geologists (of which there are more around than you have any idea) call these transported boulders, “erratics.” Come to think of it, that handle could apply in the LA circumstance as well. Hmmm.
Says LA County Supervisor, Mr. Zev Yaroslavsky, "Now this rock has taken the region by storm. People can love it or hate it, but they are all consumed by it. It has the whole town talking, which is what art is supposed to do."
If LA residents get wowed over a boulder, I wonder what they would think if they saw, you know, like an entire mountain? “Oh wow man, like I thought I was consumed over that boulder, but this is like looking at a whole meal – a feast!” The concept of corralling a boulder in the wilderness, subduing it with cables, and transporting it long distances for public display? If the boulder was an animal, it sounds like we’d have the makings of a zoo. Bringing nature to the urbanites, rather than the other way around.
But back to the societal indicator question. Is what LACMA did a triumph or a shame? Private funds can flow wherever their owners choose. But a $10M rock for a display…