Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Michael Heizer’s “City”

City, rising out of the lonely Nevada landscape.  Note the cement truck, for scale.  Photo by the New York Times, via Double Negative

Since the early 1970s, the artist Michael Heizer has been building a sculpture on such a massive scale that it defies the common notions of what actually constitutes sculpture.  City is a series of structures that, once completed, are anticipated to be a quarter of a mile wide and a mile & a quarter long.  As we can see in the image, their shapes recall the architectures of pre-Columbian America, but with their monochrome colours and simple shapes they also reflect contemporary hard minimalism.

From the top of one of the structures, looking back across an open square.  Photo by the NYT.

Once completed (in 2005, they were forecasting that it would be done by 2010, but the financial crisis may have intervened), it will be open to the public who will then be able to wander this contemporary mythological city, with its suggestions of temple squares, royal palaces, and defensive walls.

By any standards, this is an incredibly large structure to be built as a work of art.  What other locations or structures could be built for aesthetic rather than practical purposes?  Could Cthulhu have built R’lyeh as an artwork; perhaps “the geometry of the place was all wrong” because Cthulhu was a Cubist?  What if James Bond confronted Hugo Drax and learns that far from striking a blow in the name of his dead Fuhrer, the Moonraker is part of some elaborate piece of modern theatre, where detonating a nuclear device is just a new wrinkle on breaking the fourth wall?

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