Tom Vanderbilt's article Desert of Dreams posted on Oct.3 by Chelsea reminded me of Michael Heizer's current project located somewhere near Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The project consists of several massive structures built of stone, steel, and earth. Some of the structures are 80 feet high and a quarter mile long. Heizer began construction on City in 1970 and is expected to finish by 2010. Currently the site is closed to visitors.
Heizer's structures imitate the cold war structures Tom Vanderbilt mentions in his article Desert of dreams. The large, blank facades of earth reinforced with sterile concrete indicate a defensive function, similar to a bomb shelter. In the second image, the arangement of narrow spaces between huge concrete wedges resemble the slots in castle walls from which archers could fire while being protected, or shields designed to deflect a blast.
City was begun in the early seventies as an attempt to distil everything that had come before it into a single work of art. It is meant as a sort of relic to convey the accomplishments and feelings of humanity to later generations. Int his way the structure is defensive. It is designed to defend itself against the attack of time and possible warfare.
Relating to the defensive posture of City, I would also like to comment on Donald Judd's Marfa, Texas. Marfa is a small town near the Mexican border in west Texas. Beginning in the seventies Donald Judd, a well known sculptor, began to purchase buildings in Marfa including an old bank and a decomissioned air force base. Judd eventually bought most of the town turning the buildings into galleries for like minded artists to install their work permanently without interference. Dan Flavin, David Rabinowitch, and John Chamberlain are among the artists featured in Marfa.
Judd has since died but Marfa remains... exactly as he left it. Judd left New York in search of a place where he could place art works that he deemed valid permanently on view. Judd was a strict minimalist. He is best known for making variations on a box in various materials. As he watched tastes change and art that he considered bad gain popularity he resolved to create "stronghold" where pure minimalism could live on. When visiting Marfa one gets the sense that tha artwork is quietly waiting to be reborn, weathering the storm until a time when people realize their mistake in turning away from the purity of Judd's boxes. Though Marfa has none of the mega-structures of City or any accoutrments of a millitary installation (even the air force base has glass walls where concrete used to be) the protectionist ideology is still felt.
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