Between a Rock and a Void Place

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David Byron

David Byron is a software developer working for the military-industrial complex. At Popehat, he writes about art, language, theater (mostly magic), technology, lyrics, and aleatory ephemera. Serious or satirical poetry spontaneously overflows from him while he's recollecting in tranquility. @dcbyron

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37 Responses

  1. Gene says:

    Suppose I'll jump into that rock garden and make a snow angel.

  2. Mercury says:

    "At the Zen garden, only the monks tread among the stones while others look at the display from a space delimited for that purpose. Levitated Mass poses no such limitations; it invites a kinetic engagement that people routinely accept. In this respect, Heizer's sculpture blurs the distinction between the artwork and its observers."

    …but the distinction between hustler and sucker is pretty clear here. $10 million it cost to create this “art” work which just so happens to be indistinguishable from a mistake (Uh…we were rolling the boulder along the ridge and then…). Now, I happen to be a rock guy, I like to build stone walls and other things with rocks and I am frequently seen collecting interesting specimens –as large as possible- for future landscaping or other projects. Zen rock gardens aren’t quite my thing but I get it. I like rocks and I really like big rocks.

    But “Levitated Mass”, like almost all postmodern (or whatever the hell stage we’re supposed to be in now) installations is a pointless, ugly and costly joke. The boulder and the walls it connects aren’t even a good fit. He has these even uglier braces underneath the boulder that scream: *this is a feature not a bug – no really!*

    The whole thing looks like a conduit between terminals at Baghdad International…after it was bombed. Any number of halfway creative people with access to good raw material and some heavy equipment could have put together something way cooler than this for a fraction of the price. FAIL.

  3. David says:

    @Mercury Those wondering whether Zen gardens and rock installations have a future need look no further than Babylon 5. At least until the 23rd century, their currency abides!

    Delenn contemplates her spatial oneness

  4. AJ says:

    It's been 25 years but I remember Ryoan-ji quite well. My first thought was, infinite pairs. The longer I observed it, the stronger the theme became. One group with one branch, one rock with one tree, and so on.

    It also was not the same where the design was deliberately incorporating another sightline, as in other style gardens, but felt more organic.

  5. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    I'm torn. I can see a connection between "Levitated Mass" and the Zen garden, and they both resonate with me. On the other hand, I have seen far too many pieces of 'art' like Isamu Noguchi's "Portal"

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hanneorla/3827602542/

    which strike me as nothing much, for one hell of a lot of money.

  6. David says:

    Are you saying the cake is a lie?

    For the joy of The Balance Stone, I'll forgive him Portal.

  7. Laura K says:

    {The whole thing looks like a conduit between terminals at Baghdad International…after it was bombed. Any number of halfway creative people with access to good raw material and some heavy equipment could have put together something way cooler than this for a fraction of the price. FAIL.}

    Mercury…wow…just…wow. I have seen some sorry-ass comments in my short time of reading blogs. I've seen comments more hateful than yours, or less intelligent…but…wow. I think you have a problem with your brain being missing. You may want to look to that.

    At least the monks would forgive you if they saw this because of their compassion for things far worse than your attitude.*

    I add, in an act of embarassing but necessary optimism, that if you were kidding, I apologize for not picking up on the snark.

  8. Andrew says:

    "Govern your interpretations accordingly."

    Can you make this the new Popehat subtitle?

  9. Laura K says:

    Ok. Cough. MY brain was clearly missing as I thought you were talking about the original garden.Mercury, I am sorry…

    "From the moment I was born, I made my first mistake; I have been learning ever since." (Ganesh, Mahabarata).Man for my sake I hope that is true…

  10. Narad says:

    'Crepuscular' really doesn't get enough play.

  11. BCP says:

    Ken goes on a posting hiatus and it really classes up this place. I'm ambivalent about this.

  12. David says:

    Yeah, he's a vulgarian. But what can we do? He's our vulgarian, bless his pate, and we loves him.

  13. TPRJones says:

    Not all things that can be contemplated are necessarily worth contemplating.

    I am now going to go contemplate a plate of nachos. This is more my speed.

  14. Mercury says:

    Laura, of course I was talking about 'Levitated Mass' (the name is a gross conceit all by itself if that rock was actually eased down into place and not raised up). I’m cool with Zen gardens as I thought I made clear.

    And David, I’m also totally down with the majesty and permanence of colossal stonecraft of all kinds – which makes this thing all the worse. Future civilizations will not hesitate to note that works like this immediately preceded the massive, self-induced economic collapse that currently lies just ahead.

  15. David says:

    So you're saying you don't care for it?

  16. Laura K says:

    Again, Mercury sorry.

  17. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    On consideration, I think that Levitated Mass does have a certain something, if only a sly sense of humor. I can get behind it being compared to the Zen garden. What irks me is the Arty Intellectuals who insist that 'Art installations' like it are comparable to Michelangelo's Pieta.

  18. Damon says:

    Always loved the japanese gardens, this one in particular. Note the use of "background" material (the proper japanese term escapes me but equates with "borrowed scenery" or something).

    Visiting this Zen garden is on my bucket list. BTW, the Japanese garden in Portland Oregon has a nice one.

  19. David says:

    What irks me is the Arty Intellectuals who insist that 'Art installations' like it are comparable to Michelangelo's Pieta.

    @C. S. P. Schofield

    We've got an app for that!

  20. David says:

    @Damon You're right about "borrowed scenery", and shakkei may be the term you have in mind.

    Kyoto is definitely bucket-worthy, not only for Ryōan-ji (which I also haven't yet visited), but also for the day trip to Naruto for the strange and wonderful and oh-so-Japanese Ōtsuka Museum of Art!

  21. Maybrit says:

    @Damon: If you do go to Kyoto, I can recommend going off-season. SUmmer is hot and muggy and full of people. I went in the late fall (autumn leaves!) and Jan-Feb, and had the gardens to myself. This means that instead of shuffling along with the crowd, you can sit at the various vantage points and meditate/enjoy the gardens. There is, of course, less color!

  22. Aufero says:

    The problem with Levitated Mass as a work of art is partially one of location – in the L.A. area, (where it's hard to go more than a couple of miles without seeing a similar concrete trench built by civil engineers) it's reminiscent of a boulder stuck in a culvert.

  23. Corporal Lint says:

    What irks me is the Arty Intellectuals who insist that 'Art installations' like it are comparable to Michelangelo's Pieta.

    The problem is that in the 21st century it's probably impossible to match Michelangelo by doing representational art in a traditional media — a reanimated Michelangelo would not be comparable to Michelangelo. If you want to take a shot at historic greatness you have to abandon the field. It makes everything a mess. This is the tragedy of living atop 26 centuries of Western history and 700 years after Giotto.

  24. Gavin says:

    @Corporal Lint,

    Yes, it seems like so many things have already been done that significant changes/advances seem unlikely going forward. I take comfort in know that previous generations have said the same thing and been proven wrong. I do not know how we'll be proven wrong, but my hope is that we are, and soon.

  25. Corporal Lint says:

    Oh, there will be tremendous changes in the art world going forward, tremendous advances (if we can use that word). This is obvious. I just don't think they'll be in the area of representational art in traditional media. It's been 50 years since we've seen a historically significant "advance" in the area, back to Lichtenstein/Warhol-era pop art. Unless you count photorealism, I guess, which proved to be something of a dead end. The point is that if I were drunk right now I could convince myself that there's been less progress in representational art in traditional media in the fifty years since Roy Lichtenstein painted Minnie Mouse than in any similar slice of time since before the Ottonian Renaissance of the 10th century. That would be a mostly ridiculous argument to make, but the fact that it is not entirely ridiculous is very telling.

  26. Ariel says:

    You might also look at Amano's photographic work in freshwater aquaria.

  27. David says:

    Bishop Bernward's doors rocked the house.

  28. theparsley says:

    You know, it's possible to say you don't care for a work of art without saying "It's not art!" If I read a book I think is awful, I don't feel compelled to tell everyone that it's not a book, or even that it's not worthy to be called a book, that it was a disgraceful waste of money to print it, etc. etc.

    I realize that this is in a way a profoundly elitist view, because most people don't have the means or ability to do it except locally, but I really think it's necessary to experience a work of art in person (and take some real time with it) before you can really evaluate it. Photos certainly don't tell you enough about a sculpture. But I feel that way about paintings, too.

    I haven't seen Levitated Mass yet even though I live in Los Angeles (I well remember the huge hype surrounding The Boulder being elaborately moved all the way from Riverside), so I haven't formed an opinion. The photos I've seen haven't been very impressive, but I don't think I've seen *good* photos. I do share the concern that the trench bit where you walk through seems uncomfortably evocative of our city's many drainage channels. And it's not like it's going to patinate over time (though the boulder might) – it's hard to like the way concrete ages. We'll have to see, because the dimension of time is lacking in a new work.

    How interesting or challenging would a new artwork be if everyone immediately loved it?

  29. David says:

    "…pointless, ugly and costly joke. The boulder and the walls it connects aren’t even a good fit. He has these even uglier braces underneath…."

    "The whole thing looks like a conduit between terminals at Baghdad International…after it was bombed."

    "I’m also totally down with the majesty and permanence of colossal stonecraft of all kinds – which makes this thing all the worse."

    "On consideration, I think that Levitated Mass does have a certain something, if only a sly sense of humor."

    "The problem with Levitated Mass as a work of art is partially one of location – in the L.A. area, (where it's hard to go more than a couple of miles without seeing a similar concrete trench built by civil engineers) it's reminiscent of a boulder stuck in a culvert."

    "The photos I've seen haven't been very impressive, but I don't think I've seen *good* photos. I do share the concern that the trench bit where you walk through seems uncomfortably evocative of our city's many drainage channels."

    Heh.

    You all make a pretty good argument for the cleverness of the work and it's undeniable utter suitability to the look, feel, and state of contemporary Los Angeles. But I'm still not convinced. Keep selling!

    Shakkei! Shakkei!

  30. AJ says:

    The shakkei of the Levitation Mass piece. One interpretation of shakkei might be borrowed image which includes ideas. It's all about the engineering. Los Angeles would have never exploded if not for the Aqueduct, which was a profound bit of engineering, and overcame a few large masses of rocks.

    I think it well represents the idea of human ingenuity overcoming obstacles, but the piece itself indicates, eventually nature wins. Gravity.

  31. Damon says:

    @ David and Maybrit,
    Thanks for the tips! I always try to go on "the shoulder" of the busy seasons. :)

  32. Mercury says:

    Actually David my argument is for the cleverness of the artist and the foolishness of the patron. Surely there's a classy Japanese term for that too.

    But I don't contest its suitability to LA.

  33. M. says:

    @theparsley: My boyfriend does some kind of modern dance which looks like something out of a Charlie Chaplin film; it's supposed to go along with electronic music, but looks like it should be accompanied by the kazoo. It's called shuffling or something. I've tried it. It still isn't art to me, unless you count vague comedic value that wears off quickly when you realize the practitioners take it extremely seriously. It is art to my boyfriend, however.

    Bottom line, art is something defined by the individual. Art museums exist to collect works that are noteworthy to a larger number of people than average, either because they truly have a wider appeal or because people are sheep (Pollock's work strikes me as fitting in this category). If it doesn't speak to me personally on a deeper level, or do so to another person in a way that I appreciate empathically, it isn't art to me. I expect people to be intelligent enough to realize that the things I say are my opinion without me prefixing them as such; therefore, I'm totally comfortable saying that shuffling and Pollock aren't art.

  34. Lucille says:

    When presented with something like Levitated Mass, I like to check with the dictionary. The one in front of me claims art is defined as "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance." Does winning the most comments make it significant? Was Charlie Sheen winning because he said so? The other stuff was nice though.

  35. Gavin says:

    @Corporal Lint,

    Oh, traditional media. You mean like sketching and painting I assume? I would also be more than a bit surprised about advances there. Simply because the last floodgate of art was to throw out all rules and guidelines so that anything goes.

    Technology is what we're using now. Like computer generated movies (all but completely replaced the traditional hand-drawn genre). I'm particularly looking forward to where Oculus Rift's VR is going to take us. It's the first viable step towards enabling artists to design worlds for people to feel like they're actually in (fortunately the gaming industry is footing the bill for these advancements).

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