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Friday, March 16, 2012

A Rock Story: Questionable Values

       Maybe the Ninety-nine Percenters and the Occupy Movement have some things right within the mix of their unfocused ideas.   There are certain issues that some of them espouse that I am in agreement with.  There is a disparity of wealth in our society and for some it seems to be getting worse.

       Then, there is the rock story.

       There have been many things that have made me question the sanity, shall we say, or the good sense of people when it comes what they do with money.  Certain agencies of government seem to have no qualms about delegating our dollars to projects and concepts that we ourselves would deem absolute waste.  Yet it's like a person gets a position in government and when an absurd idea comes before them they will often say, "Oh that's a ridiculous idea, we should fund this with tax dollars."

        Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but it sometimes seems like this is what is going on.  I'm sure you can think of some examples of what I'm talking about.

          But back to the crazy rock story.  And I'm not talking about something some wild rock and roller ever did--those antics would be conservative and logical compared to the Los Angeles rock.

          The rock in this story is a 340 ton boulder that has been transported from a quarry in Riverside, California one hundred or so miles away to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Traversing city streets over a period of a couple of weeks as it made its way to the museum, the rock was all over the news and brought gawkers from miles around who wanted to see this rock.

          At the museum the rock will be fitted into an installation where it will appear to be levitated. Viewers will be able to walk under it and experience this amazing creation of artist Michael Heizer.

           But really, Heizer may have come up with this inane idea, but he did not create the rock and I would hesitate to call this art.  Maybe something like this might be more worthy of a science museum, but I think this is a pretty weird idea.

            For me the worst part is the ten million dollar cost of moving the rock and all other expenses entailed in setting this thing up.  I wonder how much they're paying this Heizer guy to do this?

            Granted this project is not costing the taxpayers money--presumably.   I'm sure some taxpayer expenses were incurred in the logistics surrounding the transport of the rock, not to mention possible road damage.  However, a major emphasis has been made that the rock installation is being fully funded by private donors.

           Still I can't help but wonder about this much money being used to move a big rock and make it look like it's suspended where people can walk under it.  Will those people really recognize it as "art" or something that's just kind of weird, amazing, or cool?  Art?  I think not.

            It seems like the ten million could have been better spent on things that would be more helpful to society.  If they want to spend money on art, why not fund art programs in the schools?   Wouldn't the money be better spent in developing businesses with long range plans of creating jobs and recycling more money into the economy?   Aren't there plenty of people and organizations that would be more benefited by this money than a big giant rock?

            I don't know much about Michael Heizer, but I would question some of the value of his "earth art" and silly projects like "Levitated Mass".   What ever happen to artists who took big rocks and actually carved out works of sculpture?
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42 comments:

Ash-Matic said...

Modern art is something that escapes me. Sure, you can look at anything and find wonder in it - but that's a feature of our breains, not a feature of the artist's talent. Hanging a rock? Forget the cost. Even if it was transported there and installed for free, I'd rather spend my time in the museum coffee shop looking at the patterns in the froth.

Laura Marcella said...

I agree with you that the money could've been better spent elsewhere, especially for schools and education. It's so sad to me how too many schools in our own country have outdated textbooks well over fifty years old, or worse, none at all.

YeamieWaffles said...

Amazing story mate, I'm with you on the money thing, it's honestly kind of ridiculous.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

There is a lot that passes for 'art' that isn't art. Yes it's subjective, but I've seen 'art' (especially modern art) that has nothing to do with craft and could've been done better by a five year old. The rock is a waste of money.

Jamie Gibbs said...

$10 million to move a rock?! Why didn't they just construct one out of styrofoam and call it a rock? Who the hell is going to know the difference?

And I get flak for wanting to spend £30 on the Game of Thrones boxset ...

Roxie said...

Sombody got someone else to spend ten million dollars to move a rock and call it art. Damn, I wish I could hire that person to sell my book! I'd be front and center on every airport bookstall in the world!

Liza said...

This is a difficult one. The value and interpretation of art is so subjective. Like you I would spend $10M for more worthy causes, but we are who we are in the US because people who like levitating rocks are free to spend their hard(?) earned money on them.

Jemi Fraser said...

Sometimes people spend such ridiculous amounts of money on ridiculous projects. Think how many kids could have breakfast every day for that much money *sigh*

Suze said...

I saw a petition at my local natural grocer to keep government funds from being funneled toward outlawing vitamin supplements. Supplements! I swear the devil's got his talons all over the FDA.

Jeremy said...

That much money to move a rock! I am with you, this seems more suited for a science museum than an art museum.

With Heizer's logic, I am always finding great works of art in my shoes.

Arlee Bird said...

Ash -- Patterns in the froth? That's a good one. Probably coming to an art museum near me.

Laura -- Los Angeles has a school district with huge problems. Ten million wouldn't fix them but it could have helped a lot.

Matthew -- The money apparently came from people who have so much they don't have any sense about what to do with their dollars.

Alex -- Art may be subjective but I think a lot of it is scam.

Jamie -- Disneyland has made some great fake rocks and I'll bet they didn't spend ten million to do it.

Roxie -- Ten million and they could have given you a lifetime promotion on all of your books and gotten a big return on their investment.

Liza - You're right. People can spend their money on what they want to but I think it also has to be put into perspective and return on the dollar. And I would question how hard-earned this money was by the donors or was it mostly money made on the backs of other people. There are a lot of issues that one can consider here, but I'm seeing too many other huge problems that make this project seem rather frivolous.

Jemi -- For ten million they could have provided me breakfast for the rest of my life and had millions left over.

Lee

Arlee Bird said...

Suze -- Government is getting so big that it's having to get more creative to find new things to make it bigger.

Jeremy -- Art is everywhere I guess, but that doesn't mean we should pay millions for what already exists.

Lee

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BOIDMAN ~
Your blog bit, in part, relates to something that Sig recently posted on her blog and which I responded to with a comment.

You can (or, should be able to…) read her “Miserable Mabel On Free Milk” post and my comment by clicking HERE.

As you yourself stated, there was undoubtedly some taxpayer money (taxpayer-funded employees’ time is money) spent on this project, even if the bulk of it was covered by private donors.

Regardless, in the past, there have been countless so-called “art” projects installed fully at taxpayer expense.

Sig’s post is a good one, and I tried to add some additional ‘food for thought’ from my own viewpoint.

~ D-FensDogg
‘Loyal American Underground’

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I would guess there was lots of traffic disruption caused by the transportation of the rock and that required tax dollars for extra police presence.
So many dollars are spent on projects I find ludicrous. It's frustrating to have so little voice in what happens to our tax dollars.

'Yellow Rose' Jasmine said...

This is still America (at least for a little while longer) and people can still spend their money on whatever they want. The return they get will determine if they continue to spend it on questionable things. Or maybe they're just nutty and want to go get a big rock and hang it from the ceiling. Whatever. That's capitalism at work.
And by the way, I am so grateful to capitalism- the single most successful system in history, bringing more opportunity to more people than any other idea in history. Seriously, I am so hacked that there's this idea that most money is not hard earned. Believe me, that is one giant crock. Probably bigger than this rock! I work mostly for the extremely wealthy. I see their realities which are much different than mine and I see their generosity. Would we be better off if everybody was poor? No way. I'll happily put up with some stupid ideas so I can have the freedom to pursue a better life, which by the way I have done to an astounding degree. For every story like this there are those like my family- my husband and I born dirt poor with abusive parents. Grew up working hard at school, earned an education with awards and loans that were all paid back and then some to educational charities to provide for others like ourselves. And now have worked our tails off to get to a place where we can share more than ever with those who will follow in our footsteps.
But if along the way we spend money on a few 'dumb' things, well that is our prerogative. I am so sick and tired of all the bellyaching about what people choose to spend their money on. Can you tell?!
This is a country where it used to be honorable to have made something of yourself. Where opportunity outweighs all problems and there is NO excuse to not make something of yourself. I am sick about the current cultural climate that hates on people like me. And then gives every reason for people to remain dependent on a government that wants to keep them that way. It makes me want to try to find some other country where things are just getting started and see if people can learn not to be so envious and jealous this time around... sad indeed.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee .. it's certainly questionable .. so much modern art/sculpture I think is awful .. but then if we didn't experiment we wouldn't learn ..

There are enough rush hour clashes without huge rocks in the way ..

Cheers Hilary

Arlee Bird said...

StMc-- Thanks for directing me to Sig's post. I'd heard about this story and this shed more light on it. This is very disturbing.

Susan GK-- That's part of my point. Sure, the costs incurred probably paid to disconnect power lines so this rock could pass and for any other disruptions, but I'll bet there were a lot of other services like police that had to be stepped up that weren't covered. And I'm still suspicious about the nature of some of the funding.

Jasmine -- I understand what you're saying and agree with most of it. Capitalism is a great system, but like any system human greed, corruption, and misplaced values taint the good parts. People should be allowed to become wealthy, but perhaps there should be better proportion. I'm still waiting for a decent explanation that the CEO of a failing company should make huge megabucks with plenty of perks and walk-away with a yearly bonus while payrolls are being cut and benefits rescinded. A disparity exists and its growing wider. So many examples I could cite but these might be better left for future posts. Today it's about a stupid rock.

Hilary -- Fortunately the rock was only moved during the night hours so as not to disrupt traffic. During the day the rock sat at predetermined spots while gawkers came to take pictures and marvel at the monolithic monstrosity.

Lee

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Just a quick note:

I concur with 'YELLOW ROSE' JASMINE that Capitalism is far and away the best system, and everyone is entitled to spend their own money on whatever they choose to. (You'll note I made no derogatory remark about private donors having funneled money to a museum and/or an artist for the installation of a rock.)

Now, do I personally disagree with the way some people spend their money? Sure. I would hope that someone with so much excess money might devote it to more "humanitarian" causes than for the raising of a rock in a museum. But it is God and not me who will judge such matters someday.

The point I really want to make this time is that for all the benefits that can be derived from a Capitalistic monetary system, you'd think America might actually revert to it.

You see, what opportunities still exist here are but vestiges of America's own Capitalistic society (and those vestiges are being routed as quickly as the Illuminati can manage it without spilling the beans on the action).

The truth is, the system America currently lives under is closer to Socialism than it is Capitalism, although the BEST description for it might be "CORPORATISM". America has not had a truly Capitalistic system since at least 1913 and the founding of the Federal Reserve.

We are no longer Capitalists - haven't been for a long time. But Capitalism is such a solid system that despite our move toward neo-Socialism/Corporatism, our (poorly enforced) Constitution has allowed us to continue to enjoy the remnant of our prior excellent design.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Beth said...

Wow. Why am I not surprised? But it's funny b/c my husband and I were just talking about the ridiculous things you can find in an art museum. We agreed we'd stick w/ natural history museums.

Chuck said...

Got to agree with you on this one. How many teachers jobs could have been saved for $10 million? Unless this guy is paying for the whole ball of wax, the private donors have their compass seriously out of whack. And I for one would never have the urge to visit this unless it somehow occured naturally in the environment.

Yes it is true that people can do what they want with their money...it's just sad that THIS is what they think is worthwhile.

I have often fantasized on what I would do if I won one of the huge powerball lotteries. I know I would spend a very small percentage on myself. Good causes lacking funding would be my way of being thankful for my good fortune. I mean do Buffet, Gates, et al really need MORE money?? Ironically this is somewhat the subject of my very first bolg post:

http://apackalipsnow.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-much-money-does-one-man-need.html

Shannon Lawrence said...

I think you're dead on when you say that money would be better spent on art programs and the like. I think of all that money, and all the good things it could accomplish. Just a fraction of it...

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

DEZMOND said...

superficial art like that always leaves a bitter taste in your mouth especially when you know there are so many hungry kids around us. With ten million dollars you could feed hundreds of thousands! Or build a hospital for cancer ...

becca said...

i'm not sure I understood the whole Occupy thing but i agree with you about the money

NellieVaughn said...

Art makes life worth living. Even mediocre art is better than no art. HOWEVER, I am not sure I consider rock art. And if it is art, it was created by nature, and nature doesn't charge a dime.

Arlee Bird said...

StMc-- I agree that capitalism is the best system as things stand now here on Earth and in such a system people are certainly entitle to spend as they wish, but I also think that any system no matter how good is corrupted by greed and when greed becomes the focus foolishness prevails. From what I understand of corporatism, which is not much, this is not an inclusively negative term. Perhaps "socialistic corporatism" is the best description for where we are going as your comment suggests.

Beth -- I do love art museums and there are many things that I have initially reacted to as utter foolishness but later became endeared to. Don't get me wrong--I think the Levitated Mass is very cool and interesting, the ten million dollar price tag is not.

Chuck -- The "what would I do" scenario is always a fun one to speculate on, but if it really happens ones perspective could change.

Shannon -- And that philosophy could apply to so many things, but I won't start on that here.

Dezmond -- Ten million would be a start on something like a cancer hospital and the long term benefits would be so much better than giving a small sector of people the opportunity to engage in the self-indulging wonderment of gazing at the illusion of a suspended boulder and being able to walk under it. Big deal! Now working on a cure for cancer is a big deal.

becca -- I'm not sure anyone understands the concept of the Occupy Movement, which is the biggest problem. An idea that lacks true focus becomes many things to many people and can be difficult to comprehend.

Nellie -- Truly good art is the manifestation of the human spirit, the dreams, and the history. Some modern art is more like anti-art or some imitation of what has been done better by nature. It is a statement, but not always a statement that moves or inspires us in any exciting way.

Lee

Paula Slade said...

I agree with you Lee - not exactly money well spent in these troubled financial times.

Marjorie said...

I'm in total agreement with you. There are some really amazing creations of modern art, but this is kind of ridiculous, I think it's important to create, but not to take advantage of the idiocy in the modern art community, and there is plenty of that I assure you.

Beverly Diehl said...

Art is a tricky thing. I've seen many things identified as art that left me scratching my head in bewilderment. Yet I do think the government should encourage art and to a certain extent, support it financially - art and music programs in schools, field trips to museums, etc. I don't want to be the arbiter of whether some lightly-mustached woman with a faint smile is art vs. a large rock seemingly suspended in mid=air, but I know which one I'd rather experience in person. (Or, do I?)

There does seem to be something vaguely obscene though, about spending so much money on "art" - private funds or not - when there are so many veterans who are homeless. And other really, really good causes.

Arlee Bird said...

Paula -- Thank you for backing me up.

Marjorie -- I know I've been guilty of misinterpreting the aesthetic qualities of some art, but sometimes common sense should prevail.

Beverly --I definitely believe that art and music programs should be a part of the school curriculum. Too many kids are growing up with little in the way of educated quality culture.
As far as the rock, I think it will be an amazing creation and an interesting feat, but places like amusement parks and Ripley's Museums have pulled of similar things at a much lesser cost.
There are many social issues that should take precedence to a suspended boulder illusion.

Lee

Tracy said...

I realize that most of these people who are involved in Occupy don't have jobs but how can you justify wasting so much time just hanging out and not making a living? Those are just my thoughts...

Stephen Tremp said...

Regarding your first paragraph, we are witnessing the disappearance of our middle class and much of it will not come back. Greed and incompetence are at the root. Maybe its time for another revolution.

Sig Wynne-Evans said...

I wish some of those big spenders on art would spend a bit of money on my art.

At least its not as expensive, and it is more useful.

There is a sculpture in downtown San Jose that was placed many years back. It was supposed to honor the Aztec. But when you first look at it, it looks like a pile of dog turd rather than the coiled snake that it is.

I guess you could say some art and a lot of money is spent on S@#*

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Oh my goodness, that's insane! My son was telling me about this, and all the details in transporting it, etc. Ridiculous.

Doris

obsart said...

"I don't know much about Michael Heizer (...)" Yes, you are right on that point...

If you want to learn more one of the post important artists of the 20/21th centuries, please visit: http://doublenegative.tarasen.net/

And if you want to learm more about Land Art or Levitated Mass in particular, feel free to visit: www.landart.fr

It will be better if you want to write interesting things about this subject.

Best

PS: and try to go to the desert and to read books... to enhance your article!

Alana said...

I hear you on the cost. Nutty. I did hear it's a couple decades in the making from concept to finding the right rock ... any idea on how much of that cash was spent at the time it was commissioned vs. under today's more scrupulous eye on the economy? I haven't seen the breakdown and am curious to know if the majority of the money is in the transport or was in the artists' payment when the idea originated. Would love to know if you have seen that info!

obsart said...

@Alana: "I haven't seen the breakdown and am curious to know if the majority of the money is in the transport or was in the artists' payment when the idea originated." = Off-the-subject.

Alana, do you know the price of just a little road or a building ?! Check out the sketches and the trench built on the North Lawn at LACMA and make your opinion. Moreover, check out the life of the artist Heizer. He is really not a jetsetter, closer to a priest...

http://doublenegative.tarasen.net/city.html

Arlee Bird said...

Tracy -- I've thought the same thing about not only the Occupy people but many activists in general. And they need to get a clearer message anyway.

Stephen -- I think you are right. When the whole public pension issue comes to a head I think we are going to be in for an economic meltdown.

Sig -- Maybe you could create a 640 Ton Bead work sculpture and give it some weird name and esoteric meaning and then it will be art.

Doris -- Ridiculous is probably the opinion of many.

Obsart -- (is that short for "obsolete art"? -- I'm joking, don't get upset) First of all this is not an article and my intent was not to delve into the specifics of the artwork itself or the art form in general. This is a blog post intended to entertain by expressing my impression of something that struck me as quite absurd. After all, art appreciation is subjective and I am certainly not the only one to deride the cost of this seemingly inane project. I won't deny the fascinating nature of the work, but I do think that this money could have been better invested. If Mr. Heizer would like to contact me and express his views about this topic I would be happy to provide a forum on my blog space for him to submit a guest post. Likewise, I would be happy to consider a guest post from you if you put together a quality piece. My blog is all about tossing ideas back and forth.
Thanks for visiting.

Alana -- I agree. I'm sure there are many hidden costs which are not and probably will not be disclosed.

Obsart (again)--The problem with your comparison is that Levitated Mass is not a road or a building. It is a non-functional piece that is perhaps an engineering marvel and a topic of art debate, but it serves no broader scale purpose that helps humanity in the long term. But that's my opinion and anyone is entitled to disagree and even try to convince me other wise.

Lee

obsart said...

Dear Lee,

Thanks for your reply. I'm involved in Land Art since 1994. Michael Heizer is one of the most important figure of this art movement. Land Art is Time Art (http://obsart.blogspot.fr/2012/02/time-art.html), and in some way you're right, it is Obsolete Art and this is one of the most important thing of this movement, according to me. These artists from the sixties/seventies built something not for the present time but for the future.

I don't have the time to convince you and I'm not sure I want to do it. If you want to dig out the subject (I'm not joking :-), you may visit our blog (www.landart.fr) We've been involved in Levitated Mass for several months, and we began to research information last summer.

Levitated Mass was sure to become a spectacular event, because of the engineering, but we are convinced this is far to be the main point. Levitated Mass is of course a very poetic earthwork, and thanks to the Dutch culture, we also want to connect Heizer to Magritte: http://obsart.blogspot.fr/2012/02/levitated-castle-on-its-rock-1959.html

You come back on the connection between art and architecture but it seems you're not very aware of Heizer's works and Heizer's ways of thinking. This connection is just very important, not to say crucial in his art. As to the road as an art piece, it is interesting to remember the famous experience told by the artist Tony Smith in 1966, when riding at night with some students. And we should not forget the work by the minimal artist Carl Andre, Secant (1977) http://lib.haifa.ac.il/collections/art/modern_art/artists-a/andre.html

Marc de verneuil
Founder and director of OBSART

Arlee Bird said...

Obsart-- I appreciated the reply and links. I see what you're saying. I presume this is somewhat inspired by the ancient earthworks such as the serpent mounds and effigies and symbols found in places like the Mojave Desert, South America, and throughout the world. I am aware of those types of things, have read about them, and have been fascinated about the origins and purpose of these works.

I don't deride the modern works--all well and fine. If the movement is interested in creating something for future generations to marvel at then they should be more concerned that there are future generations and if there are those generations, that they have the ability to appreciate such works.

The most amazing part of the ancient earthworks was how it was accomplished, which one would assume was done by the collective force of many humans. That is, unless the works were created with the technological expertise of extraterrestrial aliens or some advanced past race--the theories abound.

However none of this probably matters much to the homeless, the struggling, and the defeated in our society. There may be some higher aspirations our society might need to be addressing than creating things that might be a puzzle and amaze those in a far off future time.

That being said, I will try to check out the sites you recommend. Currently I am very involved in our Blogging from A to Z April Challenge (click icon at top of my sidebar for more information) and have had time for little else.

I would encourage you or any other blogger in your Land Art to enter a blog in the A to Z Challenge and provide short educational posts from A to Z explaining the Land Art movement. During the month of April you may pick up a few more devotees or sympathizers to the movement. There are several art blogs already signed on with us.

Then of course, my offer for a guest post on my blogs remains open starting in May. I'm always interested in providing a platform for those who have something interesting to say.

Thanks for your reply.
Lee

obsart said...

Another point of view, different than yours:
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s like the Pyramids. We’ll never see this again in our lifetimes. I cried when I first saw it.”
http://torontosavvy.me/tag/lacma/

PS: of course, some might say that Sandy Martin is ridiculous but I think this would be very disdainful, and not very interesting at the end. If somebody cries, it maybe means something. Think about it before to declare that Heizer's work is ridiculous or wasteful.

obsart said...

Thanks for your reply. I'm not a Land Art nostalgic. I think this movement is fascinating because it born in a context and is always topical today. For proof, check out for instance the exhibition to come at MOCA on May 27th. Amazing.

Thanks for the link to "A to Z blog". I will check out.

Best

obsart said...

If you have a look to the last video, by following this link: http://obsart.blogspot.com/2012/01/levitated-mass-2012-videos.html you will able to see that some people are also enthusiastic.