I received e-mail today from Dia Art Foundation asking about my trip to Walter De Maria's Lightning Field. Coincidentally, the e-mail came as I was scanning photographs from that trip. It made we wonder if someone was looking over my shoulder, as they have an incredibly restrictive photography policy you can read about here. What caught my eye was the update at the bottom of the Boing Boing posting:
Many have written to point out that the Lightning Fields grounds comprise an art installation, which *is* copyrightable. But the point is still sound -- installing art in a field doesn't make the field copyrighted. What's more, copyright doesn't prohibit noncommercial personal photography of a work, nor photography for the purpose of criticism, nor the incidental capture of art in a photograph of, for example, lightning (or a photo of your pal standing on a particular patch of dirt making a funny face).
So in light of that bit of information, here is a critique along with some incidental captures of non-commercial personal photography from my trip to New Mexico. In addition to the image above, I've posted some more to my Flickr page here.
I made a comment to my fellow travelers while we were there. It dawned on me that money--in addition to buying privacy--buys personal space. The apartments of wealthy people in Manhattan are bigger than the apartments of the merely rich. People who live in gated communities not only get security, but they don't get distractions from riff raff walking by, dropping off junk mail, or selling religion. For the fifteen hundred dollars the six of us paid for the cabin, we got something quite rare indeed: privacy without fences. On the mesa where the Lightning Fields is located we were the only people. Other than our cabin, a water windmill and a shed, there were no signs of civilization: no paved roads, no telephone poles, no fences, and no signs.
That being said, the 24 hours we spent there gave us pause. There was time to slow down, watch the clouds, and witness the subtle changes in light reflecting off several hundred stainless steel poles. It also gave time to six busy people to talk, eat, watch, and wander without the distractions that come from today's communication devices.
Having been to a few other earthworks, and to the Lightning Fields before, I would say that the isolation is a considerable portion of the work. A few years back I visited Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels on the Winter Solstice, and I had that same type of experience, with nothing as far as the eye could see, alone for the entire day.
From what I've heard from the caretakers, it's rare for anyone to actually see lightning hitting a pole. The woman who's been driving people up to the mesa daily for thirty years said that she's seen it happen only three times. Visually the poles will melt into the surrounding landscape with the sun overhead. During sunrise and sunset, an orange glow hits the poles from the side, making them stand out. The site is quite beautiful, the enchilada casserole quite tasty.
August 11, 2006
Sent into cyberspace by mbuitron at 9:27 AM