Friday, May 27

The Utah monolith leaves, the enigma remains | Culture


Utah State Officials, Nov. 24, next to the monolith.
Utah State Officials, Nov. 24, next to the monolith.DPA via Europa Press

Unable to make further progress in the investigation, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office in Utah resorted to citizen collaboration and disseminated on social media, on November 29, a kind of “Wanted” poster with nine suspects. : “If you recognize any of the identification wheel provided, having been in the area of ​​the strange structure the night of November 27, please let us know.” Among the suspects, surrounded by other beings with large eyes and greenish skins, were two old acquaintances: Baby Yoda, under whose delicate appearance hides enough strength and stealth to install a monolith in the desert without anyone seeing him, and ET, the no less tender and powerful creature created by Steven Spielberg in 1982. “That one asked me if I had a phone, I wanted to call home,” noted a citizen in the comments. “It sounded suspicious to me. Who doesn’t have their own phone nowadays?

Thus, with humor, and claiming that there were no reports of stolen property or other crimes, the sheriff’s office resigned from investigating the case of the mysterious metal monolith that captured the world’s attention after being discovered in a remote location in a desert of Utah. A smooth slice of silver metal about ten feet high, like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel, standing on the red earth between canyons. The object was discovered on November 18, by chance, by an air patrol that counted the heads of bighorn sheep in the area. His presence in that piece of public land was as mediatic as it was ephemeral. Last Friday night, 10 days after the discovery, four unidentified men uprooted the piece and took it away. The object, as it arrived, is gone. The questions remain.

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Like an autumnal summer snake, crawling through a world in need of diverting attention from the dramas of 2020, news of the strange object went around the globe. Kubrick’s monoliths were remembered in 2001: A space odyssey. The Banksy of the desert was dreamed of. The expectation grew even more after the news of the discovery of a similar piece in the mountains of Romania. Finally, the San Juan sheriff was forced to rectify and open an investigation together with a federal agency in charge of the management of public lands. But they have achieved nothing to date.

What is known is thanks to Ross Bernards, a 34-year-old nature photographer, who drove six hours with three friends from Colorado on Friday night to snap some photos in the moonlight, creating impressive lighting effects. with a drone and a powerful spotlight. At 8:40 p.m., Bernards explained on Instagram, when they had just finished some photos and were collecting, they heard the echo of voices bouncing off the barrel. “Four guys turned the corner, two of them advanced and gave the monolith a couple of blows,” he adds. It relented. “This is why you shouldn’t leave garbage in the desert,” they heard one of them say.

In a wheelbarrow

The alleged sculpture fell to the ground, the men destroyed it and mounted the remains in a wheelbarrow that they proceeded to take away. Bernards did not photograph the operation, fearing to confront intruders. But one of his friends, 38-year-old Michael James Newlands, was able to take some photos with his mobile. Grainy from the lack of light, they are still captivating images. Three men in dark clothes in the middle of the desert, sheltered from the night and with the light of a spotlight reflecting off an intriguing metallic structure. They also provide information: it is seen that it is a hollow structure, with an apparently superficial anchorage to the ground.

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It is the only testimony of any human intervention in the creation or destruction of the object. Although the authorities warn that the people who took it do not have to be related to those who put it. This also seems to indicate the comments heard by Bernard and his friends.

The story generated an understandable stir in the art world. In the absence of fairs and biennials, a hunk of metal in the canyons of Utah is the closest thing to a happening that fans can put to mouth in times of social distancing. The found object from the pandemic era.

Extraterrestrial life

It was speculated that it was one of the Californian John McCracken, a minimalist sculptor fond of science fiction who died in 2011. His New York gallery said at first that it could be an unlisted work by the artist, but later he told The New York Times that, after studying the photographs, they had no idea who had made the piece. McCracken’s son recalled that his father once told him about the fantasy of leaving works scattered in remote places. So, he suggests, he could have placed it there in life and no one would have noticed it until now. Avid science fiction reader, the artist was fascinated by time travel and extraterrestrial life. Speculation that McCracken traveled back in time to place his sculpture, and that the police distribute photos of aliens as suspects, would be something like the performance Definitive of the sculptor.

The object is gone. The enigma, however, remains. And maybe it’s better this way. Let them take the piece of metal, but let no one take the story from the world. Bernards himself, in a posteriori justification of why he did not try to arrest those who took the piece, assures that “they were right to take it.” “We spent the night there and, the next morning, we walked to the top of a hill from which you could see the area. We saw at least 70 cars and a plane go in and out. Cars parked on either side of the delicate desert landscape. All permanently altering the unspoiled landscape. Mother Nature is an artist, it is better that we leave art in the wild to her ”.

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