LOS ANGELES — When this guy comes to town, he brings with him an entourage of hardhat-wearing men, baleful security officers, news teams and draws crowds of local residents and enthusiastic out-of-towners (including me). A rock star, you say? You bet.
This week’s celebrity in the spotlight is none other than a 340-ton, two-story granite chunk of rock making its way from Riverside County to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it’ll be the pièce de résistance to notoriously reclusive artist Michael Heizner’s Levitated Mass exhibition. Its 105-mile journey, a trip that would normally take just under an hour, has turned into a 10-day media feast because the rock’s girth can only safely travel about 3 to 5 miles per hour at night, on non-congested roads. Much like a star making a grand, elaborate entrance, the rock has lured art lovers, nosy neighbors, families and regular rubberneckers from all parts of town.
Rowland Height residents Arlene and Randy have known about the rock’s arrival for a couple of months now. “The rock’s long, slow journey is almost like performance art,” says Arlene.
Victorville resident, Barbara drove about 70 miles just to see the rock and perhaps earned herself five-minutes of fame while being interviewed by an ABC7 news team.
One grandmother dragged her three grandkids out of the house, ostensibly to experience a work of art in the process of being made. “My grandchildren don’t know what they’re seeing,” she says amid pleas to turn around and go home already.
Dennis of Time Warner on the other hand looks at the rock almost like a proud surrogate parent. He’s lived with the rock for months now, adjusting cable poles higher than usual so the 196-wheel, 44-axle transport vehicle carrying precious load doesn’t get snagged. He, and a team from transport company Emmert International, has the dubious pleasure of walking beside the rock as it slowly makes it way through its 105-mile trip.
After chatting up some people by the roadside, one thing that constantly came up was not how wonderful this work of art in the making was, but how amazing the technology that was made to carry the load. This star’s appeal isn’t just about the metaphysical merits of art, but the allure of hard science. Video phones, cameras and more than a few senior citizens with a 35-mm cameras came waddling up both sides of the path. I can’t blame them; I had mine out too. Art lover or not, there’s nothing like a massive rock to have you fingering your iPhone.
LACMA is making the most of it, publishing a Gawker’s Guide detailing the rock’s many stops, deploying volunteers handing out bookmarks and pamphlets of the exhibition installation. They’ve even made a special Twitter account just for it, @LACMARock, or you can follow the associated hashtag, #LevitatedMass. Hey, if the Bronx Zoo Cobra and Honey Badger can do it, why not a rock?
Despite the levity (ha! Levitated Mass? Levity?), it’s not all fun and games. LACMA has fielded flak for spending about $5 to $10 million on a rock in an economic downturn, not to mention some environmental concerns. “Levitated Mass” is obviously part spectacle, which will eventually sit on the museum’s lawn to be gawked at indefinitely, but do you think it’s worth it?
Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” is expected to arrive at its final resting place on Saturday, March 10. You can see its day by day route and resting stops here.
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