• Misha Capnist

A Metallic Artifact Appears and Disappears

A helicopter from the Department of Public Safety that censuses sheeps found an unusual object of unknown origin among the canyons: a hunt was immediately launched on the net to find it, and understand who planted it there, and why. One of the hypothesis is that it is a work of, or a tribute to, John McCracken.

The artifact discovered, photo credit: Utah Department of Public Safety

A mysterious silver monolith over three meters high was found in late November in the Utah desert, planted in the ground between the canyons and red rocks. It was discovered by a team from the State Department of Public Safety, which was carrying out a reconnaissance of the area by helicopter to survey the Bighorn sheep, when the crew landed nearby to understand what it was all about. One of the first people to reach it - perhaps the first ever - and post the image on Instagram was David Sparks - better known to his 3 million followers as @heavydsparks - who posted videos and photos of the monolith on social networks and YouTube. In addition to the authorities, however, many users also advise against going in search of the monolith, because the area is very dangerous and because it would be necessary to cross the Navajo reserve and the Ute reserve, which at the time were in a tight lockdown due to Covid-19. According to the defense and aeronautical expert H.I. Sutton, the monolith would have been positioned 4 or 5 years ago: it is present in Google Earth images from October 2016.

Video from https://www.instagram.com/p/CH_b-KVAgUE/


But who put it there?

The authorities, in fact, remain convinced that it is an artistic installation, consisting of a block of stainless steel, welded with rivets made of human production, which could date back to the 40s. Since building structures or works of art without authorization on federal land is illegal, the department was considering whether to preserve it or remove it. According to The Art Newspaper, the object would resemble the sculptures of minimalist artist John McCracken, who lived in New Mexico until his death in 2011. "The gallery was divided on the monolith," revealed to The Times David Zwirner, owner of the gallery of the same name that represents the artist and which he believes may be more a tribute to McCracken by a colleague. "The pristine nature of the American Southwest has a rich tradition of land art, particularly works that convey magic and mystery precisely because they are inaccessible or difficult to locate, from the Spiral Pier created by Robert Smithson in 1970 on the Great Salt Lake of Utah to Michael Heizer's Double Negative installed in 1969 on the border between Utah and Nevada," clarifies The Art Newspaper.

John McCracken, Mordant 2007, Mirror Polished Stainless Steel, source: carlsonbakerarts.com/john-mccracken-mordant

Another hypothesis, also published on Reddit and spread by The Verge website, involves the contemporary artist Petecia Le Fawnhawk, whose sculptures are often made in desolate places and are reminiscent of the block of steel. "I can't say it's mine, but I certainly thought of installing secret monuments in the desert," Le Fawnhawk replied to the American site. No one, therefore, seems to be the author of the mysterious monolith, or at least no one wants to attribute the authorship to it...

‘Ιn search of truth’. Photo © Petecia Le Fawnhawk.

But on November 29th, the Utah Land Management Office advised that it had received credible reports that the object had been removed by strangers on Friday night. The office "did not remove the property, which is considered private property," says in a statement: "We do not investigate such crimes, which are handled by the local sheriff's office". News of the structure is lost until last December 1st, when the artifact about 4 meters high and entirely made of metal appeared in Romania - Europe: a vision that immediately sent the Net into raptures. It was found on a hill near the lake of Batca Doamnei, near Piatra Neamt, on the eastern border of the country. A spectacular location as the metal block is oriented towards the Ceahlău Massif, one of the seven natural wonders of the country and a mountain considered sacred by the Dacians, the ancient local population.

On closer inspection, however, the structure is not exactly identical. The American one had a smooth and glittering surface, this instead appears less clean in design and more rough. And so here are other hypotheses to come forward until the disappearance also from Romania (they let know from the Daily Telegraph). It could be the result of a joker who had it executed in a hurry by a blacksmith or the third chapter of a saga that is having the merit of distracting us during a time when fantasy and amazement are our best companions of the day.


At this moment when we write, it desappeared from Romania and makes its appearance in California, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, on Route 101. This deepens the mystery of the metal monolith that for weeks now appears and disappears suddenly in different parts of the world. Who is behind this installation that has become a global case?

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