The Lightning Field, Walter De Maria - From the archive - Domus
The Lightning Field, Walter De Maria
 

The Lightning Field, Walter De Maria

Commissioned by the DIA Foundation in the 70s, this Land Art project in a remote area of the high desert of western New Mexico must be seen for at least twenty-four hours, so as to allow participation in all of the natural incidents and incidences, from dawn to sunset.

 

From the archive / Germano Celant

Originally published in Domus 606/May 1980

My first visit to Lightning Field took about ten years. It began around 1970, when De Maria first mentioned the project to me, and ended in February 1980, with my on-the-spot inspection of the finished work, in New Mexico. In this span of time I have heard its "music", that is the images which accumulated in my mind through the talks and the descriptions of the realisation process, and which made me think of a variant of "Bed of Spikes" (1969) taken to the macroscale of "Mile Long Parallel Walls in the Desert" (1961–63). Time, music and images are still the specific framework of my experience. Dilation in time, while evidenciating analogy, in land art, between quantity of space and quantity of time, makes it possible to establish a sort of equivalence between the age of the work and the age of the Earth. Thus it questions both ephemeral operations on the land and mass-mediated information, in favour of permanence and of direct personal experience.

Lightning Field can be visited, weekly, by a small number of persons, no more than six, and every inspection must take at least 24 hours so as to allow participation in all of the natural incidents and incidences, from dawn to sunset.

<i>Lightning Field.</i> Date: 8-79. Time: afternoon. Site: E exterior. Direction: S. Above: <i>Lightning Field.</i> Date: 8-10-79. Time: twilight. Site: W exterior. Direction: E.

Lightning Field. Date: 8-79. Time: afternoon. Site: E exterior. Direction: S. Above: Lightning Field. Date: 8-10-79. Time: twilight. Site: W exterior. Direction: E.

Lightning Field overturns the logic of the museum, in that to an enormous quantity of space there corresponds a single work of art and a reduced number of visitors. We might imagine of individually disposing of a museum, for a whole day ...

<i>Lightning Field.</i> Date: 8-79. Time: afternoon. Site: interior. Direction: north lightning.

Lightning Field. Date: 8-79. Time: afternoon. Site: interior. Direction: north lightning.

... Lightning Field is located in a wide desert expanse at about 200 meters above sea leve!. Almost at the center of this flat surface covered only by bushes, following a sudden glare of sun light reflecting on a metal surface, I notice the presence of a metal pole. Watching carefully I discover more of them, until their number runs out of control. There are, in fact, 400 of them, placed in a grid-like pattern 220 feet apart so as to form a rectangle of one mile by one kilometer. As I approach I begin to perceive it as an "object" and, considering my tradition in seeing, it appears to me as a megasculpture whose display environment is the plain. When I start of! to walk the entire perimeter the relationship changes. The walk, to go all the way around, takes between two and three hours, and during this time my relationship to the work takes on a personal character. My body height becomes the relative measure of the height of the poles, while the length of the sides becomes the measure to guessing the size of the plain and the distance from the mountains ... Walking a few miles away, I notice other characteristics. To the colored surface of the ground there corresponds the transparent and invisible surface that joins all the tips of the poles: a rectangle of air, inscribed in the surface of the sky. Walking back to Lightning Field I make my way through the grid of poles, and as I advance further inside, the "object" turns into a "situation".

 
Almost at the center of this flat surface covered only by bushes, following a sudden glare of sun light reflecting on a metal surface, I notice the presence of a metal pole. Watching carefully I discover more of them, until their number runs out of control.
 
<i>Lightning Field.</i> Date: 9-79. Time: afternoon. Site: North. Direction: S.E.

Lightning Field. Date: 9-79. Time: afternoon. Site: North. Direction: S.E.

Since the surface described by the metal tips is, with respect to the surface of the plain, the highest point for miles and miles around, in case of thunderstorm lightning tends to concentrate towards, and strike Lightning Field: thus I begin to consider the atmospheric conditions, keeping a watch on cumulations of clouds that every now and then cover suddenly the sun. In the day of my visit the temperature ranged from minus 17 to plus 21, with sudden rain and snow, but no lightning: thus I was able to feel the potential danger in my situation, but not to perceive it visually, as it may occur between May and June, when so much lightning strike the poles as to make their tips incandescent. As I missed this experience, I have decided for a second visit…

An artificial island in Manhattan
Germano Celant: Sharing a Dream
 

Germano Celant: Sharing a Dream

From the "warm" interaction with artists to the "cold" task of exhibiting art work, Celant's method is a blend of approaches.

 

Art / Stefano Casciani

Ant Farm as seen by Germano Celant

Long before it was hit by the Brazos River flood in 1985, the House of the Century was visited by Germano Celant, who introduced it to Domus readers in 1973.

 

From-the-archive / Germano Celant