Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Day 7 with the Flannel Flock: "The Lightning Field"

Whoa, we went to The Lightning Field! Jacinda, Sarah, Nikki, Lexi, and Kyla went the first day (only up to 6 people can stay at the field at a time so we split groups up as 5 and 5). While at The Lightning Field, you are the closest to being in the actual middle of nowhere you will ever be. So the lowdown on The Lightning Field:

This seems like a good time to explain what The Lightning Field is to those of you who don’t already know… Completed in 1977 by Walter De Maria, this sculptural land art piece consists of 400 stainless steel poles. They are installed in a grid pattern that is one kilometer by one mile. They vary in height, but all reach the same distance to create a horizontal plain. Each pole is two inches in diameter. The piece is intended to be viewed for an extended period of time (hence why you have from roughly 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 a.m. the next day). The piece can be walked in as well as viewed. Seeing lightning is not a guarantee, but as De Maria said himself, the light is just as important as the lightning. Getting to the field is a process. You drive to tiny little Quemado, NM where you arrive at the Dia office. A driver meets you at the Dia office and you throw all your things in the car and they drive you to the Lightning Field 1) because it’s hard to get to and 2) because it’s kind of a secret location. The drive takes roughly an hour. When they drop you off at The Lightning Field, they leave you at the visitor’s cabin and will come back the next day at 11:00 a.m. to pick you up. Our driver’s name was Kim and she was great. She talked about her experiences with the piece and gave us tips on when to view it.

The thing that makes this blog post so hard is that you can’t actually take photographs of the work. Dia will hunt you down if you post any images. So I’m going to do my best to describe it to you and probably fail. I wrote a lot while I was there and kept track of the time to try to show the way the poles change with the light.

3:17 p.m.
It’s so quiet. I think that’s what I noticed first. It’s hard to see the poles right now because the sun is so high. They blend with the environment. I’m on the porch of the cabin. Lexi is standing next to the closest pole and she looks so little. The colors of the earth are very subdued here, like all the vibrant colors we saw on the way here are desaturated.. The shrubbery looks more grey than green. Lexi is now at the sixth pole and is a speck that could be mistaken for a bush.

3:47 p.m.
Both Jacinda and Lexi are in the field now. Jacinda is walking along the outside edge. I’ve lost site of Lexi. I want to wait a little before getting into the field. Jacinda is a bold black dot in the distance. The light hasn’t changed much yet, but I can see the poles better. That might just be because I’ve been staring at them for so long. I can’t see Jacinda anymore.

4:07 p.m.
I just began walking a few minutes ago. I thought I would walk along the outside, but once I started I changed my mind. It seemed to contained. I am walking somewhat aimlessly. I plan to touch 40 poles.

4:40 p.m.
I have reached the far corner of the field. I am now as far away from the cabin as I can be in the piece. It’s so quiet here. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this kind of quiet before. I keep thinking about how alone I am here; not just because I am by myself in the field but also because no one lives out here.

5:50 p.m.
I just finished walking through the field. I touched 40 poles. The process of touching the poles was really important to me while I was walking. That was a little more interesting than just looking at the poles. The poles were still hard to see and weren’t doing much visually. I tried to walk on the path for a little while, but I quickly decided to get back in the poles. I felt more free to move around and interact with the poles on the inside.

6:42 p.m.
The poles are finally changing. It’s cloudy right now and they stand out as being white against the brown earth.

8:00 p.m.
Every pole was illuminated orange.The sun had been hidden behind the clouds, but it reappeared just before it fell below the mountain. At that point, it all made sense. I understood the piece. I could see every pole. The piece felt so big then. I couldn’t believe I had walked from one end to the other and back. It really was incredible seeing it at sunset.

So the piece requires you to view and interact with it for a very long amount of time. It was so rewarding to watch the poles change over the course of the day. They drop you off at a time when the light is harsh and the poles are hard to see. As the sun gets lower, the poles really begin to reflect the light and eventually you can see all 400 of them and you realize just how large it is.

Sarah Lassiter

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