Spend the Night in a Massive 'Lightning Field' in the New Mexico Desert

''The land is not the setting for the work but a part of the work.”

That statement was written by artist Walter De Maria, and it lives in the cabin notebook at his art installation The Lightning Field. The massive work, set on a plateau in the New Mexico desert, is comprised of 400 stainless steel poles with pointed tips, arranged in a 1-mile-by-1-kilometer grid. The poles measure 2 inches in diameter, and each is set 220 feet apart from the next. The height of each pole varies with the undulating ground—from about 15 feet to nearly 27 feet—so that the tops of all the poles are level.

Since its completion in 1977, The Lightning Field is only ever occupied by six people at a time. Visiting requires making a reservation and spending the night in a small cabin, which costs $150 to $250 per person depending on the time of year. It’s only open from May to October—which is during lightning season.

Even after you’ve made a reservation, the exact location of The Lightning Field is never disclosed. Instead, there’s a pickup point in the town of Quemado, New Mexico where the Dia Art Foundation (the organization that commissioned and maintains the work) has an office. There, a driver picks up the scheduled guests and takes them to the cabin about an hour away. Simple meals are provided, electronics are not allowed, and after the mid-afternoon drop-off, visitors don’t see anyone from the outside world again until 11 a.m. the next morning.

The Lightning Field is meant to be experiential art. Photos aren’t allowed (and some say it’s rather unphotographable, anyway), and while camping isn’t allowed either, De Maria (along with associates Robert Fosdick and Helen Winkler) intended for visitors to spend as much time in the field as possible, particularly during daybreak and at dusk. Contrary to its name, the sculpture isn’t about seeing lightning—in fact, a strike on one of the poles only occurs around 60 times a year, despite being in the high desert, some 7220 above sea level. It's probably for the best, as lightning is actually destructive to the work.

For those who might be alarmed by the idea of such stark isolation, fear not: a short-wave radio will connect guests to the Dia Office if necessary.

Banner image: John Cliett, Dia Art Foundation // Instagram 

University of York
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
UK Archaeologists Have Found One of the World’s Oldest 'Crayons'
University of York
University of York

A prehistoric chunk of pigment found near an ancient lake in England may be one of the world's oldest crayons, Colossal reports. The small object made of red ochre was discovered during an archaeological excavation near Lake Flixton, a prehistoric lake that has since become a peat wetland but was once occupied by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Though it’s hard to date the crayon itself, it was found in a layer of earth dating back to the 7th millennium BCE, according to a recent study by University of York archaeologists.

Measuring less than an inch long, the piece of pigment is sharpened at one end, and its shape indicates that it was modified by a person and used extensively as a tool, not shaped by nature. The piece "looks exactly like a crayon," study author Andy Needham of the University of York said in a press release.

A pebble of red ochre thought to be a prehistoric crayon
University of York

The fine grooves and striations on the crayon suggest that it was used as a drawing tool, and indicate that it might have been rubbed against a granular surface (like a rock). Other research has found that ochre was collected and used widely by prehistoric hunter-gatherers like the ones who lived near Lake Flixton, bolstering the theory that it was used as a tool.

The researchers also found another, pebble-shaped fragment of red ochre at a nearby site, which was scraped so heavily that it became concave, indicating that it might have been used to extract the pigment as a red powder.

"The pebble and crayon were located in an area already rich in art," Needham said. "It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for coloring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork."

[h/t Colossal]

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Tour the National Museum of Scotland From Home With Google Street View
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Google's Street View technology can be used to view some amazing art, whether it's behind the walls of the Palace of Versailles in France or the Guggenheim Museum in New York. As the BBC reports, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is the latest institution to receive the virtual treatment.

The museum contains items tracing the history of the world and humanity. In the Natural World galleries, visitors will find a hulking Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and a panorama of wildlife. In the World Cultures galleries, there are centuries' worth of art and innovation to see. The museum's permanent galleries and the 20,000 objects on display can all be viewed from home thanks to the new online experience.

Users can navigate the virtual museum as they would a regular location on Street View. Just click the area you wish to explore and drag your cursor for full 365-degree views. If there's a particular piece that catches your interest, you may be able to learn more about it from Google Arts & Culture. The site has added 1000 items from the National Museum of Scotland to its database, complete with high-resolution photos and detailed descriptions.

The Street View tour is a convenient option for art lovers outside the UK, but the museum is also worth visiting in person: Like its virtual counterpart, admission to the institution is free.

[h/t BBC]


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