Heizer’s Rock

Note: this blog is not affiliated with LACMA nor the artist Michael Heizer, no matter what Kunstler wrote. Updates on the Levitated Mass move are here.

update 12/27 –the NYTimes reports on the continued delay in securing permits to move the rock as it gets re-routed to avoid a bridge in Pomona that might not have the structural capacity to support the load.

Perhaps the heaviest work of art ever moved, Michael Heizer has finally found a 340 ton bolder to hover over a trench at LACMA to complete ‘Levitated Mass’ (not to be confused with his 1982 work of the same name). This is a work of art where the logistics (like most pieces by Christo) are just as interesting as the physical object. Moving the 21′ boulder will require a 22 axle truck moving at 6 or 7 miles per hour to cover the 120 mile route between the quarry and the museum. While the boulder was purchased for $120,000, the total cost of the installation (including the move) is around $10 million dollar. The move has been delayed several times already as the local municipalities and regulators grapple with the permitting process and trying to minimize disruptions to the public.

“You can’t cowboy this through,” said Rick Albrecht, the project manager for the move, leaning against a ladder, his sunglasses and hard hat covered in dust. “You have to be meticulous about this.” [LAtimes]

Emmert International, the megamover making this happen, has an impressive record of transporting buildings and various industrial artifacts. The move is as much about infrastructure as it is about art – the route was determined by height clearances and weight limits on roads and bridges, moving powerlines and other utilities out of the way, finding parking spaces for the 295′ rig, and other uses of the urban systems that are beyond their design specs. All the relocation and displacements are temporary, it is a missed opportunity to leave the streetscape in better shape by permanently reducing the spiderweb of tangled wires hanging above most of the streets along the route. Can art be found in burying telephone lines, co-axial cables, power lines, and all those other wires in a giant trench?

View the larger map of the route.

See also:










update March 5th: Levitated Mass Carbon Calcs

57 thoughts on “Heizer’s Rock

    • You’re assuming the fools behind this project have any intelligence at all.

      It’s amazing what an art hustler can do when given a naive sponsor. It’s tragic that a great deal of energy and other resources are being absolutely squandered on this exercise in idiocy.

      However, I could use some easy cash, too, so I plan on collecting dead flies in a used mayonnaise jar and conning LACMA into giving me millions of dollars for my masterpiece. I will call it, “Dead Flies in Used Mayonnaise Jar.” Let the hoi polloi figure out what it means.

    • I wondered that too. It’s a freakin rock. Leave it alone. If it wanted to move to L.A. it would roll there itself.

  1. If the future is supposed to lack art and creativity, then Kunstler’s myopic view that Levitated Mass is a waste of money is valid. Otherwise, Kunstler is just a bitter old man who is trying to remain relevant in a world that has moved beyond his reactionary view. I’d rather see $10M spent on a rock as art, then $100m on a diamond paved platinum skull.

    Compared to many pieces of public art of similar scale, moving Heizer’s rock produces pretty low carbon emissions as there is minimal processing for the 340-ton rock. Most of the footprint of the Levitated Mass is from the concrete and rebar of the 456-foot slot. A ballpark estimate of ghg emissions for the 105-mile move, assuming 10 gallon of diesel per mile to move the 1.2 million pound rig (including all the support vehicles) = 1050 gallons of fuel X 22.4 lb/US gal (2.68 kg/L) = 23,520 lbs (11.76 tons) of CO2. Compare this to the annual per capita US average of 19.18 tons.

    Say the slot requires an 1′ thick retaining wall 5′ tall over the entire length (it’s 10′ at it’s deepest) , plus a 3′ by 1′ footing and a 6″ slab 5′ wide – rounding up to 8500 cubic feet of concrete or 315 cubic yards. Each cubic yard of concrete produces 630 pounds of CO2 in the manufacturing process, so there are 250040 lbs (125 tons) of CO2 from the slot (I’ll ignore the rebar emissions). That is an order of magnitude more CO2 for the slot than my ballpark estimate for the move.

    [All statistics about CO2 emissions used above were gleaned from the web)

    • In reply to paragraph one of Professor Lehrman’s post:
      One can make various arguments for the worth of art. I like to look at places such as Pompei as instructive of where art is “coming from.” Art was used there as a form of communication for those who could and could not read (a form of advertising). This was public art. More monumental forms had a political function both in public and private – as an illustration of one’s power and influence. The topics shown in the Roman world were a reflection of the social values of a given time (both religious and secular).

      Here we have a large rock that is moved a great distance using a great deal of energy and technology that would not be posssible to use before the fossil fuel age.

      What is the message communicated here? My view is that it is a duel expression of our self view as a civilization of boundless wealth and the worship of technology as the alpha method to solve any problem (see paragraphs 2 and 3 of the above post for details).

      What is the political function? As far as I can determine, it is kittens and puppies. Everything is okay, and aren’t we great. (I see no need to further address paragraphs 2 and 3 of Professor Lehrman’s above post).

      I am a teacher, as well as a father. So, I have two perspectives on this art installation.
      1. A discussion that increases awareness of issues that have an effect upon us all is of worth.
      2. I want a better future for my children. Such art installations do not help my children to have a better future when the resources we use now beyond a limited percentage are in fact stealing from them.

      On #1:
      What is the mind-set that this installation represents?
      – We are going about our business blissfully unaware of the cliff we are quickly approaching.

      – We do not know what is going on (and it is important for us to educate ourselves):

      On #2:
      What will happen to my children if we keep going like this? What are we doing right now as a civilization and country?


      The above sites deal with specific issues connected with a broad-based problem – how we can continue and at the same time preserve the bounty that 300 years of fossil fuels have given us.

      Notice that I have not addressed climate issues. Why, you may ask. Well, we have to have growth to increase our impact on the climate. I do not know where growth is coming from long-term. What has already occured has already occured. We will not do anything substantive as a civilization about it.

      Educate yourself. Once you do, my prediction is that you too will take such installations personally, because they are injurious to your future and that of your children.

      As an aside, my wife is an artist and senior art conservator. Our family values art as the highest achievement of a civilization, in any terms one would care to offer.

      What the future holds for this piece of art:

      I met a traveller from an antique land
      Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
      Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
      Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
      And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
      Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
      Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
      The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
      And on the pedestal these words appear:
      `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
      Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
      Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
      Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
      The lone and level sands stretch far away”.


    • **I’d rather see $10M spent on a rock as art**

      I’d rather see it spent on education. Or health. Or cleaning up the environment. Or re-building our deteriorating infrastructure. In fact, I can think of hundreds of ways to spend $10M that will actually make measurable material improvement in the lives of real people. This is a ridiculous stunt, a complete waste of energy, resources, and creativity. It may be art, but it neither lifts the spirit nor inspires the mind.

  2. This collosal waste of money and disrespect of nature confirms all I have suspected about modern art being the production of BS artists.

  3. Wow, Kunstler’s supporters here are reinforcing my belief that he’s fun to read (especially because he says “fuck” a lot) when you’re in undergrad but falls apart as one matures into a more nuanced view of the world. Don’t worry, kids: eventually you’ll come to realize that his bombastically narrow view is great for selling books but not solving problems.

    Also, none of you seem to have gotten the hint that *this* website is not Heizer’s. What, you mean Kunstler made a mistake and hasn’t backed down from his viewpoint even though it’s flat-out wrong?! Say it ain’t so…

  4. Dear commentators,

    If you are going to paraphrase somebody or use a quote, then you need to provide a proper attribution or citation. All my students must oblige by this rule or they will be failed – so if you care to comment on my blog, please do the same or your comment will be moderated.

    I’m interested in your original ideas, not you parroting of somebody else’s words here.

    • Dear Jat-
      Can you provide a citation backing up your claim? Or are you just repeating what you’ve heard elsewhere without actually forming your own opinion?

      Also, please refrain from profanities.

    • “Can you provide a citation backing up your claim? Or are you just repeating what you’ve heard elsewhere without actually forming your own opinion?” – Barry Lehrman

      What? To translate: ‘Can you provide a citation for what you’ve heard elsewhere? Or are you just reciting what you’ve heard elsewhere?’

      Jat is offering his own, rather unambiguously stated opinion and in turn is being asked to parrot what others have said and pass it off as his own opinion, so long as he cites his sources. That’s not very thoughtful.

  5. Because Levitated Mass will last thousand years, even people think it is not art, it is not a waste of money. It is all the contrary, it is a gift for LA people to have a Michael Heizer at home, it is a gift to have a masterpiece of Land Art like this one. Haters should read a little bit more, and they will maybe understand that this work is a great one. Long life to the the Rock! Long life to Sustainable Art.

    • No one here is talking about money. We are talking about resources that are needed for survival. What is the energy input to output ratio right now for fossil fuels?

      As regards the future of Los Angeles, or Leptis Magna Pacifica as it will soon be known, I am sure your rock will be something for salvagers to contemplate. Didn’t Shelly say something about that somewhere?

    • Personne ici ne parle d’argent. Nous parlons des ressources qui sont nécessaires à la survie. Quel est l’apport d’énergie pour produire rapport dès maintenant pour les combustibles fossiles?

      En ce qui concerne l’avenir de Los Angeles, ou Leptis Magna Pacifica car il sera bientôt connue, je suis sûr que votre roche aura quelque chose pour les récupérateurs à contempler. N’a pas Shelly dire quelque chose sur ce que quelque part?

  6. Dear Hoyte King,
    My reaction was about numerous comments “what a waste of time and money”. I don’t speak about ressources. But if you want to evoke the topic, give us your source and numbers. I’m ok to speak about ressources, with great pleasure, but in that case we have to compare what is comparable. And don’t tell me Levitated Mass is a contribution to global warming, only if you want to make me laugh.

    • In my response above (to professor Lehman) there are eight sources that you may look over at your leisure. These sources have all the numbers you could ever want. That is why I posted them.

      There I did not address global warming, and stated why not.

      I take the time to read what you write. Please show me the same courtesy.

  7. What a waste of deisel fuel. Thanks for thumbing your nose at the ozone layer ~Bravo! Anything to be in ArtForum, no?!~

    • Diesel emissions don’t deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, though their NOx and SOx can cause high ozone levels in the boundary layer. The primary health & environmental impact of Diesel are ‘black carbon’ particulates that are cause respiratory disease and contribute to melting glaciers. 22.6 pounds of CO2 per gallon burned of Diesel are significant in contributing to anthropogenic climate change since the world is using over 200 billion gallons per year (source: http://earthtrends.wri.org) – that is a huge amount of CO2 and black carbon.

      A quick history lesson for any climate change deniers – CO2 was first identified as a ‘greenhouse gas’ in 19th century, and it’s warming effect was first quantified in 1896. Since 1938, human emissions of CO2 have been understood to influence the climate. Only in the last few decades has there been propaganda denying that humans are responsible for changing the climate. The scientific debate is long over on the cause of climate change and that humans are responsible – so it’s worth examining your agenda for denying science.

  8. It will be very interesting to compare the diesel used for 10 years of art projects (with or without Heizer’s contribution, never mind) with the same diesel used for 10 minutes of everyday life in USA. It is quite indecent to speak about ressources here. I may prefer to hear people saying they don’t like Heizer’s earthworks. It should be more honest. Off subject. And now, we can read Heizer is responsible of the changes in ozone layer… damned, what a cliché, and a good non-sense for people considering science not as a politic thing but as a real discipline.

  9. Dear Barry Lehrman, I can’t follow you on this terrain. Too sure. Don’t forget the Little Ice Age (at that time, without diesel), don’t forget that Groenland mean Green Land (planet earth is changing all the time on very long term period), don’t forget the impact of the ocean and the sun on climate, don’t forget scientists were afraid of Global cooling (in 1975, cf. Newsweek famous article), don’t forget all the eminent scientists who left IPCC (not because they were working for BP or Exxon, but because they love science, so they are working with doubt), don’t forget to be humble. The today’s CO2 religion shouldn’t let us forget the real problems of our society, all these problems that we can solve if we take the right decisions. Pollution of water, high technologies, bad-food, wars, etc.

    • Human generated CO2 didn’t start forcing the climate away measurably from the Milankovic cycles until the 1980s. So the Little Ice-Age and all that jazz you sprinkle around can be successfully modeled by climate scientists, along with the recent spike in global temperatures. Understanding the role of humans in destroying what allowed our planet to generate our complex human society isn’t a religion – it is science – though denying it is.

      There are lots of real problems that will impact our society quicker than climate change (see http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7263/full/461472a.html), but that shouldn’t keep us from working on long-term solutions with short-term strategies like preventing catastrophic climate change.

    • Climate change isn’t inevitable, just the status quo. It’s a question of how much mitigation and adaption we can muster up before we suffer.

  10. The impact on earth of the CO2 emitted by humans is nothing compared to MH4 among other gas. You know it perfectly if you are serious and I’m sure you are. So when I speak about the CO2 religion, is it because one always mentions CO2 when one speaks about the global warming. This is a tiring cliché. To use your word, for my part, I don’t like too much the negationnists of the Ocean/Sun impact on earth climate and they are some of them at IPCC and I’m sure we don’t need to search very long time to find out some of them at Nature…

    “As the signs outside proclaimed, nature sometimes makes mistakes” (Jarvis Cocker, 1987)

  11. (…) Well, that said, one talks about global warming but deviates completely from the topic. It was a kind of joke and nothing more. I really do not see the interest to talk about waste of resources for a project whose construction will have lasted a few days, a masterproject of art that will stay there for hundreds, even thousands of years. This is ridiculous, out of proportion, uninteresting and ultimately insulting to the artist. It would be better to say “I don’t like Heizer’s work”. I would prefer it, instead of all this whole fruitless argumentation.

  12. What do you say to people who say it’s an extravagance?

    “I actually enjoy that question, because there’s a very direct answer. Museums spend a lot more money than this on art all the time, often buying objects from other countries where the money goes away. Even that is justifiable. But the great thing about this piece is it’s like a WPA project in a tough economy. We’re putting artisans to work. An artist and concrete workers and steel workers and truckers and engineers and architects — we’re putting all these people to work. How much did the Getty just spend on their Turner painting? A lot more. It’s easy to respond that not only is it a justifiable expense — it’s what museums do — but it’s a building project, so it’s funneling all that money to a diverse group of people. Also it will bring people to LACMA for a long time who will spend money. So it’s a great benefit to the economy that’s going to pay back a lot more than it’s spent, which you can’t say directly of every painting you acquire.

    It goes back to your original question of the motivation for doing these things. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that the museum has a role not only to show art but to facilitate the making of art. Maybe that’s my Dia experience. There’s no reason that a metropolitan museum of our scale can’t also be working with artists to facilitate the creation of art as well as acquiring finished objects to hang on the wall.” (Michael govan, LACMA Director)

    source: http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/762808/try-that-in-new-york-city-michael-govan-on-what-michael-heizers-levitated-mass-brings-to-lacma

  13. Pingback: Carbonated Mass: How Much Pollution Did LACMA’s Big Rock Generate? | In the Air: Art+Auction's Gossip Column | ARTINFO.com

  14. Behold! The 340 ton altar of the American IDIOCRACY! Sacrificed upon that stupid altar is centuries of social and artistic achievement. However this idiot acquired his money, does he honor great art that has stood the test of time? No. Centuries of technological achievement squandered to do something so stupid as to defy description. Pollution is NOT the issue! It is the warping of societal norms to actually entertain the idea of doing something like this. There is an insanity behind this that makes stupid red herring issues like carbon emissions totally irrelevant.

    I don’t know where or how Heizer gets the money to squander on this but, by any means necessary, such funding must be taxed out of his hands, and others of his ilk. The control of public art as done in socialist or formerly communist countries is looking very attractive now. They understood the importance of using art to uplift the people and reinforce positive aspects of their social order. An artist can do what he wants if he pays for it entirely but, when this involves the public space and public infrastructure, somebody needs the balls to step forward and call a spade a spade! To squander increasingly scarce capital like this ought to be a crime. If the NEA funded this, that agency needs to be shut down immediately!

  15. @ Patsy Stone :
    Always strange to read this question. When you see a building, do you ask if the author is an architect? When you read a book, do you ask if the author is a writer? When you see a painting, do you ask if the author is a painter? So, why this question about the works by Michael Heizer? Always strange, this question… Especially when the author has been earthworking for 40 years…

  16. 10 million to move a rock, put it on poles in an earthquake zone. Now couldn’t that 10 million be put to better use? This is just ridiculous. Hopefully the idiots doing this will be standing under it during the next big one. i go dig up a rock and put it on my porch. Does that make me an artist? What an idiot.
    Don’t forget all the tax write-offs for lunches, state vehicles, full gas tanks,
    state geologists traveling back and forth from southern to northern to southern
    California so they can give presentations regarding the consistency of sand.
    This is just one tiny example of all the waste of money in state and federal government.
    Of course, there are those rich folk who are willing to donate in the name of Art who
    would not give a dime to the schools or for the poor to have dental coverage.

    • Exactly! I know and love real artists-people who actually CREATE something, instead of, essentially, BUYING it. The rule of property uber alles, writ larger and larger.
      This is an example of the unforeseen (by most of us) but NOT UNINTENDED consequences when the so-called elite use stolen money/wealth to buy what belongs to us; our common spaces, water, etc.
      JHKunstler is far ahead of almost everyone, when it comes to the future.
      Dismiss him “at our collective peril”; his critics here are almost entirely reactionary…”thinkers.”

  17. I see that Californians still firmly believe that everybody’s money is theirs, either to spend or to judge how it is spent. And you still believe that, even though your state has already been bankrupted more than once by trying to live that way.

  18. A big impressive waste of money and effort. A great earthquake on the San Andreas Fault in southern California will demonstrate that we humans need not concern ourselves with ridiculous wastage of money and effort — that which Earth will produce will dwarf our best laid plans.

  19. The US is haemorrhaging money and a huge proportion of its denizens are some of the most destitute and disadvantaged in the industrialised world… and they feel it right to move a monster boulder from one side of LA to the other for an “art” exhibition.

    Take a bow, America. Your problem is obvious.

  20. So long as they are using corporate (private) money let them move as many crappy rocks as they want. If they touch even a dollar of public money to move this POS then “Houston, we have a problem”.

  21. Okay, so this is being called a sculpture. Did the artist actually run the machinery that separated the rock from its original home, or is he more like an architect/engineer-type artist that came up with the idea and drew up the plans, or is he the person orchestrating the actual move? Obviously I am not really understanding what type of artist he is. I could research him a bit, but since I’m really not all that impressed with this project of his, I doubt I will bother.

    I watched the above video, and I can sort of understand that it may be awe-inspiring to some to walk under such a huge boulder, but I would be more afraid than awed to walk under anything heavy in California. Surrounding the base of the rock in steel and such would give the illusion of safety. Of course, the illusion of safety would take away from the idea of suspending this impressive boulder, so I suppose the final installation will be quite tricky.

    Perhaps, if the rock were very near the area that it was to be suspended, I would be more impressed with the installation. It would seem a clever use of a nice-looking rock that was possibly in the way on the ground. I must admit that the distance of the move takes away any inspiration I may have had in the rock, but I did like the picture of it alone in the open area. Perhaps you could make a print of it or simply sell the picture to a calendar company.

  22. What exactly does moving a 340 ton rock 120 miles have to do with, “emerging practices in infrastructure, urbanism, and sustainability?” I understand that the 600 ton load definitely caused some long-term sustainability issues with the existing highway/bridge infrastructure it traveled over, but that’s hardly a positive thing. The actual tunnel site is quite bleak and unappealing, devoid of life, and wastes a huge footprint of land with no apparent urban theme or useability.

    As for calling this art, I’m more inclined to call it an engineering experiment. I’d be willing to call it art, had the stone been carved into something requiring some artistic skill and imagination, or had they done something creative with the landscape.

  23. Lunacy, lunacy. Could it be something in the air or water?? Or perhaps its what Thoreau called the “brain rot.”

  24. In 5000 years when our civilization is dead and gone, the next bunch will write books and make movies trying to figure out just how the giant rock was moved! It must have been aliens.

  25. Pingback: March 2012 | kunstler.com

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