Art Is Laughing at Us, and I Laugh Back

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The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is getting a new addition: a 340-ton boulder that will be suspended over a 456-foot slot dug into the earth. Today, the LA Times documents the mind-boggling logistics and expense of moving this piece of commonplace granite from a quarry in Riverside to a Wilshire Boulevard trench:

If all this seems excessive, the artist’s assistant, Tim Cunningham, is quick to play devil’s advocate. “I’ve found it amusing from what I’ve read in the press about the expense, the naysayers. It’s as viable as any other public works project,” he insists. “And this is creating jobs above and beyond the aesthetic appeal — for Emmert, the riggers, the truckers, the utility guys working overtime — and the country needs jobs.”

So that’s where we are: art as a jobs program. LACMA itself, of course, takes the usual turgid and pretentious art museum approach toward its new baby: “Taken whole, Levitated Mass speaks to the expanse of art history, from ancient traditions of creating artworks from monolithic stone, to modern forms of abstract geometries and cutting-edge feats of engineering.”

At this point, I think these guys are all just laughing at us. Apparently, we’re now willing to spend $10 million to haul a rock a hundred miles, plop it down in front of a building, and pretend that we’re saying something profound. I guess I’d laugh too if someone were willing to pay me that kind of money to create, say, a room filled with 340 tons of blank books. And why not? It would be every bit as meaningful.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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