28 thoughts on “Assignment L.08.1

  1. I have an answer. The problem is, I am unsure of developing a delivery channel that will meet the necessary design requirements. All I need is a way of projecting 3’s Company reruns in perpetuity….

  2. Turff, you don’t have to design the warning system. You just have to respond to the document itself. (I’ve printed it out and am reading through it, the original weblink, not the 351 page PDF report!)

    Or you can design the warning system.

  3. In the PDF file linked above, the full report of each team is in the Appendices. Team A, which the webpage excerpts, favored an artistic approach to the site. Team B recoiled from such an idea.

    The author of that section points out that Art is ambiguous, and that Art is an end to itself, that with things like Mt. Rushmore and Charles Ross’s Star Axis (itself under construction in New Mexico, same as WIPP) as reference, future generations may see an artistic Marker as another example of early 21st century art rather than as a warning.

    However, his next two sections are delicious:


    We want people to stay away from this site, not travel from distant places to see it. A great and famous work of art encourages visits from other artists, historians, and tourists. If enough people want to come to see a remote wonder, somebody will put up a hotel to accommodate them. Maybe the hotel decides to drill for water. By creating a great monument we may be causing the developments at the site that we most want to avoid.


    For every successful commissioned monument there are a hundred failures, e.g., the Prince Albert memorial in London (an architectural laughingstock) or the WWII Airman’s Memorial in Toronto (known locally as “Gumby Goes to Heaven”). If a decision is made to have a competition for a sculpture, a momentum is established whereby one piece has to be selected, whether or not somebody has come up with the right design.

    I am also very concerned about who would decide which design would be used. Let me remind the Panel that the thinking that now dominates the art world in places like New York is anti-scientific, anti-representational, and seems to favor more detached and (to me) nihilistic statements of artists. I do not think that the art community as it exists would be well qualified to create or select a design that would be scientifically informed about the many intricacies of this problem (encroachment by sand dunes, durability of materials, future scenarios, etc.)

    Yet if an announcement were made that there was going to be a grand competition for a Marker to last 10,000 years, it would be hard not to involve the art community in the decision makinq-process. If you do, be warned: they are likely to end up picking a giant inflatable hamburger to mark the site.

  4. Giant inflatable hamburger! Marvelous!

    I had some of these same thoughts. Wouldn’t art draw people to the site rather than make them go away? Maybe something terrible is deposited underneath the soil at Stonhenge. Let’s go digging.

  5. One of the sites I came across in this particular trawl led with an image of some Egyptian hieroglyphics and translated them as, “Seriously, dude, don’t open this door!” It informs the problem.

  6. from the original site:

    • This place is a message… and part of a system of messages… pay attention to it!
    • Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.
    • This place is not a place of honor…no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here.
    • What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.
    • The danger is in a particular location… it increases toward a center… the center of danger is here… of a particular size and shape, and below us.
    • The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.
    • The danger is to the body, and it can kill.
    • The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.
    • The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.


  7. It’s funny, as I’m looking at this, I’m simultaneously working on my Trail of Tears online database. Mostly maps, right now. What we’re essentially trying to do with our Trail of Tears project is what Joseph Campbell referred to as “Land Nam,” land claiming, land taking, land naming. Mythologizing the landscape and making it holy. The Holy Land isn’t somewhere else, in other words, not in some other country. It’s right here. Here’s this special cave, this certain tree, this roadbed — here’s why it’s significant. It occurs to me that this project that Dale is putting before us is almost nearly opposite. Land shunning. Saying that this land is unholy.

  8. Just some random thoughts for now:

    This reminds me of the beginning of the very first Alien movie where they mistook the signal as a distress call when it was really a warning to stay away from the planet.

    Jeff has really nailed it as this it the ultimate sign of a society without a mythology that has lost touch with land.

    With regards to the scale: “To put their size into perspective, a simple berm, say 35-m wide and 15-m high, surrounding the proposed land-withdrawal boundary, would involve excavation, transport, and placement of around 12 million cubic meters of earth. What is proposed, of course, is on a much greater scale than that. By contrast, in the construction of the Panama Canal, 72.6 million cubic meters were excavated”. And since Dale mentioned Mt. Rushmore, to draw it all together in “The World Without Us” he estimates all evidence of the Panama Canal will be gone in 20 years without human maintenance, whereas Mt. Rushmore may last another 7.2 million years, wich is an irony Teddy Roosevelt might not appreciate. And also shows material used and location is as important as scale for lasting value.

  9. We were up at the High Museum yesterday, taking in what turned out to be two middling exhibits (The Louvre and the Ancient World, and the Impressionism thing), but one of the groups of objects spoke to me because of this project. They were some ceramics from one of the “Near Eastern” societies, and they were about 5,000 years old. I wondered if the people who had interpreted the designs had in fact got it right. Those could be birds, and those could be “comb animals,” but what if they were just squiggles and combs?

  10. Lichtenbergian Methodology for generating a Good Idea–of the non-ironic variety

    1. Do not actually read the post in which you are invited to Produce, nor the linked materials. Note how long it all is.

    2. Ask Dale for a summary when you next bump into him. He will oblige and include vibrant examples of how brilliantly other members have already responded.

    3. Do not wait till the day of the deadline. Wait till the day before the day of the deadline.

    4. Mull over the Problem. Briefly skim relevant materials and other members’ brilliant responses. Fight the urge for a Comprehensive Grasp.

    5. Complicate your thinking by trying to leave your own Distinctive Stamp. Vaguely imagine a few examples.

    6. Vaguely imagine a few examples with no effort to leave a Distinctive Stamp.

    7. Give yourself a tedious domestic (or workplace) task that beckons and thus produces a time limit.

    8. You will have an Idea that you will evaluate as “Not Bad, Not Great, Not Particularly Distinctive;” this is the idea to use.

    Idea: Scatter actual human corpses over a suitably durable material on the site surface. Families could donate the bodies of loved ones. It would be best if the person died in an extremely unpleasant fashion and retained a horrific facial or physical rictus. Dissolve skin and visera with some acid bath. Plate the skeletal remains with titanium and fuse to the underlying surface. Put up a few signs, too.

  11. Great minds. I thought of the skeleton idea as well: litter the place with human remains. Perhaps it becomes a “thing,” with people bringing their dead to the place. Maybe some concrete or granite corpses. Make it a place of dread.

    I like the titanium coating thing. That’s good.

  12. In fact, I’m working on a Photoshop piece involving agonized bodies (all mine).

    The assignment is not suitable for this 0ne-off approach we’re taking, of course. Like Marc, I can’t get my head wrapped around the enormity of the response. I begin to understand how and why artists do “series” of work. It’s to work out all the ideas in their head.

  13. I am leaniong toward covering the whole sight with an inpenetrable substance as we have, with warning signs ( maybe the corpses inscribed or attached), and then covering that and the surround area with tons and tons of fill, putting the site far underground. On top would be blocks of stone and other impediments that would make it look like a naturally inhabitable spot. This area would cover not only the site but a good deal of the area surounding it. The idea is to not draw attentiong to it and if someone does get curious it would a difficultc task to get to the site and enter it and the warning signs would still be there.

  14. I keep thinking it’s a trap to respond to this with ideas of our own about how to mark the site. I want to force myself to respond to the idea of, as Jeff put it, “land shunning.” As one of the team members comments, the whole project makes one consider what kind of society needs to put up such warnings. Oh, well, maybe something will occur to me today.

  15. We have to make predictions about the mindsets of people thousands of years hence. Do we take some kind of “evolution of consciousness” into account? Or do we try to see as a suspicious and superstitious primative might? Reasons to “shun” can’t help but make me think of designations of “unclean” and the like which harken back to essentially religious mindsets that orient through determinations of what is forbidden, etc. Surely a cause for shunning would have to emerge from within the culture existing at some future time. The cause to shun would be relative with respect to their worldview and spiritual values. If you anticipate a global Islamic takeover by then, for instance, you could engrave the area with nude women, heads uncovered.

    Just make the place undiggable. Cost prohibitive.

  16. Apparently, if one were to dig deep into the 351 page PDF report, one would find multiple scenarious doing just as you suggest. Some posited highly advanced technological societies who might do anything for energy resources. Others posited a Mad Max kind of situation, with no governmental supervision and a loss of institutional/societal knowledge. Still others envisioned a post-apocalyptic society where we were dealing with Planet of the Apes kinds of humans.

    I too found myself wondering about all those things.

  17. In other news, those working on this assignment have been given a reprieve, since Mike has set up a Lichtenbergian blog for us to use. I have questions about what we want to do with it, and until we discuss those and settle the issue (over on the new blog), the assignment is postponed.

  18. I tried to post several times on the blogspot and finally I just gave up. I posted one thing that has since vanished, and then it refused to recognize the password the second go-round.

    Anyway, here’s what I attempted to post:

    Jeff here.

    Hmmm… I posted a comment on here earlier and it vanished!

    This does seem a bit awkward to use. Especially the name thing. But I do like the idea of a special space for “Lichtenbergian business.” Whatever that may be.

    Dale mentioned the possibility of a website with its own URL. I like the website name “tomorrowisbetter.com” for several reasons, though. One is that it’s deliberately misleading about what we’re all about, which is good. I love misdirection. It makes us sound like a charity for children. (And the ironic thing, of course, is that we actually HAVE done fundraising for childrens’ charity.) But I also like the fact the folks wouldn’t have to go around trying to figure out how the heck to spell “Lichtenbergian” if they wanted to go to the site. Not that anyone would.

    I guess I’d like an experience that truly feels collaborative. Now I’m beginning to sound like marc. Not such a bad thing. Anyhow, it would be great to have a site where we could upload art, movie clips, sound clips, etc. with ease. I mean all the members of the Society, of course. Art to discuss, diary entries, screenplay pages, I don’t know. That’s what I’d like to see.

  19. I get “404 Not Found” when I try to link to the new blog. An auspicious Lichtenbergian beginning.

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