The Broken Kilometer

Gentrified and 5th Avenue-ized as it may be, there’s still art in Soho. Today as I was walking back to work with lunch — more ramen, shame on me — a plain block of text caught my eye through a window: The Broken Kilometer, a Dia installation. I went inside. Rounding blank white walls, I stepped into the gallery space, where I was mesmerized by row upon row of shining brass rods lying on the floor. I walked back and forth, letting my eyes unfocus. On the way out I grabbed a flyer. The artwork, it told me,

is composed of 500 highly polished, round, solid brass rods, each measuring two meters in length and five centimeters (two inches) in diameter. The 500 rods are placed in five parallel rows of 100 rods each. The sculpture weighs 18 3/4 tons and would measure 3,280 feet if all the elements were laid end-to-end. Each rod is placed such that the spaces between the rods increase by 5mm with each consecutive space, from front to back; the first two rods of each row are placed 80mm apart, the last two rods are placed 580 mm apart. Metal halide stadium lights illuminate the work which is 45 feet wide and 125 feet long.

I’d love to go back on a really bright, sunny day; it was like an abstraction in metal of sun on water.

Apparently, this installation has been there since 1979, a companion piece to the artist’s Vertical Earth Kilometer (a brass rod sunk a kilometer into the earth, naturally). I find it fascinating to imagine the neighborhood changing around this bold, simple artwork over the last 25 years, going from true, down-at-heels bohemia to fashion flagship land.

One thing that made me fume on the way out was the little placard on the flyer table, which said “PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT PERMITTED”. Why not? What would a few tourist/art student photos take away from this artwork? Well, you might say, De Maria probably makes money only off of photo prints and videos of his work. If so, he should work hard to make his photos the best out there. A little amateur competition would generate interest and drive buyers to find the best photos. Rrrr. I hate artificial scarcity. /end rant

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