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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Vertical Earth Kilometer

In Friedrichsplatz Park in Kassel, Germany, there is a public art installation of epic scale, but you can’t see it. The only visible sign of its existence is a small brass disk, two inches wide, embedded in a red sandstone plate, two meters by two meters square. That simple brass disk is actually the top-end of a one-kilometer long rod inserted vertically into the ground with the top lying flush to the surface of the earth.

The strange art piece was installed in 1977 by the famed American artist Walter De Maria who is known for his monumental sculptures and installation that combine the simplicity of minimalism and vast scale. Earlier, Walter had created “The Lightning Field” in New Mexico consisting of 400 stainless steel posts arranged in a 1 mile × 1 kilometer grid array. Another one of Walter De Maria’s creation, “The Broken Kilometer”, is composed of five hundred two-meter-long solid brass rods, each with the same diameter as the rod used for “The Vertical Earth Kilometer”, arranged in five parallel rows of one hundred rods each. That one is located in New York City.
But “The Vertical Earth Kilometer” is by far the most subtle and bizarre because of it’s near total absence, requiring only trust from the viewer to be aware of the work.

For Vertical Earth Kilometer, Walter hired a Texan drilling rig to bore a shaft that goes through six geological layers, and took seventy-nine days to reach the precise depth. The continuous metal rod is made up of 167 rods measuring 20 foot each, that are screwed tightly together. The privately funded project cost DM 750,000, which was a lot of money in 1977, and inevitably incited public outcry because the resulting art piece leaves so little to see. Particularly irritated were the neighboring residents who had to bear with the noise of drilling for nearly three months.






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