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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Michael Heizer Speaks, Art World Worries about His Sanity

Famously reclusive Michael Heizer only talks to media outlets with a certain circulation, but perhaps he should rethink that policy. If fewer people read what he has to say, fewer people will be tempted to write him off as a crackpot whose mind has been addled by too many years of desert sun and wind.

Earlier this year Heizer wouldn’t talk on the record to a journalist from the Las Vegas Mercury who was reporting on a railroad line being built on the outskirts of City. This reticence caused the tweaked writer to call him out on the issue. “Heizer and his team have been working on it for more than three decades, although they rarely talk about it (and NEVER with mere Nevada media.)”

Michael Kimmelman with his New York Times readership, though, was able to open Heizer up for a cover story in today’s Magazine. This is Kimmelman’s second major piece on Heizer and City (image of one section at right) in recent memory. An archived copy of his 1999 article is available here.

Today’s feature almost makes one wish that (for his own sake) Heizer would spurn all media. Here are a few of the more select Heizer quotes that made it into print. It doesn’t take a graduate degree in clinical psychology to see that this is a man whose dump truck is several cubic feet short of a full load.

Regarding his involvement in lobbying against the government’s decision to run the new Yucca Mountain railroad line next to his land: “You just don't get it, do you? This is a czarist nation, a fascist state. They control everything. They tap my phone. They'll do anything to stop me. We’re the front lines, man, fleas fighting a giant.” “I wouldn’t be surprised if they sent out a hit squad to kill me!”

On himself: “I thought I was eternal. I still do.” “I’m self-entertaining. My dialogue is with myself.”

On Double Negative: “It was a moment of genius and unprecedented.” It was “the most incredible sculpture I’ve ever seen or done. When I finished it I laughed. I knew I’d done it. There was no precedent in the history of mankind.”

On Robert Smithson: He “just copied my M.O., did a complete heavy borrowing, an identity theft.”

On the only American artists he’ll speak of positively, the monomaniacal sculptor of Mount Rushmore Gutzon Borglum and the Western artists Charles Russell and Frederic Remington: “I love these artists because they’re so precise and faithful.”

On what makes him nervous about New York: “You don’t control your own destiny in New York. It’s fine if you trust the system and agree to move along the street in an orderly fashion. But you can’t carry a weapon to protect yourself, even though it’s more dangerous there than here. I find it castrating.”

And, according to Kimmelman (not a direct quote attributed to Heizer), what Heizer promises to do to unauthorized visitors to City: they will be arrested for trespassing or shot at.

But don’t let a little threat of violence stop you. Nick Tarasen makes City’s exact location available on his Heizer fan site. Have a GPS receiver? It’s at 38°01'48" N, 115°26'10" W. That’s 156 miles from Las Vegas.

Related: Michael Kimmelman’s audio slide show accompanying the on-line version of today’s piece.

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