San andreas Sculpture project


                                    the Crack-Up

It took 5 million years, but someone finally wants to use the San Andreas fault the way teen-age boys use cherry bombs on public-school restroom plumbing.

            To wit: New York artist Tery Fugate-Wilcox' proposal to pour an acre-sized, 20 foot-high concrete slab directly over the San Andreas near Palm Springs. Because the fault slips about two inches a year there, the slab would almost certainly tear into two rectangles that will creep apart as the north American & Pacific tectonic plates grind past each other. The adolescent weird-science id fairly gapes in wonderment:

..........What a cool idea.

            The scale of the project is heroic even by Christo standards: 188 feet by 232 feet (visible from space, claims its creator), 65,424 tons of low-exothermic, uncolored concrete (the type used in dam construction). To ensure that it actually breaks apart, the slab would be anchored directly to bedrock, with no reinforcing rods spanning the fault. "The earthquake people told me the crack there runs right down to the mantle," Tery enthuses, "that's why it moves so beautifully."

                        Time & decay, mortal enemies of most artists, are Tery’s close personal friends. Most of his creations - he's shown at New York's Museum of ModernArt - are literally works in progress: He bolts together strips of metal (gold, copper, lead, silver, etc.) & decrees the pieces unfinished until the metals fuse (2,000 years in some cases). Other works are kept in constant flux by gravity or deviations in humidity & temperature.

            Plate tectonics are another matter. At the San Andreas' present rate of slip, the 32,000-ton halves of Tery’s- concrete slab would separate in about 1,200 years; the western half, along with Palm Springs & Los Angeles, would theoretically be in present-day Alaska in roughly 43 million years. 

            The U.S. Geological Survey & other earthquake-related organizations, Fugate-Wilcox says, have expressed interest in rigging the interior reaches of the slab with seismic measuring devices. 

            As for the inevitable but-is-it-art? assault, Fugate-Wilcox says of his slab: "The fault is a very negative thing--I had ranchers yell at me when I was out looking at it. I just want to bring out the positive aspect of it--& make a big brush-stroke statement about the energy of the earth." 


Response to the  LA Times article:....

Letter to the editor, LA Times

All That It's Cracked Up To Be

        Tery Fugate-Wilcox' project involving a one-acre-sized slab placed over the San Andreas Fault would be one I'd be willing to back if I had the means  ("The Crack-Up," by Michael Walker, Palm Latitudes, Dec. 3).  Californians greatly fear earthquakes because they've been bombarded by silly myths.  No, our state is not going to fall into the ocean, nor is the ground going to open up & swallow us.  Those back East stand a far greater danger from the immense power of tornadoes. 

            Perhaps such a display as Fugate-Wilcox's will bring enthusiasm to future prospective seismologists.  There will always be earthquakes in California; the state is geologically alive.  But instead of living in fear, we should cherish a great learning opportunity such as this.

                                                   Dennis Chamberlain,            Hollywood

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