Dissipate Michael Heizer, 1968
Consider Michael Heizer’s Dissipate, installed in Nevada's Black Rock desert in 1968. The piece consisted of five rectangular Cor-Ten steel trays, depressed in the desert floor and sloping from shallow to deep.

The noteworthy thing to me about this piece is not the iconic image but the unseen excavation, the desert removed. The dust from the excavation may even have produced a dune somewhere else on the playa. Space, itself, is excavated. The by-product is dust.

But what sort of space is excavated here? We can think of this space as a sound-space. Sound, in the desert, carries far. However the desert lacks features for sound to reflect or cavities for sound to resonate. Sound simply dissipates.

To lie down in one of these depressions--to occupy the negative space--seems to counter the notion of dissipating. If we could occupy them, the little steel coffins that they are, we might just appreciate the sound of the desert in a new way. The sound would be colored by Cor-Ten steel. The dimensions of the voids would allow certain frequencies to be amplified and resonate. The limitless expanse of desert sound suddenly would become measured, sculpted, solid.


To build with noise

Ray tracings of a single point source in a theater, 1,291 ms.