A contemplation of an outdoor art instillation sparks meditations on time, distance, infinity, memory, and the interrelationship between the work and the viewer.
Queens Museum executive director Raicovich’s previous book, A Diary of Mysterious Difficulties (2013), interwove Dickens with erectile-dysfunction spam, and this one is just as difficult to pigeonhole. She explains in the acknowledgements that it took her “over a decade to complete,” though the text runs little more than 80 pages of observations, often typographically resembling free verse rather than prose, in what might be an attempt to slow readers down, to focus attention on detail as the author has. “These writings are dedicated to the recall of highly specific, vivid experiences of a work of art,” she writes. The work is The Lightning Field by Walter De Maria, comprising 400 stainless steel poles of varying heights in a desolate stretch of central New Mexico. One generally stays overnight to view the expanse of the artwork at various times, in various light and weather conditions, as the author did on four visits between 2003 and 2008. She quotes another critic on De Maria’s work, before Lightning, that “the burden of response is based not on the sculpture but on the spectator. The degree and quality of spectator engagement becomes crucial.” Though Raicovich writes very specifically about her experience in viewing the work, the book is less about the work itself than about the nature of perception, the malleability of memory—presumably, some or much of this was written well after the visit—and the elasticity of time. She frequently invokes Nabokov (Speak, Memory, in particular) and occasionally calculus. She also quotes De Maria: “The land is not the setting for the work but a part of the work….Isolation is the essence of land art.” On one occasion, she saw the poles as levitating.
A detailed observation of what it means to make a detailed observation.