Updated: Dec 5, 2020
It’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, buried in the desert and it sounds like a plot twist from a sci-fi novel. A strange metal monolith appears in the Utah desert. Before anyone can study it, it’s dismantled by a bunch of adventure sportsmen who advocate a “Leave No Trace” philosophy and worry that the hype will affect the ecosystem of the area.
Then, another monolith appears that same night, halfway around the world in Romania. Both were remarkably similar – shiny, lightweight metal monoliths approximately 10 feet tall – the one in Romania is covered in circles while the one in Utah was unadorned. It disappeared a few days later too.
The next day, a third monolith was found in California. (News of a fourth hit my news ticker while I was researching for this post.) What gives? You might be surprised to find that strange metal monoliths are nothing new? There were reports of strange monoliths being found on Google Earth in August of 2015 and October of 2016.
Even the biologists from the Utah Department of Public Safety who found the first monolith joked that it must be the work of extraterrestrials. Others compared the creepy monoliths from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
One theory is they are all the work of artist John McCracken. His dealer says yes, but his son says maybe, and all his artist buddies say no way! McCracken was a minimalist artist with an affinity for science fiction, but he died in 2011. The David Zwirner gallery, where the artists’ work has been exhibited since 1997, and represents his estate, has asserted that the mystery monolith is a bona fide McCracken.
But there’s one problem. If that’s the case, McCracken pulled it off without ever mentioning it to his friends or his art dealer. Even his son remains puzzled. “We were standing outside looking at the stars and he said something to the effect of that he would like to leave his artwork in remote places to be discovered later,” he recalled in a phone interview. Would his father really do that? Maybe. His son says he was inspired by the idea of alien visitors leaving objects that resembled his work. He goes on to say, “This discovery of a monolithic piece – that’s very much in line with his artistic vision.”
We may never know the truth, but as Mr. Spock so eloquently said, “Insufficient facts always invite danger.” My own heroine, Dr. Lauren Grayson might add, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” I’m sure Lauren would be incredibly fascinated by this phenomenon.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about these strange obelisks. We need more data. To some, however, it’s already become “old news” and there’s already talk of monolith-fatigue.
One nay-sayer took to twitter to express their monolith-fatigue, saying “it’s obviously just art … and not very good art.” Others chalk it up to another sign of 2020 – the year that keeps on giving … and taking, saying “We’ve spent 2020 fearing the unknown. Go home, monolith, you’re drunk.”
Sources: NY Times & The Daily Beast