Archive for Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Monolith’s odyssey ends as Seattle welcomes it home

January 23, 2001

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— It arose seemingly out of nowhere as 2001 dawned, a 9-foot-tall mass of steel and iron towering on Kite Hill overlooking Lake Washington.

Two days later, the mysterious monolith had vanished.

A day after that it reappeared this time a few miles away on a tiny island in the middle of Seattle's Green Lake. Back on Kite Hill three days later, an equally perplexing 8-foot-tall, four-finned replica of a bomb showed up on the spot where the monolith had first appeared.

Now, what began as a guerrilla artists group's anonymous prank to commemorate 2001 and perplex Seattle residents has city officials welcoming the monolith back to Kite Hill.

"The invention of the monolith was wonderful," said C. David Hughbanks, executive director of Magnuson Park, where Kite Hill is located. "We sort of forgot it was 2001. But they didn't let us."

The monolith creators, who call themselves Some People, say their prank was meant as an anonymous tribute to 2001 and the icon monolith in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."

They'd intended to stay in the shadows but felt compelled to come forward after their 350-pound creation was kidnapped. No one has taken responsibility for moving the monolith or erecting the bomb replica, and Some People say it wasn't them.

"We wanted the monolith to be there," said Caleb Schaber, a 27-year-old Some People member. "We

didn't think we'd have to bail it off islands and re-concrete it back in. We just wanted it to be there and be left alone to do our art."

Group members had thought their work would end up in the trash. "We thought it was going to be a prank gift," said Louie Raffloer, 41, a Seattle blacksmith who helped build it. "Everyone who is involved with it are seasoned pranksters and adult juvenile delinquents."

Raffloer said the monolith, about 9 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 1 foot thick, took about 25 hours to make at a cost of about $250.

There's a long tradition of guerrilla art in Seattle. Public art normally has to go through a long approval process, but an underworld of artists occasionally challenges the bureaucracy by anonymously installing artworks throughout the city. Most of the pieces aren't allowed to stay around for long.

City officials say the monolith can stay at Kite Hill at least until March, when kite season begins and a 9-foot monolith would tend to get in the way. Its longer-term future is uncertain.

Seattle resident Terry Frest applauded Some People for taking the initiative.

"To be honest, I think some of the guerrilla sculptures are a lot better than commissioned art," said Frest, 51. "It's fun. Art should be a participatory thing."

While embracing the monolith, city officials have stashed the bomb replica in a warehouse.

"I'm beginning to think this is some sort of Stanley Kubrick tribute," said Seattle Department of Parks and Recreations spokeswoman Dewey Potter, referring to Kubrick's 1964 movie "Dr. Strangelove," which was subtitled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

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