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  • Writer's pictureLL Kessner

Be the Tumbleweed

Updated: Jul 21, 2019

“You know, it’s art!”  I said that in my snottiest voice, with my hand on my hip, when I was asked to move out of the frame of a photo in front of Prada, Marfa today.  Now I’m the asshole, but I feel better.

One of the more obnoxious consequences of social media (and that’s saying a lot) is the reduction of art to backdrops for selfies.  I made a piece specifically for this purpose.  The call for artists did not mince words regarding the intentions of this public art exhibition.

cmb install + me

I’m happy with the piece I made, and I was thrilled when about 50% of the viewers exclaimed, “That’s cool!” when they read the first line of the wall text, which stated that the design was based on “the baby picture of the universe,” the map of hot and cold spots left by the very first light to ever propagate.

I’m also interested in the dissemination of the image of this piece to the hundreds of friends of each of the few hundred viewers to take photos in front of the work.  But toward what end?  Did any of them ponder the cosmic background microwave radiation or the ephemeral quality of tissue paper?  Certainly none of them knew my name.


When I was in the magical Blue Lagoon in Iceland, I couldn’t move without bumping into some walking backward with phone held in hand up high and the camera in reverse mode.  At a famous geyser nearby, scores of silent tourists encircled the feature, waiting for the moment of explosion, almost all of them with their thumbs poised and ready to capture the event.  But why?  Better images of the exact same phenomenon can be found in a millisecond on google, and skipping the taking of the photo would allow them to witness the actual thing 6 ft. in front of them instead of viewing it through the tiny screen in their palms.  Clearly I am missing something; maybe some kind of ownership that arises for encapsulating the scene personally?  Something…

Tumbleweeds love a good wasteland.  The more barren the better.  Symbols of desertedness and desolation, the plants capitalize on emptiness, rolling along uninhibited and spreading their seeds.  The tumbleweeds are dead by the time they take their mobile, iconic form, but they live again, born out of the sturdy seeds they lay everywhere.  Since I was a child I wanted to be famous after I die.  It seemed too stressful an aspiration for lifetime.

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