The Myth Of The Empty
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: University of Nevada Press
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Several people at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) have lent their intellectual capital to Playa Works. When describing to Scott Slovic at UNR’s Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities in 1998 how the arc of my writing was proceeding through deserts of the world, including the Antarctic, he pointed out to me that I seemed to be formulating an arid-land aesthetic, an insight typical of Scott’s...
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When I told a Chilean artist friend that I was going to write a book about what people do on the playas of Nevada, he tilted his head to the right, squinted, and asked how was I going to do that in the desert. Playa in Spanish means beach or shore. Did it mean something different in English?...
A Tour of the Playa, Part I: The Mojave
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The Center for Land Use Interpretation occupies the east end of a nondescript commercial building at 9331 Venice Boulevard in Culver City, part of the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. The other end of the building is taken up by that marvelous and eccentric creation of David Wilson, the Museum of Jurassic Technology. The...
A Tour of the Playa, Part II: The Nevada Test Site
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The Department of Energy’s North Las Vegas Facility on Losee Road doesn’t look like much from outside the fence. There’s the mothballed fourteen-story “high bay” tower at one corner, where they used to assemble the instrument packages that would hold the nuclear devices in place for the detonations, but it’s a bland structure...
A Tour of the Playa, Part III: Wendover
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Three great voids upon the sphere of the earth are defined in American imagination by heat and salt and emptiness. The first and oldest in our culture is the Dead Sea, which lies within Jordan and Israel at 1,312 feet below sea level. It is the lowest and saltiest body of water on earth. Four thousand years ago, the region was a fertile agricultural...
A Tour of the Playa, Coda: Owens Dry Lake
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“We’re heading out to the dead center of what is, on some days, the largest single point source of particulate air pollution in the United States,” declares Matt, glee written all over his face. The Owens Lake is just barely dry, and only on the surface, groundwater flowing within a few feet beneath our shoes. It’s not late enough in the spring for the...
Painting the Playa: Smoke Creek Desert
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Michael Moore, a tall, genial artist in his mid-fifties from the San Francisco Bay Area, is sitting on a seat hacked out of an enormous white tree trunk that’s beached on its side at the edge of the Smoke Creek playa in Northern Nevada. Linda Fleming, a sculptor and Mike’s wife, has created several works here, this vantage point among...
Burning Man: Black Rock Desert
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I’m sitting here on the great playa of the Black Rock Desert with my twenty-six-year-old son, Tarn, and surrounded by roughly 25,451 of our closest friends, all of us gathered together for the annual celebration of the Burning Man. Our camp consists of an olive-green surplus parachute underneath which reside numerous nylon chairs,...
Rediscovery: An Afterword
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Two weeks after Burning Man and I’m already back on the Black Rock, this time with the photographer Mark Klett to work on a small collaborative book about the playa for the University of Arizona Press. A series of prose and photographic meditations, it will offer us a chance to work beyond the confines of our trips taken with the Third...
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Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 20 b/w illustrations, 8 color illustrations, 1 map
Publication Year: 2002
Series Title: Environmental Arts and Humanities Series