THE BLOG
08/14/2012 01:49 pm ET Updated Oct 14, 2012

My Very Personal Look at 'Levitated Mass'

When "Levitated Mass" by artist Michael Heizer had its recent grand opening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the $10-million event became an instant sensation. It is composed of a 465-foot-long trench over which is placed a 340-ton granite megalith.

The Los Angeles Times opined: "How often does one see the underside of a 680,000-pound rock? The bemusement soon dissipates, though, replaced by simple curiosity about the constructions's elaborate engineering." The hunk of granite left a quarry in Riverside, Calif., on Feb. 28, driven by a carrier as long as a football field. Crowds followed its slow progress through 22 Southern California cities. Virtually everybody seemed to have an instant reaction. "The boulder would make ancient Egyptians proud," a spectator commented. "It is almost as big as one of the stones from the Great Pyramid."

I deliberately allowed several weeks to pass before I took a look for myself. There were just a few people present on the Saturday morning I chose. Naturally, I sensed a tinge of excitement. It almost raised a classic question: What's it all about, Alfie? As a museum experience this was utterly unlike earlier artistic forays of mine in vastly different situations. For example, I didn't feel as I had at the Louvre when I stood in a very silent space observing a distant Mona lisa. Not at all. Nor when I stood in a packed quiet space in Florence visiting Michelangelo's David.

An altogether different mood surfaced now. To my surprise I sensed a kinship with other people -- a hard to define crew including both elders and youngsters -- as we approached the Rock. The mood was low key. Any kind of diva approach wouldn't work here. Instead an easy familiarity took over. A sense of quietly belonging together. What sense of time and space was actually at work here? I let go because clearly there was no "correct" or "wrong" way to approach this strange -- yet oddly familiar -- rocky presence in our midst. An unexpected mating was transformed into a communal happening. That i felt right at home was a scene out of Theatre of the Absurd.

Recently I'd experienced aspects of corporate urbanization that I felt were either empty or forced. These included spiritual emptiness, flat and uncreative. Deadeningly dull cliches highlighted as innovative. Empty phrases ciricatured as honest expressions of truth. Sheer noise disguised as clear expression.

So the Rock entered my consciousness on its own terms. Surrounding the Rock were people who engaged in such forbidden exercises as eye contact, smiles and interaction.

I grew aware of a fresh sense of community that included me. On that Saturday morning we dozen or so strangers gathered as if by magic to approch the Rock. We looked at one another and the Rock with a sort of kinship. A communal event quietly took place.

May I say that the Rock became the centerpiece of a healing experience? Can I find it again? Where? When?