German artists built a gigantic pen and are dragging it through the Utah desert because art

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) German artists Thomas Huber (pictured) and Wolfgang Aichner on the first day of their art project, Linear, about ten miles northwest of Vernal Wednesday September 13, 2017. The duo are launching a four-week long performance art project in which they are filming themselves dragging an oversized giant silver pen through a 250-mile rectangular through the deserts of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.

Two German artists pulling a giant silver pen — think of it as a sculpture made of foam board — walked out of Vernal on Wednesday morning to create a work of desert art.

Wolfgang Aichner, 51, and Thomas Huber, 52, of Munich, are creating “linear” as they walk a rectangle — which they project will be about 400 kilometers or 250 miles — through northeastern Utah, southern Wyoming and northwestern Colorado. A colleague will support the painters, who will camp along the way.

The project grew out of the artists’ fascination with a conceptual image of a man in a suit with an oversized ballpoint pen in the desert. Philosophically, they were interested in the contrast between humans, who try to create straight lines, and nature, where straight lines rarely exist.

“The absurd quality of ‘linear’ symbolizes the attempts we make to assign meaning to our human endeavors in general and to those of the artist in particular,” they write in an artists’ statement.

The oversized pen, more than 4 meters high, is made of foam board, which was then sprayed with silver metallic paint. The pen features a small wheel at the point, which will leave a temporary imprint on the dusty ground while also providing visual scale. From a distance, a viewer might perceive the pen as regular-sized, while the man in the suit would appear teeny as a beetle, Aichner said in a phone interview.

The silver surface of the pen will also transform the view as it mirrors the desert landscape. “At the same time, it’s a very alien object because it’s metallic,” Aichner says. Through a GPS tracking system, viewers can follow the artists’ journey online at the Global Aesthetics Genetics website. (http://linear2017.org)

The project was months in planning, as the artists sought permits to walk across mostly public and American Indian reservation lands.

The painters consider themselves performers, “merely a temporary, ephemeral appearance on the horizon of an immense landscape,” in their artworks’ description. The artists will trade off in the role of pushing the pen and in capturing the journey on videotape. “One is always the man in the suit, and the other one is doing the filming,” Aichner says.

While he admits that might be slightly confusing for the video’s viewers, it draws upon aesthetics of video game design, where players often change identities.

The artists plan to screen the video of “linear” in their native Munich in February. To fund the artwork, the pair received funding from German arts organizations, as well as art collectors.

Linear •  Follow the art journey of Wolfgang Aichner and Thomas Huber at linear2017.org.

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