Levitated Mass: The Meme

Levitated Mass meme from Anarchist Meme Collective

In Artnet News, Brian Boucher traces Levitated Mass' second life as a meme. In brief, a touristy photo of Michael Heizer's 2012 land art work at LACMA is labeled with four captions and posted on social media. The rock, identified with a topical issue, threatens to crush a spectator. The two brackets supporting the rock are labeled with comically ineffective mitigating factors. 

Levitated Mass memes have gone global, with captions (often inscrutable to those outside a self-selected community) in multiple languages. It's a reasonable guess that most meme makers have never seen Levitated Mass and are not familiar with Heizer. They are riffing on previous memes, which is how memes work.

Populist criticism of Levitated Mass has faulted the supporting brackets. The 340-ton mass is not so magically levitating. Ironically the brackets do the heavy lifting of the meme. The rock caption sets up the topic, and the person underneath is always "us." But the brackets are the punchline. Their diagonals, copied in the meme labels, supply the air quotes.


Memes. Ever thus.
Marcel Duchamp's 1919 L.H.O.O.Q. plastered a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
"Levitated Mass" is a brilliant triumph. One of LA's best artworks, indoors or out.
Anonymous said…
The journey of this mass (rock) to LACMA captured the imagination of Southern CA. Lots of people came out to see it as it made its way to LACMA.

In any uncanny way, this mass is LA's version of the monolith (2001: A Space Odyssey) inasmuch as its path through Southern CA prefigured the path that another object would make through LA to a museum. That object is the Space Shuttle at the CA Science Center.

As a work of art, "Levitated Mass" exceeded all expectations simply by making it to LACMA.

--- J. Garcin