Monolith

("Cloudy Monolith" by Trey Ratcliff is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

It wasn't until Nov. 18 of this year that the first monolith, a three-sided stainless steel structure built and installed by an unidentified individual or group, was discovered in a remote canyon. Spotted by The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources as they surveyed bighorn sheep by helicopter, the monolith sparked a phenomenon.

While it’s unknown when the prismatic structure was originally installed, satellite imagery proves it appeared between Aug. 2015 and Oct. 2016. A Dutch journalist later narrowed the timeframe down to between July 7 and Oct. 21, 2016.

Some in the art community believe it is a work of art by the late John McCracken — including his own gallerist, David Zwirner. McCracken, who was active from the early 1960s until his death in 2011, is most known for his minimalistic geometric sculptures that were both free-standing and leaned up against walls. 

After tourists flocked to the remote site to catch a glimpse of the “2001: A Space Odyssey”-esque object, the state’s Bureau of Land Management reported it had been removed on Nov. 27. Two individuals, Andy Lewis and Sylvan Christensen, later came forward as a part of the group of four that removed it. The group said they removed it for environmental reasons as there are no roads, parking, trails or bathrooms near the site. 

But that wasn’t the end of the monolith phenomenon. Others began appearing across the world and not just in memes about Southwest Airlines, Jeep Wranglers, grandma’s basement, x-rays or pancakes

The second monolith popped-up in Piatra Neamt, Romania on Nov. 26, and while different with noticeable circular etchings on its sides, it was instantly linked to the monolith in Utah. It, too, disappeared a few days later on Dec. 1. 

The third monolith was discovered on Pine Mountain in Atascadero, California on Dec. 2. 

Dec. 3 saw two peculiar structures pop-up: a three-foot-tall monolith in Fayetteville, North Carolina and the cardboard “Poor Man’s Monolith” in Elk Grove, California. The same day, a small business owner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania installed one in front of his business that was eventually stolen but soon replaced. Another was found in Rome, Italy. The artists were later identified. 

A day later — the same day the sixth monolith was discovered in Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada — three men livestreamed as they vandalized and destroyed the monolith on Pine Mountain prior to erecting a wooden cross in its place while chanting “Christ is king!” and saying that they were “on direct orders of QAnon and President Trump himself.” A black monolith was also discovered in Prlekija, Slovenia.

On Dec. 5, the eighth monolith — differentiated from the others by both the word “CAUTION” and a picture of an unidentified flying object on it — was discovered in the Los Padres National Forest. The ninth one was found in Hessen, Germany but was destroyed a few days later.

The next day, four men — Wade McKenzie, Travis Kenney, Randall Kenney and Jared Riddle — declared themselves to be the creators of the Atascadero monolith and released a video of themselves replacing the previously destroyed installation with a new one.The same day, the tenth monolith was discovered in Santa Clarita, California only to be removed a day later. In Washington D.C., a family returned home to a monolith in their front yard. 

Three were also found in Colorado. Bill Zempel, a mechanic at Mile High Aircraft Services, built and installed a monolith at the Air and Space Port in Boulder, Colorado. Two more were found in Boulder: one in front of a taco restaurant and another in Chautauqua Park.

The fourteenth monolith was discovered in Oudehorne, Netherlands and the fifteenth in Manitoba, Canada on the same day. On Dec. 7, five more monoliths were found. One in El Paso, Texas that was allegedly stolen a day later, another at the JW Marriott Hotel in Panama City, Panama, one at Compton Beach in Isle of Wight — later attributed to Tom Dunford — and one in Albuquerque, New Mexico that was toppled. In Kristiansand, Norway, a monolith appeared in front of a lighting store.

Both the twenty-first monolith in Chia, Columbia and twenty-second in Ayllón, Spain were discovered on Dec. 8.  The next day, the twenty-third was discovered in Vancouver, British Columbia along with two others in Poland: one in Kielce, another in Warsaw. The twenty-sixth was discovered at Liebegg Castle in Switzerland. The twenty-seventh was found in Glastonbury, England and says “Not Banksy” at it’s base.

Banksy, an artist whose identity is unknown, has made similar satirical street art — mostly stenciled paintings — in unexpected places around the world since the 1990s. 

On Dec. 10, the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth monoliths were discovered in Kyiv and Poltava, Ukraine. Another two were found in Savonlinna, Finland and in Zagorje ob Savi, Slovenia. In Adelaide, South Australia a monolith with coordinates on its sides — for Trump Tower in New York, Managaha Island, the Mariana Trench and the Sphinx in Egypt — was discovered. In Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, a square one. Another, smaller, monolith also appeared in Kanne, Belgium

Five more monoliths were discovered on Dec. 11, in Oosterhout, Netherlands; Croydon, South London; Lerwick, Shetland, England; Hamburg, Germany; Újpalota, Budapest and Torrance, California.

On Dec. 12, more monoliths — as expected — were found, including in Zlín, Czech Republic and one in Trentino, Italy. A day later, monoliths were found in Lethbridge and Kamloops, Canada; Gemen Castle in Borken, Germany and Florida.  Another six monoliths were discovered over the next couple of days in Senec and Ruzomberok, Slovakia; Pohlheim and Hessigheim, Germany; Peuerbach, Austria and Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  

As of Dec. 17, one other monolith has been found in Bad Staffelstein, Germany, bringing the worldwide total to 53 monoliths.

Separating themselves from conventional sculpture or mass-produced art, the monoliths don’t appear to be made by a single person or group of people. Instead, they are being made individually with the original Utah monument as a blueprint. Moreover, it’s both fascinating, and, frankly, fun to see where they’re going to pop-up next.

Will one pop-up here in the Pacific Northwest? It hasn’t happened yet — or since 2001, if we include the Seattle monolith by “Some People,” a replica of the monolith from the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” With over 50 found worldwide, at an average of between three or four a day, it appears that there’s no slowing down for the artistic phenomenon.

News / Film & TV Reporter

James is on the news desk where he focuses on protest reporting. Outside of reporting for the Daily Emerald, he is a former reporter and copy editor at LCC's The Torch, has contributed to KISS vinyl guides as a collector and is a vintage vinyl dealer.