Karen Lofgren’s “Trajectory Object” Buried at High Desert Test Sites

Karen Lofgren, High Desert Test Sites

Trajectory Object, detail interior text

From 2010 through 2013, artist Karen Lofgren was mentally occupied by the nature of time and the idea that we, as human beings, take it for granted as relatively concrete. Within our life spans we settle into, and become familiar with, our societal structures, cultures, language, and environment compacted nicely into frames of a hundred years or less that live parallel to a much larger space and time continuum looming simultaneously alongside our daily breath yet rarely contemplated in regards to a future that will remain when we no longer exist.

Karen Lofgren, HIgh Desert Test Sites

Trajectory Object: Site Study #3, 2013

Honing this thought down through an archeological lens, Lofgren started wondering how future civilizations might unearth and view contemporary art objects. In her vast academic explorations through university libraries she learned that non-use defined objects were typically relegated to “ritual” status when discovered and that she would go about creating a work of art that reflected some aspect of our parent culture. She was interested in the anonymity of historical object making, and in dreaming about how a symbolic burial of such an item might be interpreted in another thousand or so years when one, language is changed completely and the words inscribed are illegible except to top scholars and two, the work’s function and meaning becomes hypothetical, just like objects we dig up today.

Karen Lofgren, High Desert Test Sites

Canis Major, Orion, Lepus, sketch book image, 2013

She knew she wanted to create a “big bronze sculpture” but it was upon further research into ancient burials that she decided it would use the orientation and form of visible constellations in our contemporary sky as a geographic marker of time. The structure of the object is a representation of some of the constellations that will no longer be visible from our latitude in some thousands of years as Earth rotates on its axis and our pole star shifts to Vega from Polaris. Orion, as well as Lepus and Canis Major are included in this group.

Karen Lofgren, High Desert Test Sites

Trajectory Object, bronze constellation forms

The sculpture was then buried in a ritual fashion this month in Joshua Tree, California—just a hop, skip and a jump from Joshua Tree. Wrapped up in muslin like a mummy, the artwork was lowered into the earth, its tomb festooned with goods meant to traverse the boundary between life and death with the soul including a six-pack of beer, a strand of cowrie shells, powder pigments and goat horns. All that remains is a sun-rising cairn nestled between some sun-rising standing stones. Wanderers through the high desert can visit the site through directions provided at High Desert Test Sites; the highly regarded art project that features contemporary installations spread out amongst the barren desert terrain and boulder hearty mountains.


Karen Lofgren, High Desert Test Sites

Trajectory Object: sun rising cairn detail

A limited edition publication designed by Willem Henri Lucas with words by Ben Ehrenreich was also created to commemorate the work and can be obtained by contacting Royale Projects.


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in Focus on the American West

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