Preserved from Annihilation

Today was a day for a short trip, a minor one. Just a jump up to Kennesaw to see the Crumbly Spaceship Earth. Here’s the far away picture I got:

Spaceship 1

Just a globe with a little man walking on top. Hardly worth even a mini-trip, you’d think, but in fact this sculpture has quite a tragic and extraordinary story to it.

The sculpture, 175 short tons of Brazilian blue quartzite, was unveiled in October 2006. The little man atop the world is David Brower, founder of the Sierra Club, and the sculpture was titled “Spaceship Earth.” Inside, a time capsule was sealed, not to be opened until 3006 AD. Instead it was recovered three months later.

As the story goes, on the night of December 29, 2006, campus police felt the floor of their office shake. They ran outside, and saw that Spaceship Earth had literally disintegrated into a pile of twisted metal and broken stone. The time capsule sat exposed in the rubble, uncovered a thousand years too soon. An engraved phrase, “our fragile craft,” was still visible amid the debris.

Spaceship 2

That’s right, the earth collapsed, right onto the bronze figure of the prominent environmentalist. The photos of the ruins are difficult to behold.

Spaceship 3


Spaceship 4

The artist, understandably, was devastated and blamed the apocalypse on vandals, though officials think it was more likely caused by resin or glue failure. The artist painstakingly selected the finest Brazilian blue quartzite, saying “…immediately I understood this was the right stone. It is more permanent than anything else. No pollution can hurt it. No graffiti will harm it. It was the right stone to be here for 1,000 years.”

The cruelly obvious metaphor was recognized by all, as an MSNBC article stated “A million-dollar stone sculpture, intended to remind future generations of the Earth’s fragility, made its point a bit early — just three months after its unveiling, it collapsed.”

Well, we’d read about this Spaceship Earth and how it was now glued back together again, maybe being some metaphor about the earth’s eventual resiliency after mass extinction events? So we set out to visit it today.

Jon however, wasn’t entirely confident about the sculpture’s stability and was uneasy posing beneath it.

Spaceship 5

If you look up close, you can see various signs of the damage and spots where the glue repairs are still showing:

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It really is a shame that the metaphor had to be played out so dramatically, but in all seriousness, I like it much better this way- all glued back together but with geological scars telling the story of its tectonic history.

Art-O-Mat and Tupac

I had learned that there was a single Art-O-Mat in the state of Georgia, but despite what the website says, it was not at any of the Whole Foods. I tracked it down at an art collective called Wonderroot. On Saturday we headed out to visit this state’s only Art-o-Mat!

An Art-o-Mat is a good idea, but that doesn’t always mean that it will work out the way you want it to. You know those old cigarette machines where you put in your coins and pulled on a tab and then the cigarettes dropped into the collection pit? They stopped making those cigarette machines a long time ago, but I remember them from when I was a kid. I wonder if they fell out of favor once a pack a cigarettes cost more than a person could reasonably pay in coins. I don’t think any cigarette machines were updated to accept dollar bills. Anyway, an Art-O-Mat is a converted old cigarette machine, only instead of dispensing cigarettes, it dispenses an art on a cigarette box-sized block of wood.

I loved the idea of putting coins in a machine, pulling a tab, and receiving an art, so we set out to find this Art-O-Mat. It was revealed to us at Wonderrroot.

Art 1

In the place where the little windows displayed pictures of your favorite cigarette brands, they had windows where you could select what kind of art you would like. There was Kill Taupe Bunnies, Tarot, Dream, Fish, American Folk. I chose Fish.

Art 2

I asked Jon to take a picture of me ceremoniously putting in the coin, commemorating the event. Instead he got a series of pictures of me fiddling with the stupid machine, failing to receive my art and resisting impulses to kick the machine.

Art 3 Art 4 Art 5

The stupid thing didn’t work! I did the expected round of testing, trying to pull the “Coin Return” level, trying to pull the handles up instead of out, then down, then really hard, then trying to pull every single tab on the machine to see if any of them worked. Nothing.

Fortunately, the receptionist at Wonderroot just disappeared at the moment into the basement to help a fellow artist with something, and that’s when I noted that someone had left the keys in the machine, in plain view. I took that moment to seize the keys and open the machine up, grabbing a handful of Art-o-Mat tokens inside. I wanted my vending machine art!

See, prior to this we had asked the receptionist about the Art-O-Mat and she knew nothing about it. She called her boss, located the tokens required to operate the machine, and took my $5 in exchange for a token.

After grabbing the handful of tokens, I handed them to Jon and said “Here, take these and see if you can get it to work.”

Art 6

It worked. It took five tokens to get an art. This makes sense, in hindsight. Probably back when this cigarette machine dispensed cigarettes, it probably took five quarters. So naturally it would only work when it accepted five quarter-sized tokens that said “Art-O-Mat” on them.

The problem was that the machine was out of Fish. It was also out of Tarot, Kill Taupe Bunnies, and all the other mildly interesting ones. The only art left in the machine was “American Folk”, and I ended up with a crappy little painting on a cigarette-sized wooden block.

Art 7
Ah well, you know what made up for it? The Statue of Tupac! I hear Tupac himself commissioned it posthumously. This was not found at Wonderroot, this was in the Tupac Peace Gardens, in back of the Tupac Shakur Center for Kids Who Can’t Read So Good and Want to Learn Other Stuff, Too. In Stone Mountain.

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The center was closed, and it was unclear it if was closed for good or just closed for Sunday or closed for the season, but scaling the fence allowed me to pose with Pac right on the pedestal.

Art 10


Who knew that the Atlanta Metropolitan area had so much to offer?