Project is scheduled to remain in place for two weeks
FARMINGTON — Visitors to Berg Park on Saturday morning may think they've stumbled across some sort of construction or development project when they see a right of way line being marked by stakes and orange flags.
But what they'll be witnessing is actually the latest project by Michael Darmody, a Farmington artist who has made a career of pushing creative boundaries. At 8 a.m. Saturday, Darmody and a surveyor — and anyone else who cares to participate — will set up at the so-called Thriftway property in Berg Park East south of San Juan Boulevard and shoot a straight line of surveyor's lath approximately 1,500 feet across the Animas River, grasslands, trails and wooded property, ending at the south bank of Willetts Ditch in Berg Park. The line will be marked every 30 feet with stakes and orange flags, which will remain in place for two weeks before being removed.
Darmody is calling the project "R.O.W." — for right of way — and he describes it as a temporary, site-specific land art project. The stakes and flags are intended to mirror those that might be used to mark the path of a planned access road, pipeline or other construction, although Darmody has no such project planned.
"Visually, you'll see the park has been bisected, split in the middle and complementing the natural surroundings — orange surrounded by green," he said. "It will be obvious there has been human intervention in the natural environment."
As is the case with all his art, Darmody is hoping to provoke a reaction among those who see his project, although he isn't quite sure what form he wants that reaction to take.
"My hope is that the people who see it will at least scratch their heads and wonder what's going on," he said.
"R.O.W." is a symbolic project, Darmody said, and will feature just enough markings so that it can't be considered a hoax. The stakes will include Darmody's contact information so that anyone who is curious about what he has in mind can reach out to him and receive an explanation.
The process of requesting and receiving permission from the various entities that control the land has been a long and complicated one, Darmody said, and he views all that as part of his installation. In addition to having to purchase a $1 million short-term liability coverage insurance policy, the artist was obliged to meet with and receive clearance from such groups as the River Reach Foundation, the Farmington Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department and the PRCA Commission.
Now that it's time to drive the stakes into the ground, Darmody said his motivation for doing so is simple.
"I want to do it because I can," he said, noting that the various fossil fuels-related industries that play such a prominent role in the local economy do the same thing. "I've dotted all my i's and crossed all my t's. So, in a way, this is me asserting my ego over this. It's kind of perverse, in a way."
The budget for the project is $800, and Darmody raised $500 of that through a GoFundMe.com campaign, while the balance came from a Durango Art Center grant. In his description of the project on the gofundme page, Darmody writes that his intent is to "expose the Western ideology of 'The Land' as being more or less strictly that of property, resource, commodity. 'Nature' has no value in this system unless it can be exploited. The line of survey lath is merely the tip of the iceberg."
With that in mind, Darmody also has researched the land extensively — not just the titles, he said, but also "every layer underneath." He hopes to get people thinking about their actual relationship to this particular piece of land, not just what they think that relationship is.
The removal of the stakes and flags after two weeks won't signal the end of "R.O.W." Darmody plans to put together an exhibition based on his experience of planning and completing the installation, though he doesn't know when or where that will take place. He's also planning on completing an instructional video for those who envision similar projects.
Darmody said "R.O.W." is just his way of expressing a bit of skepticism and that it shouldn't be perceived as an anti-fossil fuels industry statement.
"I don’t want to be around overdetermining the meaning or overdetermining the audience's experiences," he said. "I just want them to notice its geometrical perfection and its orange vs. green and its spacing and its art for art's sake, if you will. Hopefully, it just sort of triggers those associations we don't notice most of the time."
Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.