Back in 1998, USFCAM exhibited Allan McCollum’s THE EVENT: Petrified Lightning from Central Florida (with Supplemental Didactics). If you didn’t get to see it back in 1998, or you’d just like to see it again, you now have a new opportunity!
The Miami Art Museum is currently exhibiting The Wilderness which includes McCollum’s work from our original show at USFCAM. Here’s more about the show in Miami:
Miami Art Museum presents The Wilderness, a thematic group exhibition exploring the real or imagined boundaries between tamed and untamed nature. The exhibition grapples with competing definitions of “wildness,” pitting traditional conceptions of a chaotic, primordial realm that awaits human subjugation against the idea of a self-regulating order that courses through the natural world.
McCollum’s work, THE EVENT: Petrified Lightning from Central Florida (with supplemental didactics), is a part of a series of projects in which he explores the ways in which treasured objects are created “in nature” and “in culture,” and how their meanings are constructed within the community that gives them value. He specifically explores the creation of objects by lightning as a way taking apart our common fantasies of “instant” production of objects (as described in myth and also industrial production), the popular metaphors we commonly use to describe the processes of “creativity,” (as with our fantasies of receiving “illumination” from above, being “struck” with an idea like a “bolt from the blue,” etc.), and he hopes to “reverse-engineer” these kinds of metaphors into an exploration of the way we all like to imagine human agency interacting with natural processes in general.
What Exactly Is Petrified Lightning?
To produce the Petrified Lightning project, Allan McCollum and independent curator Jade Dellinger collaborated with both a geologist and an electrical engineer from the University of Florida’s International Lightning Research Facility at Camp Blanding,near the small town of Starke, Florida. With the help of the team at the center, McCollum spent the summer of 1997 triggering lightning strikes by launching small rockets with hair-thin copper wires trailing behind them directly into storm clouds as they passed overhead. The triggered lightning bolts were directed down the wires into various containers prepared by the artist that were filled with Central Florida minerals donated by a local sand mining operation. The bolts instantly liquefy a column of sand with temperatures up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which immediately re-congeals into a column of naturally created glass that exactly duplicates the path of the lightning bolt. These are then dug out by the artist in manner similar to the way a paleontologist might remove a fragile fossil from its matrix. These rootlike glass structures are called fulgurites, or sometimes, petrified lightning. Read more here.