Initial Route Map
From the trip, I defined my project as not having a single site but rather as being a route through which I would be able to further expand on the two main interests I had while in Texas: American iconography and the desert landscape.
The two themes, as I see it, are connected through the idea of potentiality.
I started by annotating the desert landscape to be able to understand it further:
I started by looking at the horizon line as the only constant element throughout and how it is always 5km away due to the earth’s curvature and also how both the landscape and the sky share almost the same level of abstraction.
I then looked at the elements of authority such as the road signs, lamps, fences and the road itself as rhythm defining elements that further enhance the endless repetition of driving through the desert.
Both the abstraction and the endless repetition cause the desert experience to be almost mystical in the sense that, opposite from a human made scenario, the desert has no cultural actuality and, therefore, full potentiality.
From this idea of potentiality I start looking into American iconography, and Texas, being the most American place I have ever been to, struck me as this land of a radical juxtaposition of high and low brow culture.
And in this picture you can see an example of that with Dominique de Menil and Renee Magritte wearing cowboy hats in a rodeo in Texas.
So I started looking into American iconography vs classical iconography and I believe both of them connect in the sense that the icon is always visually alluring. The difference in America being that the icon, instead of being solely venerated, stands as an achievable reality, a potentiality.
With both these interests I then defined my route as being a route into becoming an icon.
The route starts in Midland, which is a stereotypical American city, planned around a grid, with a well defined downtown, sprawling suburbs, and a strong presence of the oil industry, and goes down to Terlingua, a town near the Mexican border that used to be the world capital of Mercury extraction until the end of WWII, when due to the decline in the demand for mercury, the town went bankrupt and is nowadays a ghost town of 58 inhabitants in the middle of the desert.
Due to the historical presence of mercury in Terlingua I decided to make a radical juxtaposition myself and started looking into the roman god Mercury.
Mercury was the roman god of speed and travel, among many other thing, and his temple in Rome used to be within the circus maximus, a racetrack, so in that sense I decided to apply the racetrack as the apex of my route, a final competition to become an icon. Since the roman festival of mercury, the Mercurallia, happens yearly on the 15th of May, I defined that to be the date of the race as well.
Due to the mystical experience of the desert I previously spoke about, I decided to look conceptually into the racetrack as a means to use the repetition to achieve a visual epiphany, a rebirth into the icon.
So as the driver goes around the track he starts to get used to it until the point where he manages to drive around it seamlessly, so his surroundings become a constant blur and he has the feeling of what I called “static motion” in which the feeling of inertia would be provoqued from driving in high speeds.
So instead of competing in a race against other drivers the contender would drive alone through this maze track looking for the circular track in which they would be able to beat the track.
To enhance the experience there is a banked mirror around the track that both refracts the sun rays into the track, causing a big inferior mirage, and reflects the drivers image. The objective finally is to drive through the track from dawn till dusk non stop in order to win the race.
I’ll now go through the entire route and the elements that culminate in the racetrack
So the contender arrives in the airport in Midland, where two distinct events take place. First the mercury mills that produce mercury to be stored in the mercury tower and taken back to Terlingua through the mercury ducts that lead the way throughout te route.
And second, upon arrival, he gets taken to the car dealership in which he picks a car to undertake the route and finally the race.
He then drives down to the petroleum temple, an oil field (where the derricks are) refinery (that extracts the oild from the open air oil pool and refine it) and gas station, in which he fills his car to continue.
He then reaches the Diner, which has one single parking spot, the best possible due to the proximity between the car and the diner’s doors, and one single seat in which he will enjoy his last meal before embarking in the race, The diner is all mirrored so that the contender can always see the door, to which he has his back, and his car.
Once he reaches Terlingua he’ll undergo the race, and if he succeeds, he’ll drive his car down to the Monumetal Axis, in which the mercury ducts finally disgorge into the mercury lake in Terlingua.
In the Monumental axis, the car will be towed across the 5km mercury pool into the Terlingua Hall of Fame, where the now chromed car will be polished and taken to one of the various podiums along the pool together with all the previous winners.
In conclusion my project is a route into becoming an icon in America, through the idea of potentiality, present both in the desert and in the very icon.
47 - Final Complete map