After "Dissipate"

For Burning Man, 2008, I recreated Michael Heizer's Dissipate

1968 image of Heizer's Dissipate

Figure 1. 1968 Image of Heizer's Dissipate, Black Rock Desert (Credit:

The blurb for Burning Man says:

In 1968, Michael Heizer came to the Black Rock Desert and created "Dissipate", a land art piece consisting of five trenches dug into the playa. Forty years later, "Dissipate" has been recreated by others to foster discussion of art created on the Black Rock Desert before Burning Man.

The Process

I did a little research, created a proposal and submitted it.

Proposed layout for 'After Dissipate'

Figure 2. Proposed Layout for 'After "Dissipate"'. The Trash fence did not get built and the lights were placed at the perimeter.

Eventually, someone from Burning Man contacted me and we agreed on the following limitations.

  1. Heizer's original trenches were wedges 12 feet long and 1 foot by 1 foot. I would be limited to 6 feet long and 6 inches by 6 inches. Interestingly, when I wrote my proposal, there was not much information on the burning man web site about the precise restrictions on holes, but now, "Digging Holes" says 3 cubic feet. In the original piece, each hole was half of 12'x1'x1' or 6 cubic feet. My holes were half of 6'x0.5'x0.5 or 0.6 cubic feet for a total of 3 cubic feet.
  2. Unattended kerosene lanterns are not permitted. I grew up with kerosene and find it to be pretty safe stuff, but those are the rules. I used solar lanterns, with nasty Nickel Cadmium batteries insted.
Overall, I found the application process to be easy, and the negotiations to be straight forward.


I was running a day or two late because of working on the "Golden Mean". So, I cut a few features, primarily the trash fence. I also did not write in each trench.


The Wine and Cheese opening on Tuesday was a success, we had around 25 people. I ran the movie "Far From Home".

'After Dissipate' Opening

Figure 3. Photos of 'After "Dissipate" by Jon Sarriugarte uploaded by Tansy Brooks.


Pulling the forms from the ground and filling the holes took just over an hour. I burned the pieces.

Video of the Tear Down


Overall, the piece was somewhat underwhelming unless you knew about the back story. Most art on the playa does not have a sign and a description about "Why this is important".

I wish I had take better pictures of the work with Burning Man in the background.

Cutting features such as the trash fence because of time was unfortunate.

I think that I could have done the the trenches full size, it would have been more true to the original work.


  • Dissipate, Center For Land Use Interpretation,, Downloaded 2008-09-06
  • Houston Chronicle, May 2, 2008 (bad link)
    "It's hard to miss the Heizer pieces, each of which is more than 50 feet long. Originally dug into the dirt and spread out along 520 miles of desert on the Nevada-California border, Nine Nevada Depressions was eventually destroyed by the elements. Heizer later used steel lining to rebuild the three pieces the Menil owns.

    Although Circumflex, Rift and Dissipate have long been part of the collection, only Circumflex at 115 feet the longest sculpture has been installed since the museum opened in 1987."

  • Landscape Architecture Magazine, "Gardens and the Death of Art," 7/98, p. 90-94
  • DSpace Website, "Nine Nevada Depressions, Dissipate #8," Photos
  • Suzaan Boettger, "Earthworks: Art and the Landscape of the Sixties." University of California Press, 2002, ISBN 0520241169, 9780520241169 315 pages. p. 114
    "Hiezer would recall that Heiner Freidrich was the first to give him money, in 1968, "but the guy who really helped me was Bob Scull" Heizer collectively title the works commissioned by Scull Nine Nevada Depressions. Made between August and September 1968, Heizer's 520-mile lie of loops, faults troughs and intersections linked nine sites on dry lakes located on government-owned land in Nevada, along the Nevada-California border.


    For another of these Depressions, number eight, Hezier determined the placement of the five rectangular trenches of Dissipate by the compositional device of dropping five matchsticks. Their arrangement according to the laws of chance because his plan."

  • Erika Suderburg, "Space, Site, Intervention: Situating Installation Art," U of Minnesota Press, 2000, ISBN 081663159X, 9780816631599 370 pages. p. 133:
    "In the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, Michael Heizer digs a series of rectangles, which he then lines with wood. Dissipate(Nine Nevada Depressions 8) (1968) is based on the arbitrary droppings of a series of matchsticks - Duchampian stoppages made incendiary."

    See also a good footnote describing the original sources

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