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Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Yellow Skies of Texas

Lord knows I love giant fruits of all kinds. peaches,[1] pineapples, artichokes[2] (which, er, technically aren't fruit, but it's the same spirit). And I was disappointed that when I lived in Australia, I never got up to Coffs Harbour to see the Big Banana.

However, even I draw the line at giant foreign foodstuffs roaming unrestrained through American skies. That is the plan of an Argentinian-Canadian "artist", who wants to float a 1000-foot long banana over Texas.

César Saëz wants to build a giant bamboo and paper banana which will be launched from Mexico and float twenty miles above Texas. At that altitude, the banana will be as long as the width of the full moon (although much thinner, and hard to see). While the article (and the project's web site, Geostationary Banana Over Texas) refers only to Texas, at twenty miles altitude the banana will be seen over an area more than twice as large as Texas.

Note also that, despite the name, the banana would not be geostationary. It would be if it were going to be tethered to the earth, but it isn't. I guess they thought "geostationary" sounded cool.

The Canada Council for the Arts has already given Saëz $15,000[3] for his banana balloon. Now, I think we can all agree that Canadians who give Argentinians money to launch bananas at the US from Mexico must be up to no good. Why, they might be smuggling in illegal aliens. Or, given the altitude, extraterrestrial aliens. It could also be a weapons platform.

Seriously, though[4] the banana is supposed to stay up for a month "until it disintegrates", according to the Chronicle article. "Disintegrates" is a nice term -- makes it sounds like the giant banana will simply vanish in a puff of smoke, leaving behind only the fresh scent of pine. Er, banana.

But in reality, when all the helium leaks out, the superstructure is going to be heading back down to earth. And the heavier bits (e.g. the bamboo) are not going to so much float as plummet. And unlike the Columbia, the banana will not burn up in the atmosphere. It's going to come down as is.

Can we declare war on Canada for supplying money to this banana-bin Laden?

Frankly, I'm of the opinion that the "art" project in this case is not visual but performance arts. That is, this clown claims to have this nutty art idea, and the actual art is the outraged (or enthusiastic) reactions it garners. (There was a "performance art" piece in London like that a couple years ago: a showing of some sort was announced, and when the public rolled up at the appointed place and time, the venue was closed. The "art", in that case, consisted of the bewildered, milling crowd. Unfortunately I can't remember enough details for a Google search to be fruitful.)

My opinion is strengthened by this quote from the artist: "It's an artistic statement and a spectacle. One thing I love is the issue of truth or hoax, and I love the ambiguity,"

Oh, and there's this bit from the "On the Concept" part of the web site:
It is in Texas because it has oil,
and a lot of Walmarts, Exxons and
Halliburtons. (and the Ranch)

It is a buffoon act, trying to impress...
Texan dominant Aerospace,
and all the Gun Clubs.

(Well, the artist has succeeded in giving the impression that he's a buffoon. On the "Collaborate" section of the site they say they need translators. They should try to find some English speakers, too.)

Art? Or hoax? If you think it's art you're a gullible cretin. If you think it's a hoax you're a knuckle-dragging Philistine. And the artist gets thousands to insult you, either way. No wonder he loves it.

Governor Goodhair opted for the non-comittal comment:
"If it works, people will probably go ape over it. We have to be careful, though, because putting bananas in orbit could create a slippery situation," [Perry spokesman] Robert Black said.

In any case, I think we can all agree on one thing: Geostationary Bananas Over Texas will inevitably be the name of a rock band.

[1]I have actually been to the Big Peach. We used to get sometimes get fruit there when I was a kid.

[2]I've been to the Big Artichoke, too. OK, I drove past it on my way to Monterey. I wish I'd stopped.

[3]While the $15K may have been for the banana, the Council has showered money on him in general:
1998: two separate grants of $15000 and $2000
1999: two separate grants of $18000 and $2000
2000: $1500
2001: $750
2002: $16,000
2004: $15,000
2005: two separate grants of $2000 and $1500

Of course, that's all in Canadian dollars, so I'm guessing it's about $50, American.

When you do the search, you must stick in the funny furrin accents and umlauts, or you'll come up dry.

[4] Actually, I am serious.