Counterfeit Concrete

I’m participating in Fun-a-Day, a daily art challenge through the month of January, committed to do a daily post here detailing some Big Art Idea or project that looms somewhere out in my future.

A Portion of the Berlin Wall in Mountain View

Back at the turn of the mmillennium I worked in Silicon Valley there was a weirdly notorious artifact stuffed at the back of a parking lot of a random corporate office in Mountain View, an actual piece of the Berlin Wall.  If I recall correctly, it was displayed with some sappy plaque about liberty and freedom and so on.

You can kind of imagine how this piece of the Berlin Wall got there. I’m picturing some patriotic dotCom millionaire who saw himself as an American self-made success-story, desperately wanting to celebrate the moral as well as economic triumph of capitalism against the evils of Communism and socialism.

Wait, what?  Why again is there a culturally and historically significant object at the back of a parking lot of a generic office building in Silicon Valley?

It got me thinking.

I always presumed it was authentic.  A few years later, I started thinking, what if it wasn’t?  Who would know?  What other pieces of history — solidly heavy immovable irrefutable bits of history — could one completely fake?

Counterfeit Concrete Sketch
Cannery Row Concrete Pilings

And the best part was that it would make brilliant garden art.  It could sit in someone’s garden for ages.  It could come with an authentic plaque that described its historical significance.  Over time, its counterfeit nature would be forgotten and it would take on significance beyond its humble origins.

And it would be technically fun and challenging to replicate the texture and feel of the authentic thing.  The effects on concrete of decades of high-level gamma radiation.  Or the effects of fifty years of the erosive effects of pounding surf.  The stress of millions of tons of concrete and steel falling from unimaginable heights.

Footnote:  Apparently,  just a few months ago, after 23 years, the Mountain View City Council voted to move the pieces of the Berlin Wall to a more central park. According to the San Jose Mercury News, my imagination was on the money. Purchased by a private collector and erected in the parking lot of a building he owned. The owner “called his 20-by-20-foot display ‘A Tribute to American Resolve.'”

UPDATE: I just discovered the work of Bay Area artist Stephanie Syjuco who clearly had a similar idea about monumental concrete remnants. See her work Berlin Wall.


This ongoing project involves a constant search for fragments of the “Berlin Wall” wherever I go. I attempt to find what I believe to approximate the look and feel of pieces of this iconic structure. The collection is composed of facsimilies found in backyards, urban street corners, suburbs, and wilderness areas all over the world. Engraved brass plaques are made to commemorate the day and place of finding.

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