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Utah Monolith: Aliens or Art?
Episode 521st November 2022 • Strange Phenomenon • Strange Phenomenon
00:00:00 00:34:45

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In November 2020, a metal monolith was discovered in a remote area of Utah. The images quickly captured the internet’s attention as people searched for answers. Soon after, more started appearing across the world. People began to ask: was it aliens or artists?

Hosted by Ray Tarara

Written & Produced by R.J. Blake and Ray Tarara

Theme Music by Terra Monk

Special guests: 

Bret Hutchings

Gabriella Angeleti - Art Newspaper

Douglas Van Praet - Psychology Today

Special Thanks to Heidi Zuckerman

Listen to her podcast CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ART.

Additional music by: 

Sergey Cheremisinov

Kai Engle


Full list of sources available at our website.


RAY: The Utah Monolith was a viral sensation that swept not only the United States, but the world. An object without a clear purpose, but full of possibilities, that latched onto the psyche of the internet, spreading like wildfire while people searched for who, or what, was responsible for this strange phenomenon.



Bret Hutchings, the pilot manning the mission helicopter, recalled that day.

Brett: We're working down in Southeastern Utah down around the Moab area for people that are familiar with that. We had been out conducting surveys for two days working in this area that was called Lockhart Valley. On the third day, as we were flying over some of the lower terrain that we search for these big rocky mountain, big horn sheep, and desert big horn sheep, we happen to, one of the biologists, a fellow named Wade having to be looking down out of the aircraft, right below us in these little small red rock canyons and all of a sudden spotted what's come to be known as the monolith now, even though it's not really a monolith. Anyway, he immediately started going, "Whoa, whoa, what's that? Turn around. Turn around."

I was like, "What, what do you got?" He didn't know how to describe it [laughs] and I circled around to the right and the sun happened to hit the thing. It was pretty obvious to me what he was looking at. I went, "Oh, what in the heck is that thing man?" We circled around at about two or three times. Then I said, "Okay, we've got to take a break, go down and check this thing out." My first impression of it was is that, "Is this something that NASA or somebody put here, are they bouncing?" It almost brought to mind some sort of cell tower or something and I thought, "It was like NASA or somebody put this thing here and they're bouncing satellite signals off of it?"

We just landed and Wade and Brad and Dustin, the other two biologists with Wade and I proceeded to walk, hiked down to it and we landed up above it. I started filming them as they were walking down.

RAY: In the videos Brett took, the monolith is dwarfed by the martian-looking landscape as they descend into the crevasse it was hidden in. Immediately, it ignited the imaginations of those investigating.

CLIPS FROM VIDEO: “Okay, the intrepid explorers go down to investigate the alien life form.”

CLIPS FROM VIDEO: “.... They cut it in?!”

CLIPS FROM VIDEO: “... This is wild. Who does this?” “Very interesting, this seems to point straight into the wall. Wow. This is wild.”

RAY: The video shows a shimmering 3 sided stainless steel pillar against the red rocks. Towering the height of two men. Gabriella Angeleti, an early reporter on the story described it:

GABRIELLA: It was around 10 to 12 feet tall, and it was installed on the sandstone floor in a remote cove in Canyonlands. Canyonlands is just a colossal place. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world but it's actually one of the most remote national parks that there are. Until not too long ago, I think they were only issuing-- You have to fact check this but they issue a really limited number of camping tickets out there. It's for outdoorsy people. It's really not a major national park, like a more popular national park like arches or something. There's no facilities or any artwork there or really anything around it.

RAY: Lt. Nick Street, Department of Public safety spokesman, would later elaborate on the Monolith’s construction. Using rivets, he said, “Somebody took the time to use some type of concrete-cutting tool or something to really dig down, almost in the exact shape of the object, and embed it really well. It’s odd. There are roads close by, but to haul the materials to cut into the rock, and haul the metal, which is taller than 12 feet in sections — to do all that in that remote spot is definitely interesting.”

Brett continued to take pictures -- capturing it’s majestic presence in the landscape. The sun glistening off its stark sides evoking images pulled from science fiction history.

While all the questions remained unanswered, they still had a job to complete that day. So they took off, thinking that it would be nothing more than a fun thing to share within their department.

BRETT: we inspected the thing for about 30 minutes trying to figure out who had put it there, if there's any. There was literally no markings on it. At the end of it, we just climbed back in the aircraft and went back to doing what we do. Later on that day for work, we have a group app and I sent a picture of it out. All I said to the guys that I work with was, "Does anybody know what this thing is?" Then one of them chose to send it out on the Instagram account for our department and two of the local television stations picked up on it.

This happened on a Wednesday. I got a call that Friday from the guy that runs the Instagram account. He said, "They want to do an interview with you over that thing that you found down in the desert." I said, "Well, it's really nothing. I just was curious if anybody knew what it was." He said, "I know but can you give him a call?" I called this guy, his name's Andrew Adams that works for KSL TV 5 here.

member originally thinking of:

It was like everybody wanted it to be this portal to another dimension or something like that.

He did a great job incorporating the story. I told him, I said, "Hey, we really don't want people to know where this is."

RAY: As soon as the story hit the news, it became obvious that this was not going to be just a weird thing around the office. The buzz was immediate as the story took on a life of its own. New York Times, ABC, NBC. You could not turn on the news without hearing about what was now being called “the Utah Monolith.”

Brett: For most of the time when all this was going on, I was out of cellphone range. My wife, my parents were all getting phone calls because people couldn't get hold of me trying to find out what the location, when was the location is discovered. My wife jokingly said, "I'm going to quit my full-time job and just become your agent," because I wasn't there for any of the calls and stuff because we were still out doing the sheet counts.

We put in some very long days on these biological counts. For me, it was like, "You know what, I'm just putting this off till I get back home and stuff." I was just in a completely surreal experience almost. I had people that I hadn't talked to in 35 years that were calling me up or trying to get, "Hey, I just saw you on the news." I've got a friend over in Switzerland that goes, sent me an Instagram thing and I finally figured out how to answer him.

He goes, "Is this you?" I'm like, "Yes." I go, "It's crazy, isn't it?" He's like, "Yes, it really is, man." He goes, "You're all over the news in Europe and stuff." I really think that what it was, and this is just my take is we've all been so cooped up because of COVID and the elections, everybody's sick of the election crap and stuff.

RAY: the Monolith became the internet’s new obsession as theories flooded social media.

Gabriella: I think that we were just still in the thick of the pandemic and it was a great fun distraction. The Reddit buzz around it also propelled things a little bit. I think anything that forces people to think about aliens, or the unknown gives them some existential questions that I'm sure we all had at the end of last year, would really become popular and take off the way it did.

It was interesting, honestly, because people were having really strong reactions to the monolith. It made them curious and it made them angry in a funny way, as all viral things do. Maybe another aspect that of it was that it was installed in this beautiful Red Cove in Canyonlands, so the pictures are really strong. I can definitely see why people went out there in droves and wanted a photograph it and be a part of this. It was really a global thing. We were all experiencing the monolith together after a year of being very divided.

RAY: The story had tapped into the psyche of a world searching for a distraction, going instantly viral. Douglas Van Praet, founder and chief strategist at INTENT LA - a brand strategy agency that applies behavioral science to business challenges, explained why the story of the Utah Monolith spread so quickly.

DOUGLAS VAN PRAET: If you look at all viral content out there, there really are six functional components that were 'designed' by natural selection. The first of which is Surprise, second is Survival. The third is Sustenance, fourth is Sex. The fifth is Small Fry, so babies, cute puppies, kittens, and sixth is Status.

All of these needs, they overlap and they do stack upon each other, because you'll often find several S's within a piece of viral content, but they all are aimed at who we are as humans, which at a fundamental evolutionary level is about survival and replication of the species.

As I mentioned, the first of which is survival and surprise. Surprise, to me, is even a bigger one because survival is just so general that it doesn't have the specificity of surprise. Your brain is designed to pay attention to pattern interruption and contrast, so you notice differences. Having something appear out of nowhere in a natural setting, which is clearly something that doesn't belong, something manufactured by a man. The absolute randomness of it is the first thing that will grab your attention.

RAY: People needed to know: who built it and why?

GABRIELLA: I have 100% believe that it could have been aliens. I think that just added to people's fascination with this. There's something really mysterious about the structure appearing out of nowhere and no one being able to claim it.

RAY: When the Utah Highway Patrol initially posted the images on Facebook, the caption ended with “What do you think it is? Alien Emoji.”


While others appear to take it more seriously, sharing their theories. One person wrote, “Looks from the dirt and condition of the metal to be recent. A marker for something.”

Another wrote, “It’s a sun ray absorber and heat maintainer marker that can store heat and dispose of waste water on the surface and under the surface, see the H2O behind it. It’s a refuel station and dump site for space craft, like a gas station. See the crack behind it, it leads to the underground space craft. It’s easy to figure out.”

One comment even mentions that they had recently seen a UFO in Ogden, near where the Monolith was found. It was hardly the first sighting in the area. A hot spot for Unidentified Aerial Phenomena sightings, Utah is known for its strange lights.

GABRIELLA: Long story short, my family has a cabin out there and when the pandemic hit in New York and at the end of March, I just went out there and stayed out there.

There was one time where I was sitting in the cabin, and you would see this strange light sign overhead all the time. People say it's from the military planes or something like that, but Utah is a very, very creepy place.

RAY: For Brett, finding the monolith was not his first time encountering something he could not easily explain.

BRETT: I think we'd be foolish to think that we're the only beings in the universe. I've actually had a couple of experiences in my lifetime that I could not explain. They were definitely UFO type experiences that I went, "Okay, this is just freaky," and I couldn't quite figure out what they were. I still to this day have no idea of what they were.

I was in the military for 20 years out here with the Utah National Guard. We used to see all sorts of weird stuff out in the desert too that we couldn't explain. I think a lot of that kind of stuff had to do with, number one, a lot of the air force testing ranges are west of Salt Lake City, and they work in conjunction with a lot of the testing ranges out in Nevada, the Area 51-type thing.

I've been in both areas and stuff. It's just there's a lot of weirdness that goes on, there's a lot of conspiracy theories about what the government's hiding from us, and what they don't tell us.

I've seen things out in the West Desert that I can't explain back when I was flying emergency medical services. I was just telling my wife about it last night. I said, "I remember I had a flight from down in Southern Utah." Again, it was 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM and I was looking out to the West with the goggles and I could see this huge thing that looked like-- the only thing I could think it reminded me of like a giant blimp like the Hindenburg or something like that. It was out flying and it was gradually coming down and it just kept moving north. It was almost keeping pace with the helicopters.

I was flying to the North and I kept looking at it with the goggles, trying to figure out what it was and then I looked to see if I could see it with my naked eye and I couldn't see if there were any lights on it or anything. Once again, it's out in this restricted area in these test ranges that are out west of Salt Lake.

Eventually, it just continued this gradual decline down into an area that's known as Dugway Proving Ground, which is where they did a lot of testing and stuff with biological and chemical munitions and stuff. Who knows what it was? I don't know if it was military. I just know it was really odd and I'd never seen it before and couldn't figure out quite what it was.

RAY: With the notoriety of the story, Brett was even contacted by a team of researchers hoping he would help them find the monolith.

Brett: I actually got a phone call, Andrew Adams after he did the piece and it exploded, he called me wanting to know the location but I didn't give it to him at the time because nobody had discovered the location. He wanted-- the guy that owns Skinwalker Ranch wanted to bring some of the scientists down there to look at the monolith. I said, "I'm not going to disclose where it's at."

The area where this is located, there was one road. We put out-- When I told Andrew, I said, okay, when I gave him the video and the still photos, I said, "Hey, we don't want people to know where this is because we knew that there weren't any bathrooms, that it's quite a drive out there, that people could get stuck." It wasn't because it was dangerous or anything but it created the appearance that we were trying to hide where this thing was located and it created that mystery.

RAY: The internet was done waiting for official answers. A reddit user who goes by the name of {throat clear}... BearFucker, took the search for the monolith into his own hands.

On November 24th, literally one day after the Department of Public Safety had released their statement, BearFucker posted the coordinates to the Monolith. Releasing the methods he used to discover it:

“I looked at rock type (Sandstone), color (red and white - no black streaks like found on higher cliffs in Utah), shape (more rounded indicating a more exposed area and erosion), the texture of the canyon floor (flat rock vs sloped indicating higher up in a watershed with infrequent water), and the larger cliff/mesa in the upper background of one of the photos. I took all that and lined it up with the flight time and flight path of the helicopter - earlier in the morning taking off from Monticello, UT and flying almost directly north before going off radar (usually indicating it dropped below radar scan altitude. From there, I know I am looking for a south/east facing canyon with rounded red/white rock, most likely close to the base of a larger cliff/mesa, most likely closer to the top of a watershed, and with a suitable flat area for an AS350 helicopter to land. Took about 30 minutes of random checks around the Green River/Colorado River junction before finding similar terrain. From there it took another 15 minutes to find the exact canyon.”

been installed between August:

Which offered a potential explanation: could the monolith be left over set dressing from an HBO show?

Brett: There is a lot of film production out here in Utah, just because the geology of that land is so unique. I can't think of any other state in the union that has the diversity of landscape that Utah has. I'm incredibly fortunate that I get to fly over it and I get to see so much of it.

I know that apparently parts of Westworld were filmed here, but I don't think this, I haven't watched the current. I've seen the old Westworld with Yul Brynner and stuff, but I've never watched the series. I don't think that there's anything because it would have been a known thing.

RAY: Westworld had been filming in the area around this time, but they had worked closely with the local government. For anything to be cut into the ground in the same way the monolith was, it would’ve required permits. None of which exist for the monolith.

Even though there was too much red tape for it to be from a television show, many theorized it could be the work of an artist.

Gabriella, who writes for the Art Newspaper, explained to us that Utah contains a multitude of artists that use its land as part of their work.

Gabriella: Yes, Utah is just a really inspiring, beautiful vast place. It's very alien-like in some places. There's a Martian landscape in some corners of it. Also, the land is cheap, which is why a lot of land artists created work out there, and then the surrounding area in Nevada. Yes, I think that Utah and that whole area of the world, in general, really influential to some of the most interesting people and eccentrics in history. Everyone from Edward Abbey to Michael Heizer.

William Fox is one of my absolute favorite writers. He is a scholar, curator, and he's the director of the Nevada art museums Center for Art and Environment, which focuses on land art. He's written a lot about land art and particularly the work of Michael Heizer. There was never really any indication that he actually had any involvement with a monolith, but the reason I wanted to speak to him is because he's an expert on land art.

r has been building since the:

He also talks about how it's curious that the desert does seem to allow people to feel closer to the cosmos in a way and that things like petroglyphs and different earthworks tends to create a conflation between the ancient and the alien, the desert can really expand people's imaginations and attracts UFO watchers, definitely, and maybe some people believe that attracts the aliens themselves.

RAY: : One artist that became the focus of particular interest was John McCracken.

g out in the West. In the mid:

resented John McCracken since:

Then he told The New York Times that he was divided on whether it was or wasn't, but he did believe that it was John McCracken's work. Almine reached out to me actually to completely rolled out that idea. I can see why the comparison was made and why maybe people believe that it could be because he worked, he lived in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Reno. He was in that part of the world.

ar plant in the desert in the:

Another thing that Almine shared with me was that McCracken said he wanted to make work that looked like it was made by aliens or something, that maybe aliens left behind on Earth, which is really interesting. He definitely believed in UFOs. He believed in time travel and the idea of the multiverse. He even claimed to have traveled to other planets himself and to other dimensions and had spoken to aliens.

RAY: John McCraken’s son believes that it is possible that it was his father. Recalling that one time John said that he would like to leave his art in remote places for others to find.

Whoever it was, none of them could have expected the chaos that ensued. With the coordinates known to the world, the floodgates were open. People were on a mission to get a look at the monolith with their own eyes.

GABRIELLA: That post just prompted thousands of people to go out there and take selfies and destroy the landscape and piss off all the locals and all that. Shame on you, Bear Fucker for posting the coordinates.

There were people off roading and leaving trash there and just generally being obnoxious about the monolith on Instagram and on social media.

It's interesting to note that the town that leads into Canyonlands, Moab survives on tourism but it's really been negatively impacted by tourists. There's people causing damage to petroglyphs, that's constantly on the news.

RAY: But these tourists would soon be cut off. On November 28th, the world woke up to the news.

The world would not have to wait long for a reason why the monolith disappeared as Ross Bernards, photographer and drone pilot, posted on Instagram what he had witnessed.

“If you’re interested in what exactly happened to the monolith keep reading because I was literally there. On Friday, 3 friends and myself drove the 6 hours down to the middle of nowhere in Utah and got to the “trailhead” around 7 PM after passing a sea of cars on our way in...

I had just finished taking some photos of the monolith under the moonlight and was taking a break, ...when we heard some voices coming up the canyon. We were contemplating packing up our things as they walked up, so they could enjoy it for themselves like we did. At this point I looked down at my watch and it was 8:40 PM.

4 guys rounded the corner and 2 of them walked forward. They gave a couple of pushes on the monolith and one of them said “You better have got your pictures.” He then gave it a big push, and it went over, leaning to one side. He yelled back to his other friends that they didn’t need the tools. The other guy with him at the monolith then said “this is why you don’t leave trash in the desert.” Then all four of them came up and pushed it almost to the ground on one side, before they decided push it back the other when it then popped out and landed on the ground with a loud bang. They quickly broke it apart and as they were carrying to the wheelbarrow that they had brought one of them looked back at us all and said “Leave no trace.” That was at 8:48.”

On December 1, the youtube channel Mr. Slackline posted a video titled “We REMOVED the Utah Monolith.”

Mr. Slackline is the alias for Andy Lewis, who also goes by “Sketchy Andy.” When reached for comment by a reporter, Lewis texted back. Explaining that the reason they removed the monolith was to save the environment from the litter and destruction the monolith was causing.

“The dismantling of the Utah monolith is tragic — and if you think we’re proud — we’re not...We encourage artists to create, land management to [manage] and the community to take responsibility for their actions and property”

Others agreed with their mission, Ross Bernards in his original post finished it by saying, “If you’re asking why we didn’t stop them well, they were right to take it out. We stayed the night and the next day hiked to a hill top overlooking the area where we saw at least 70 different cars (and a plane) in and out. Cars parking everywhere in the delicate desert landscape. Nobody following a path or each other. We could literally see people trying to approach it from every direction to try and reach it, permanently altering the untouched landscape. Mother Nature is an artist, it’s best to leave the art in the wild to her.”

Even BearFucker agreed that it should have come down, saying, “I understand. I know a lot of people were not happy that the location was revealed. As an environmentalist, I am glad it is being removed. I was especially not happy when I found out it had been cut into the rock. The entire area surrounding Moab/Monticello/Hanksville is glorious and needs to be preserved.”

Gabriella: I personally enjoy it, but I have heard arguments against it. I did read an article once about Michael Heizer that he was just a jerk moving dirt around in the desert [laughs] which is a really interesting take on his work. I think I've had my most profound or experiences visiting things like Double Negative in Nevada and visiting Spiral Jetty. Well, all of these are done on private land, so all the major land artworks they've done on private land. I think that to instill something like the monolith that was just placed in a national park, I would definitely take the side of the people who took it down.

RAY: Some thought that it did not need to be taken down.

When you looked at this, you could tell, obviously, it was very well constructed. It wasn't cheaply done.

It was firmly put into place and it's a shame that the guys that tore it down did that because I think it could have been one of these things that people could have gone to visit and taken in it for what it was worth. We have incredible scenery here in Utah. We have all these national parks and stuff that are just unbelievable to go and check out and to see this, which is not in one of the park areas by the way, it's in Bureau Land Management area.

Still, in order to do something like that, the artist should have gotten permission like the other artists did for their works, but maybe it was just because of all the red tape that they chose not to do it. It's is my guess.

BRETT: Then the guys that chose to go in and tear it down, they're in the wrong too. Two wrongs don't make a right but the sad part of this was that it was really unique. I thought, "That would be something fun to bring my family back out to eventually."

The ironic part is the guys that tore it down, they're total hypocrites. I don't know if you've followed it at all but they've gotten really beat up on social media. The guy that was the lead instigator of it has gone down there and faced a lot of the area with his Slack lining and different things like that, apparently.

I'm just going off what people have told me about him but it's like, if you had really concerns about what was going on with the environment around this, what they should have done was notified the Bureau of Land Management and then said, "Hey, you really need to get some control measures in there so that people don't ruin all of this area where this is located."

the artists, it wasn't like they just took a piece of junk and stuck it in the middle of the desert. It actually had a lot of merit to it I thought. Like I say, it's a shame that these, as I call them scuff laws from Seinfeld decided that they were the ones that would tear it down. I think that the Bureau of Land Management could have easily put some restrictions into place and then people could have come and seen it and enjoyed it for what it was.

It's really tragic that, like I say, that these guys tore it down in the end. Part of me understands a little bit why they did it, but the other side of me goes, "You didn't have the right to do what you did."

RAY: Removing the monolith did not stop the story as the day after Lewis’s crew tore down the one in Utah, one appeared in Romania on Mount Ceahlau (Chak-low) or the “Holy Mountain.” It was immediately torn down. However, it was largely known that a local welder was the one who built it.

Then ANOTHER! This time in Atascadero (A-task-a-dero), California. Here too, the artist was quickly discovered as Travis Kenney. His first monolith was torn down by a group of men that replaced it with a cross while chanting “Christ is King.”

Kenney replaced it with a permanent monolith with the approval of the mayor.

Gabriella: There were hundreds of other monoliths that popped up all around the world right after that, all over Europe. Some are found in really remote field. One popped up on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. It was really just all over the place. We initially did run a few stories, following up on some of the monolith that first appeared. Then we actually had to stop keeping track and the whole thing died down.

RAY: By November 20th, over 87 monoliths had appeared.

Douglas: That's interesting because the essence of virality is imitation. It's very conceivable that what's happening is imitation. It reminds me of- I think it was in the early '90s- the crop circles. The crop circles because it had an alien, and again, why alien? It's like, "Oh no, we're being invaded by alien civilization." The earth is under attack by aliens, all the implicit suggestions that run in your mind, but there was crop circles that came out of nowhere.

I think that Led Zeppelin had it on the cover of one of their albums. It seems there was imitation involved, too. Somebody had this idea and they went out in the middle of the night and they said, "This is going to look some crazy spaceship landed in this wheat field or whatever." Perhaps, others were like, "That's kind of cool. Let's try it here." It spread for reasons of imitation.

RAY: With the world gripped in Monolith fever, it was time to capitalize. On December 4th, an instagram post went up of a covered monolith. The caption read:

“Checking in... any collectors interested in an official alien monolith? Asking $45k. Includes documentation and signed TMFA.”

The instagram account belonged to the Most Famous Artist, an art collective founded by New Mexico artist Matty Mo.

A commenter asked: “Was it you?” Most Famous Artist shot back: “If by you, you mean us, yes.”

Matty Mo was invited by Heidi Zuckerman, CEO and Director of the Orange County Museum of Art, onto her podcast Conversations About Art, where they discussed his involvement with the monolith. The following clips are used with permission from that show.

Matty Mo::

Matty Mo::

When I looked at the first monolith, I thought to myself, people were going to duplicate this. The original author, whether that’s my community, John McCraken, aliens, whatever, is likely not going to take credit because of the illegal nature of the monolith. Knowing that, I had to think ‘what is the headline that I can produce that inserts me directly into the discussion and who’s the appropriate media outlet to do so. And the headline I thought up is. Well, the way to exert my authority would be to sell monoliths. To produce monoliths, demonstrate that I have produced monoliths and sell monoliths and thereby start a dialog around well, is this the guy that did it? And turns out worked really well.

It’s certainly been interesting watching the Google Alerts for the Most Famous Artist and monolith come in. It’s been covered everywhere from Thailand to Russia to South Africa to everywhere. And every 15 minutes I get someone reaching out saying I’d like to install a monolith and I say “Go do it then”. Like Just do it. You’re going to get press. You’re going to get your fifteen minutes of fame because this is the art moment of the year.

So… there has been some criticism around monetizing this activity, but at the end of the day I’m in the business of art and I have to sell art to survive.

Yea.. My job is done. Because if you google Monolith artist, guess who you find?

RAY: Matty Mo was successful in his sale as the website lists the 45,000 dollar monolith as sold out.

Douglas: I think that's the name of the documentary, but he's great at creating value. How do you create the value? You do it through emotions and you do it through the element of surprise and scarcity or what's going to happen next. There was just these random pop-up art-x, things that were happening around town. Everyone's trying to search out and find the next one, and all actually try to steal it because they know it's going to be worth a lot of money in some instances. To me, that seems would be something that an artist would think about. I actually think there was- didn't one of the artists' commissioned try to sell the actual installation.

r that meme that took over in:

That, to me, seems like what is most likely going on with that. If so, obviously, it just shows you how people can-- I mean, if the end game was to sell a $45,000 piece of art. But it just shows you that can consciously construct things to create this frenzy.

It just shows you how irrational our reactions are to art, for that matter, and the price points that we ascribe to them.

RAY: However, many in the art world remain skeptical of Mo’s claims to be the originator.

Gabriella: I think it's more likely that the monolith was made by aliens, than it was made by Matty Mo.

I think, social media has really influenced how we engage with art. For example, I noticed several examples of people who don't work in the art world, or have any art background, but they've managed to really carve out a space for themselves online as authorities on art, just by virtue of being an influencer and being mega popular. It's interesting, that can sometimes feel a little bit empty and the monolith became a unique example of that.

For a moment, it captured people's imagination, people in the art world and people who couldn't care less about art. Then as it became the social media frenzy, it became less interesting. I think, social media really has the power to steal an artwork. You see that list, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, which are essentially selfie chambers. They don't feel like a pure art experience in a way. It's something actually that William Fox mentioned when we spoke, that this monolith started out as a pure gesture by the artist or whoever did it. Then it was discovered and then it just became something that it was never meant to be. Then it wasn't so good anymore.

RAY: But if not John McCracken or Matty Mo, who could have created the monolith?

Gabriella: I think it's just going to remain a mystery, the comparisons to John McCracken, or Richard Serra, Donald Judd, et cetera. I just think these artists, their work was so well-documented throughout their whole careers such that I think it would be really unlikely for something to surface, especially from a big-name artist.

RAY: Whether an art piece or a signal from another world, The mystery of the monolith may never be solved.

Douglas: It's essential because it's who we are as humans. That, really, is the most important thing, that we're profoundly social creatures. That's why social media is so powerful because we will naturally organize in groups and that's how it happens. It should be no surprise that community is a part of it because it has to be spread within the community.

Oftentimes. it doesn't have to be super mainstream and broad. It can be very specific to a certain community. As a matter of fact, most viral content is very polarizing. The best viral content is the one where you divide a country in two and get them to fight it out amongst each other, because then you have both sides throwing out in messages into the environment. If it wasn't for community, nothing would be shared, so yes, absolutely.

BRETT: I think COVID has just hit us all, humanity in general, throughout the entire world. It was just something that was fun to get our minds off of all the crap that's going on. The world, for all of us, has been transformed because of this. We realize just how, I don't want to say, not insignificant, but just how our world can change so quickly in just almost the blink of an eye, it seems like.

My wife and I, we weren't able to go on our vacations, as well as everybody else. It's just all of a sudden everything's come to this grinding halt. I think if nothing else, the whole monolith story gave us a little reprieve for a while, and let us just have something else to get our minds off of what's going on throughout the world at this point.

GABRIELLA: I think that we were all just really hungry for something that didn't relate to Coronavirus, didn't relate to death, didn't relate to very heavy issues around social justice. I think we all needed something to melt our brains a little bit.