ATASCADERO, San Luis Obispo County (CBS / AP) — Days after the discovery and swift disappearance of two shining metal monoliths half a world apart, another towering structure made a brief appearance at the pinnacle of a trail on the Central Coast.
Its straight sides and height are similar to one discovered in the Utah desert and another found in Romania. Like those structures, the origin of the California edifice is also mysterious.
The monolith was at the top of a hill in Atascadero, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hikers were drawn to the area after photos were posted on social media.
Hours later, the monolith suddenly disappeared, to the disappointment of locals who hiked up the hill and wanted to see the monolith for themselves.
Just hours after a mysterious monolith was discovered in Atascadero, it has disappeared, disappointing dozens of hikers making the trek up Pine Mountain to check it out. pic.twitter.com/ReSIFP9IGZ
— Dave Alley (@KCOYDave) December 3, 2020
The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported that the monolith was taken down by a group of men who traveled from Southern California to Atascadero and livestreamed their account in a “rambling and at times racist and homophobic video.” The video has since been taken down.
“We’re going on a 500-mile roundtrip to steal a f—ing monolith,” said one of the people in the video. “That’s how much we love Jesus Christ.”
The Tribune reported that when they arrived in Atascadero, the video shows the group pushing down the monolith while chanting “Christ is king” and installing a homemade cross in its place.
“We are upset that these young men felt the need to drive five hours to come into our community and vandalize the monolith,” Atascadero Mayor Heather Moreno said in a statement. “The monolith was something unique and fun in an otherwise stressful time.”
Another monolith spotted two weeks ago in Utah’s otherworldly red-rock country became a beacon of fascination around the world as it evoked the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” and drew hundreds of people to the remote spot.
Two extreme sports athletes said they were part of a group that tore down the hollow metal structure because they were worried about the damage the droves of visitors were causing to the relatively untouched spot. Officials said the visitors flattened plants with their cars and left behind human waste.
A structure that appeared last week in Romania is also gone.
The Utah creation evoked famous land-art pieces that dot the West. Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is an earthwork along the Great Salt Lake and Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels are huge concrete pieces in the desert.
Like those pieces, the monolith was fascinating in part because of its context in the landscape, said Whitney Tassie, a curator of modern and contemporary art at the Utah Museum of Fine Art.
“That’s a big, big part of land art in general is this idea of an experience, of a journey,” she said.
The intense social media reaction to the monolith against the backdrop of the punishing pandemic, along with the quick disappearance of the piece, has become a part of its story, she said. Police have said the dismantling may not be illegal since no one has claimed the structure as their property.
The still-anonymous creator of the Utah monument did not follow steps taken by land artists of the 1970s to secure permission to make their works. Visitation to those remote sites is now managed and overseen to avoid too much stress on the environment. Federal and state officials in Utah had also expressed concern about the area around the monolith being overrun.
“It’s good to think about our relationship with the earth, which is ultimately what these sorts of projects do,” Tassie said. “Man’s impact on the environment front and center.”
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.