Beneath the surface (of language), Silver Mountain Island Byway, Wendover, Utah, USA, 2009

Silver Island Mountain Byway

Beneath the surface (of language)… is a site-specific map/text/photo project featuring the 54-mile backcountry Silver Island Mountain Byway, a BLM-managed route near the Bonneville Speedway just outside of Wendover, Utah. The mountains rise up like an archipelago in the middle of the Great Salt Lake Desert, surrounded on all sides by salt and mud flats. In April 2009 I spent two weeks in Wendover at CLUI’s residency unit researching, photographing, and writing about the area. The resulting essay, written in five parts, is buried along the byway. My dog and I made the trip to bury the texts during a long, focused day of driving, exploring, and digging. Afterwards a topographical map was produced to mark the locations.

BLM information kiosk and registry at the trailhead

Hand-written original pages

Site #2

Salt flats bordering the byway

Sites #4 and #5

The essay examines the relationship between language and the natural world, and comments on local rock graffiti along Interstate 80, conceptual land art of the 1970s, linguistic reference, and the possibility of an embodied writing. The sections of text are put back into the landscape in homage to Nancy Holt’s “Buried Poems” (1969-71) and John Baldessari’s California Map Project (1969).

Nancy Holt, Buried Poem Number 4 (detail), 1969-71, map and photos

John Baldessari, California Map Project, 1969, text and photos


Rock graffiti found along I-80 near Wendover, Utah

For those traveling to the area the graveled dirt byway is suitable for most vehicles, but sections that cross the flats are impassible when wet. There are no facilities at the trailhead and the road is isolated. The accompanying folded, illustrated sheet map documents the trip and makes the essay available for those who cannot visit the site in person. See the Writings page for more details and images of the map.

Beneath the surface (of language), Silver Island Mountain Byway, Wendover, Utah, USA, 2009, front and back, illustrated map, offset print, 24″ x 32″

See the photographs related to this map.