Euan’s A Little Ramble was, as he mentioned in the lecture, originally intended to be a recreation of the top of Mt. Rainer, much the same way he had with Toronto’s CN Tower for The Tower. He balked, however, deciding that no one knew or cared what the top of the mountain looked like, choosing instead to have the set designers create an entirely fictional mountain to fit inside Western Bridge.
Xu Zhen in 2005 set out to do the same thing as Euan had initially, but with a rather more lofty goal than mere recreation and a higher target in mind. As part of an installation that includes a chunk of rock that looks every bit the part of what one imagines the top of Mt. Everest to look like, Xu posted a video purporting to be him sawing off his height from the top of the mountain and carrying it back down with a team.
8848 Minus 1.86 combines these elements in an ambitious work focusing on Mount Everest. The British claimed in 1856 that the summit was 8,848 metres in height, a measurement that despite new and conflicting data still officially stands. In May 2005, Xu Zhen led an ascent on Everest, and to test the veracity of the measurements, succeeded in removing the summit of the mountain, reducing its height by 186cm, Xu Zhen’s own height. Various official and independent surveys since have consistently shown that Everest is not as high as had been thought, pointing, perhaps, to evidence of global warming, or a shift in the tectonic plates, though its cause still remains unproven.
What would have happened if Euan had actually scaled Mt. Rainer? Or is the blatant falseness of his gesture somehow more real than the questionable reality of Xu Zhen’s?