Spring 2003

Land Acquisition 1: Luna County, New Mexico

Cabinet is tricked into buying remote scrubland; offers it to readers

Jeffrey Kastner and Sina Najafi

There is an old Chinese story that says each person is connected by an invisible thread to the one other person in the world who is right for them, the person with whom they will eventually fall in love. In this tale, fate has already ordained the union of the pair; the couple need only find the thread to discover their predestined connection. For the Property issu­e, Cabinet decided to trace the sympathetic threads not between two individuals but between several disparate pieces of land: a half-acre parcel of desert scrubland in Luna County, New Mexico; 13 unusably small and bizarrely shaped lots in the New York City borough of Queens, originally purchased by the artist Gordon Matta-Clark for his 1973 work “Reality Properties: Fake Estates”; and 3.125 selims (2000 acres) of land in Eastern Amazonis Planitia on the planet Mars.

The thread that connects these obviously very different pieces of terrain, beyond their immediate availability, is the way that they all stand outside the traditional systems whereby land is turned into real estate and thwart the typical mechanisms through which a particular patch of dirt becomes a highly valuable, fungible commodity. All of which is not to say that they are entirely beyond the reach of all commercial processes. We have, in fact, already purchased the land in New Mexico ($325) and on Mars ($34) and have applied to the City of New York to lease the Matta-Clark sites, as well.

Each of the various sites has its own unique appeal and resonance—from the urban to the rural to the extra-terrestrial. Each location has its own history, both specific and generic. And each has its own potential for future use. While these pieces of land are, in their own way and for a variety of reasons, essentially beyond the reach of conventional development—un-Donald Trumpable, as it were—the fact remains that all of the “undevelopable” plots are, in some sense, already on their way to being developed by us. We intend to commission art projects, real and imaginary, for each of our satellite sites. Accepted proposals will be published in later issues and possibly even realized in New Mexico and Queens (although probably not on Mars).

The documentation related to our purchase of the half-acre “ranchette,” 10 miles east of the town of Deming in Luna County, New Mexico. (The specifics of the Queens and Mars sites can be found here and here, respectively.)

Given the vastness of this land, which we have named Cabinetlandia, we have divided it into sections intended for very different uses. Readerlandia consists of 6700 identical plots of land each exactly the size of Cabinet magazine, which serendipitously turned out to be the smallest size that most people can stand on. By returning the contract to us with a payment of one penny, you can license one of these 6700 parcels of land until 31 December 2099. When we receive your completed contract, we will assign you a specific plot that you will control and may use as you see fit. With your long-term control of a portion of our shared planet comes great responsibility. We encourage readers to meditate on this responsibility before sending in their contract and penny. If you fail in this most fundamental of relationships, the Land will reach up to you, no matter where you are, and exact its revenge. OK? OK. Editorlandia, Nepotismia, Internlandia, and Funderlandia, as you might have guessed, all consist of parcels of land reserved for the various people who in some way contribute to the production of this magazine. That we have rewarded ourselves, our friends and our benefactors with real estate in the Great American West is, of course, a testimony to the corruption of this publication. Finally, Artistlandia, which is reserved for artist projects that we will be commissioning. These projects may be real or speculative, small-scale or intergalactic, intended for an audience of one or to be seen by drivers on Highway 10, which runs alongside our “ranchette.” Sometime during this year, we will be organizing a group trip to the New Mexico site. All reader-licensees will be notified of the dates and are welcome to join us.

Aerial photograph of Cabinetlandia (the blue box) and vicinity. Your magazine-sized plot in Readerland is accessible on the north from the Union Pacific Railroad, and on the south from Interstate Highway 10. Courtesy USGS.
View from the center of Cabinetlandia, looking south toward the high-way. Photo Phillip Waier
A map of Cabinetlandia.

See the original partitioning and sale of “Readerland”­: New Mexico Land Grab.

Jeffrey Kastner is a Brooklyn-based writer and senior editor of Cabinet.

Sina Najafi is editor-in-chief of Cabinet.

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