Center of the Universe, by Bruce Nauman.
I’ve only been living in Albuquerque since March. In my short time here, I keep being surprised at what a wonderful city and state I’ve moved to. I have decided that from here on out, I’m going to stop being surprised every time I hear some new amazing fact about where I live.
“You know Albuquerque is the Center of the Universe, right?”
I looked at Michael, sure there was a punchline coming. I took a sip of beer, and gave my friend a look of disbelief.
“It’s true, you can Google it,” he said, and started laughing.
Naturally, I took out my phone, googled “the center of the universe,” and not only was he right, Google offered me driving direction in case I, you know, wanted to drive. To the center of the universe.
Yes, Google can get you to the Center of the Universe.
“Since I’ve been in Albuquerque,” I replied, “I have learned an Atomic Bomb was accidentally dropped on the city (only a cow died), there is a Spy House, I love green AND red chile peppers, New Mexican food is amazing, there’s life all over the place in the desert, the outdoors are fantastic, and now… now you’re telling me we’re the center of the universe?”
“A hundred bucks says you go check it out,” Michael said, as if he were reading the future. I pressed for more information, but he kept saying, “Go see it and find out yourself.”
He was right. I had to see it.
I opened up Google maps, typed in, “the center of the universe,” and sure enough, there were driving directions. Like everything in Albuquerque, it was a short drive. I was super curious, and off I went.
The lovely campus of UNM on a bright, sunny day.
I pulled off Central Ave. and onto the campus of UNM. (Who knew the University of New Mexico surrounded The Center of the Universe?)
Annoyingly, when you’re going to look at something so timeless and meaningful, it happens to be located beyond many, many registered parking spots, and so I had to pay the parking meter. I briefly wondered at the cosmic implications of the center of the universe having parking meters, and paid.
It was a beautiful day in Albuquerque. (It seems to always be a beautiful day here!) I put my receipt from the meter on my dashboard and followed Google Maps instructions. After two or three minutes of walking, I saw it up ahead of me. The Center of the Universe.
Center of the Universe, by Bruce Nauman.
I paused. Looked around. There it stood. Thanks to Covid, only one or two people walked by, and I assumed the campus was usually much busier.
When I walked through, would I gain universal wisdom? Would I feel different? Would I turn into a superhero with powers?
To answer my question, a young woman rode by and straight through the Center of the Universe. When she rode out the other side, she did not appear wiser, or with super powers.
I walked forward to my date with destiny.
A pathway to Infinity?
Artist Bruce Nauman was commissioned to do a sculpture by UNM in 1983. It was completed in 1988, and Nauman named it, ‘Center of the Universe.” It was immediately controversial.
Early on, students and staff alike protested it, and it was often covered in graffiti. Mr. Nauman, when asked about the controversy, said at the time to the Albuquerque Journal, “It’s much better to get a strong reaction than no reaction.”
As time passed, so did the controversy, and now Center of the Universe doesn’t command much attention. Much like the woman I saw ride her bike through, I was told by the few people I encountered on campus that, “We don’t really think about it much, but a lot of people come to take pictures of it.”
A quick Google search shows that Center of the Universe is definitely a tourist stop, and people seem to enjoy it
This was my first trip to UNM, and personally, I thought it was an interesting piece of art. Standing inside and looking up at the bright, blue sky definitely gives an impression of being at the center of something, so it may as well be the universe.
It is now settled — Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the center of the universe.