Jad Abumrad: 3,000 A.D. Diffusion Piece

Conceptual artist Terry Fugate-Wilcox's “3,000 A.D. Diffusion Piece” was dedicated in 1974. Over the course of the next 1,500 years the aluminum and magnesium contained within it will fuse together. Today, the piece is covered in graffiti. Wikimedia/Fvlcrvm

In J. Hood Wright Park in upper Manhattan, there’s this giant boulder made of bedrock that juts out over the West Side Highway, and on this boulder is what looks like a giant metal stick of chewing gum. It’s as if a giant had taken this metal thing and jammed it into the boulder. It’s a piece of art called “3,000 A.D. Diffusion Piece” by Terry Fugate-Wilcox, and the idea of this artwork is that it’s two pieces of metal. One piece is aluminum and the other is magnesium, and over the course of the next 1,500 years they’ll fuse together. In a sense, he’s made a giant clock.

I think it was inspired by an ancient tomb they opened up in Egypt, and there was gold and lead inside the tomb that had fused into one over thousands of years through a process called diffusion. There’s something really beautiful for me about this sculpture, which is pointing to a future where New York probably won’t be there — but the sculpture will. It’s about 30 feet tall and it’s driven down about 150 or 200 feet into this hard, ancient bedrock that can survive a nuclear blast. There’s something about living in a city like New York where the only constant is change, and then sitting in this park and looking at this sculpture with a quality of timelessness.

One detail I should add is that it’s a very ugly sculpture. People deface it a lot. The last time I was there somebody had just shot it with a bullet. And there was graffiti really high up. There’s something funny to me about saying “I was here” on this sculpture for future humans to read.


The son of a scientist and a doctor, Jad Abumrad currently hosts and produces “Radiolab” on WNYC. He was recently awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.

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