The guy who dug that mystery tunnel up by York University – the one that has had all the news attention – has come forward saying he did it because it was his dream to build something like that; it was a fun project for him and his friends, a place to hang out.
To me that is an explanation I can understand, much more so than the various nefarious explanations floated in the media. I share that desire to build things that don’t have a rational use. After all, I built the imagination stations out behind our house. They are shelter-like but I didn’t intend them to be shelters. I don’t know what I intended them for really. I just thought it would be fun and interesting to build structures out of garden waste and other things found out back. I don’t think of them as art, or specifically as sculpture but I can see how some people would look at them that way. They are just imagination stations.
I don’t think the fellow who built the mystery tunnel thought of his project as an art project, but it seems to me that it shares some of the same spirit as some of the earthworks sculpture that has been done over the years. The most famous example must be Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Smithson built this huge jetty – 1500 feet long and 15 feet wide – into the Great Salt Lake way back in 1970.
There are also various so-called folk artists who re-purposed things around them. I’m thinking of people like Felix “Fox” Harris, whose creations we saw at the Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaument. Whatever he thought he was doing, I bet Mr. Harris never expected the things he built to be in a museum, treated as art.
For over 20 years Harris crafted his sculptures of recycled materials and displayed them in his yard, creating a forest-like environment. Harris was inspired to make art by a vision from God telling him to set aside his old life and make a new one.
It turns out the mystery tunnel never got finished. Elton McDonald was considering expanding it, adding a couple rooms, maybe bringing in a television. I love the spirit and the ambition. He was really making a place, marking a place for himself. When would he have stopped? When it got big enough, would he have furnished it, hung pictures on the wall, installed a toilet? We’ll never know now as it has been filled in. Too bad the powers that be were so quick to do that.