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New Mexico, Navajo Nation team for public art

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 17, 2014 at 6:33 am •  Published: July 17, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Not many people have been to Coyote Canyon, a remote spot on the nation's largest American Indian reservation.

Bordered by sandstone outcroppings and dotted with pinon and juniper, the location served as a perfect backdrop for an unprecedented venture into high-tech public art by the Navajo Nation and the state of New Mexico.

With the canyon as their blank canvas, Navajo teacher and artist Bert Benally and Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei teamed up for the "Pull of the Moon" installation in late June. Benally was on the ground in western New Mexico while Ai, who has been banned from leaving China, participated from afar. The goal was to temporarily transform the landscape through sand drawings, sculpture and sound.

While the public couldn't visit the site, organizers with the Navajo Nation Museum and New Mexico Arts had every bit of the project documented with photographs and video so it could be virtually replicated for the rest of the world to see.

In the last two weeks, they have been working feverishly in preparation for Wednesday's public launch some 220 miles away in Santa Fe.

Aside from a two-dimensional documentary, the scene at Coyote Canyon that June night will be screened inside a giant digital dome. Clouds will be drifting overhead as the flames from Benally's piece illuminates the desert surroundings along with the interlocking stencils created with dozens of pounds of powdered porcelain sent by Ai from China.

"There's just so much that went into it that we made the decision to have a more cutting-edge technology format. It will bring it more to the people in a way that will make them feel like they're right there," said Eileen Braziel, the project's coordinator.

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