Two weeks ago, Reno’s mayor announced that she wanted to save the Space Whale by selling it as an NFT on Reno’s DAO, which will be hosted on the Tezos network.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably reading that sentence the way people read Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. There appear to be nouns (“Reno,” “Space Whale,” “NFT,” “DAO”), verbs, prepositions and perhaps even conjunctions, and they feel like they’re presented in the right order. However, if I rewrote the above sentence and said Mayor Hillary Schieve announced she wanted to save the Jabberwocky by selling it as a Bandersnatch on Reno’s vorpal blade, which is located in the tulgey wood, it would be every bit as meaningful — or as meaningless.
The good and bad news is, even once you learn what those nouns actually are, her plan makes every bit as much sense as it would to read a Lojban translation of Alice in Wonderland while sipping paint thinner in a black car with the windows rolled up during a hot Laughlin summer day. Granted, her plan to save a piece of public art by sprinkling techno-mystical pixie dust on it is far less immediately harmful to your physical and mental health than any plan combining the consumption of mineral spirits, excessive heat, and reading a translation of an intentionally ambiguous literary work into a constructed language designed to eliminate ambiguity, but it’s every bit as likely to address any actual problems faced by anyone.
First thing’s first, though — what is a “Space Whale”?
To know the Space Whale, you first need to know Reno.
Reno loves tearing down old buildings, replacing them with empty lots, and then, against all probability, dropping Burning Man-inspired public art installations onto them. This, in the minds of Reno’s civic leaders, is urban renewal. Many have speculated that if we knew exactly why Reno’s civic leaders think that, we should know a lot more about the nature of Reno than we do now.
The Space Whale is the first example of Reno’s increasingly curious approach to urban renewal. It is currently located on the former site of the Mapes Hotel.
The Mapes Hotel, when it was originally constructed after World War II, was Nevada’s tallest building for nearly a decade. By the turn of the century, however, nearly two decades of neglect left the distinctive brick Art Deco building in a state of utter decay — and so, unlike the considerably more historical and architecturally significant Kings Inn [We think he’s being facetious. —Ed.], which was allowed to sit unmolested for decades before it was finally converted into condominiums a few years ago, the Mapes Hotel was demolished to make way for absolutely nothing at all.
Not a thing. Not a new residential project. Not a sports stadium. Not a new shopping center. Nothing. Reno replaced the Mapes — a distinctive 12-story Art Deco skyscraper, the former tallest building in Nevada, a place where presidents and celebrities mingled, the first skyscraper built west of the Mississippi after the Japanese surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri — with absolutely nothing.
Well, almost nothing. Technically Reno replaced the Mapes with a small parking lot, a few trees and shrubs (no pots of petunias, though), and a patch of concrete which can be turned into a small ice rink during the winter. Then, a few years later, city leaders added a three-dimensional jumbo-sized piece of “Live, Laugh, Love”-grade wine mom decor, renamed the lot after the misplaced oversized bathroom decoration (the empty lot is officially the “Believe Plaza” now), and then signed a one year lease for exactly one Space Whale, a metal and colored glass sculpture which originally debuted at Burning Man (apparently the 747 was unavailable).
That lease was signed four years ago. The Space Whale is still there, which is where the problems begin.
When the lease expired, it turned out the original artist had no plan…