There have been dozens of copycat monoliths appearing around the world after the original one in Utah captured the world by social media in late November. Now, a northern twist on the mysterious monolith has sprouted in the land of ice and snow.
Park-goers in Minneapolis were greeted by a caveman encased in a giant block of ice over the weekend. The sculpture mysteriously appeared in a local recreation area.
Zug Zug, which we now know is the neanderthal’s name, was placed near a creek in Minneapolis’ largest official park, Theodore Wirth. The area is popular for snowshoeing and fat tire biking in the winter, so residents quickly took notice of the peculiar man frozen in time. After a few days in the wild, the ice cold caveman became a local hot spot.
"It's Wirth park, which is our neighborhood park, and I was like we gotta find it," Minneapolis local Genevieve Johnson said to KARE 11. "[My husband] was out there for hours. I was tracking his Find My Phone."
It’s this exact effect the artist hoped to have on the community. Zach Schumack has come forward as the artist behind the statue. Originally a mannequin from a local mall, Schumack and his art collective turned the obsolete object into a commissioned piece for an event last year. They created the caveman to be as lifelike as possible, and even tried to make the caveman historically accurate by researching time period-specific trends, according to Schumack. He told Motherboard that although it has inklings of “mysterious monolith,” the idea wasn’t inspired by the trend.
“First of all, if it was the aliens, it would have been cooler than three pieces of metal stuck together, Schumack said in an email to Motherboard. “I would say my good friend Thomas Dambo was my biggest inspiration, he hired me on a few of his builds over the last few years building giant trolls made from recycled pallets. All the pieces were in remote places that engaged with nature and utilized recycled human goods. I noticed the effect it had was that it brought people out exploring nature trying to find the art.”
Dambo is famous for his use of recycled goods and giant wooden trolls. Schumack points to the giant troll in Breckenridge, Colorado as a good example of wildly popular public art.
“The city cut a sculpture named Isaac Heartstone down because it was too popular and became a liability,” Schumack said. “Well, the worldwide outcry was so massive they decided to find a more accessible home for the sculpture and bring the entire worldwide crew back and rebuild a new one.”
The artist said he has no plans to remove the caveman anytime soon. After Zug Zug’s debut, he sat in Schumack’s garage for a year. On January 7, however, after the insurrection and continued tension in Minneapolis, the artist wanted to help people get off their phones for a moment and into an outdoor adventure to relax. He’s accomplished just that with this caveman search expedition.
“We had talked about doing it for so long, and then I think like most people, we were so sick of looking at social media, the news, and the same negative stories we have all lived with for so long. I knew last week was a now or never moment. We had finally gotten some decent snow,” Schumack said.
"We want to make sure that this is continuing to get people into the parks and into nature, and engaging with nature and with art, and that's really the whole point in all of this," Schumack told KARE 11.
The artist said he and his crew took time to find the “perfect spot” for Zug Zug—making sure it was both hidden from the main path but also accessible to all. With an exponential increase in the number of people reportedly searching for the sculpture daily, it’s just another example of the joy mysterious public art brings humankind, young and old.
"Talking to a little kid a little bit ago, and he found out that it wasn't an actual real caveman," Schumack told KARE 11 in an interview. "He was like, 'wait — what? it's not real?' and you could see the look of a blown mind. I think that's what art is supposed to do. It's supposed to make you wonder, guess, and talk about it."
The artist said his collective has made and hidden another caveperson, Zarah, deeper in the park as Zug Zug’s companion. He won’t, however, reveal where she’s hiding in hopes of getting more people in on the game.
“We agreed her official name is Zara "The Mother Huntress," Schumack said. “Ian, a member of the crew, described her as, ‘a powerful woman viewed through a lens of Ice.’ So far no one has found her but she is in Minnesota, somewhere…”