From April 1971 to March 1972, Pettena gave three performances with his architecture students from the University of Utah, where he was teaching as a guest professor: Clay House, Tumbleweeds Catcher and Red Line. Entitled The Salt Lake Trilogy, this project was envisaged as “a trilogy to be read as a metaphor for the contradictions of the contemporary city” (Gianni Pettena).
Performed in February and March 1972, Red Line concluded the artist’s cycle of performances. In order to provide a “visualization of the city’s administrative limits,” he drew a continuous red line in the middle of the road over a 45-kilometer stretch, starting with the university. The performance, which recalls certain works by conceptual artists (e.g., Douglas Huebler and Jan Dibbets), was documented with photographs and a film as well as a map of the city on which the geometric trace of the line is also recorded. Map, tracing on the map and marking of the territory enabled Pettena to intervene in the field of reality, without producing any additional objects. Close to the markings in Richard Lang’s landscape (Walking a Line in Peru, 1972), the lines drawn in the snow by Dennis Oppenheim (Time Line, 1968) and in the desert by Walter de Maria, Red Line establishes a new framework of perception, which follows the city limit, with nearby nature extending beyond. Between nature and architecture, city and country, the red line makes visible the borders that structure our mental field of perception. It changes our grasp of space, without being either an object or a language, and barely being even a sign.