Plymouth, Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico, U.S.A.

Accession Number

Plymouth, Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico, U.S.A.

Patrick Nagatani

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date
1996; printed 2001

Medium & Support
gelatin silver print on paper

6 in x 8 in (15.24 cm x 20.32 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Thomas Wilson '79 and Jill Garling '80

Subject matter
This photograph depicts a wide view of a clearing in a sandy desert. In the distance, stands an expanse of stone hoodoos, spires, and mounds of eroded rock. In the foreground, half excavated from the sand is an automobile. Propped around the archeological dig are shovels, crates, barrels, and buckets. Protruding from the sand embankments of the excavated hole are lengths of weathered timber, suggesting that the car was ceremonially buried within this structure. The relatively static, front-on view of this photograph suggests it is a documentation of the car’s exhumation, an archeological record of the dig.

On closer inspection however, it is evident that the scene is actually a view of a miniature model, an elaborate diorama. This photograph is a part of the series, the Ryoichi/Nagatani Excavations, in which the artist created a  narrative surrounding a fictitious Japanese archaeologist named Ryoichi. By chance, Ryoichi discovers a mysterious set of documents that lead him to various sites of ancient cultural importance around the world. Excavating this locations in secret, Ryoichi’s team discovers buried evidence of an ancient automobile culture that inexplicably parallels our own. Nagatani presents himself as the photographer for these secret excavations, claiming his photographs are the sole evidence of the project's existence. The elaborate, outlandish story reveals Nagatani’s interest in photography’s supposed verisimilitude, and explores the intersection of documented facts and contrived fictions.  

Physical Description
This photograph depicts a view of a sandy desert with eroded rock formations in the background. In the foreground is an archaeological excavation of a buried car.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
artifacts (object genre)
excavations (sites)
sandy deserts
scale models

5 Related Resources

Cars and Car Culture
(Part of 7 Learning Collections)
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
W19 Gibelyou - ALA 301 - Tours of the Past
(Part of: Resources Made by Isabel Engel)

& Author Notes

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