The first time I heard about DesertX I knew it was for me. Large scale art installations set all over the desert!!? Sign me up! The timing of the first DesertX exhibition in 2017 didn’t work out for me. Luckily they extended the Doug Aiken mirage house and I was able to see it. I was hooked. When the 2019 lineup was announced I made prompt plans for a girls weekend to check it out.
There were too many installations to see them all, but we got to see quite a few and below are a few of my favorites. Not surprised my favorite ones turned out to be the most colorful ones 🙂
SPECTER BY STERLING RUBY
Sterling Ruby’s fluorescent orange monolith, SPECTER, appears as an apparition in the desert. The bright, geometric sculpture creates a jarring optical illusion, resembling a Photoshopped composite or collage, as if something has been removed or erased from the landscape. The block acts as a cipher or stand-in, mimicking the form it could be — a shipping container, a military bunker, an unidentified object, an abandoned home-stead. Fluorescent orange is traditionally used for safety, as a warning. Here that logic is reversed: a ghostly object, set apart from the natural environment, hiding in plain sight.
LOVERS RAINBOW BY PIA CAMIL
Set in two locations across the U.S.–Mexico border, Lover’s rainbow is conceived as an identical set of rainbows made from painted rebar. Exposed rebar usually signals development, but too often in the Mexican landscape we see those dreams thwarted and abandoned. Historically, rainbows have symbolized rain and fertility. Located in desert territory, the act of bending the rebar into the ground is a way to re-insert hope into the land. The mirror rainbows are also meant to throw light into the current immigration policies, prompting viewers to see things from two perspec-tives. Those who cross the border get the full experience. After all, going in search of the rainbow should highlight its symbolic power to re-establish hope, love, and inclusive-ness when we need it most.
DIVE-IN BY SUPERFLEX
It was the unexpected discovery of an abundance of fossilized marine life more than 100 miles inland from the Pacific shore that led the early Spanish settlers to name this valley Conchilla, which means “little shell.” Because of a mis-spelling the region became known as the Coachella Valley, thereby stripping it of the reminder that 6 million years ago, what is now desert had been underwater and connected to the so-called Western Interior Seaway. For the Danish collective Superflex, geological history and the not-so-distant future meet in the recognition that with global warming, rising water levels will again submerge the land- scape along with all the structure and infrastructure that made it habitable for humans. Rethinking architecture from the point of view of future submersion, their mission has been to create land-based forms equally attractive to human and marine life. Using the preferred color palettes of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, Palm Springs, and marine corals, Dive-In merges the recognition that global warming will drastically reshape the habitat of our planet with another more recent extinction: the out- door movie theater. Here the interests of desert dwellers and sea life come together in the coral-like walls and weekly screenings of a structure born of a deep past and shallow future.
Going Nowhere Pavilion #01 is a Möbius strip made from concrete breeze blocks in a variety of fleshy pinks and browns. Technically, the Möbius strip is a surface with one continuous side formed by joining the ends of a rectangular strip, but it has a direct relationship to methods of psychology. Famed psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s own attempts to use topology – the study of geometric properties – as a vehicle to describe the human mind is a subject artist Julian Hoeber has explored for years. As with the Möbius strip form, what is inside and outside the self can quickly become indiscernible.
Executed Variant DHS #1 (Q1, CJ, DC), the painting sited in a pool connected to the property, is a loose variant on a series of works Hoeber titled the Execution Changes. It is connected to its neighboring Möbius strip by proximity, but also by color. The painting, like the pavilion, is an image of the mind in its own way: the painting is a study of phenomenological consciousness. Both the sculpture and the painting attempt to parse out how forms can represent the logical, irrational, historical and corporeal experiences of human consciousness.