We had the pleasure of getting an advance look at Desert X, one of this years most anticipated contemporary art exhibitions taking place in and around Palm Springs. Under the artistic direction of Neville Wakefield, Desert X is unlike other art fair or festival in that it doesn’t take place in one central location; a kind of art scavenger hunt in vibe.
The site-specific exhibition, which runs through the end of April, replaces the confines of institutionalized art with the landscape of the Coachella Valley. In its inaugural year, sixteen artist installations span forty-five miles of desert, many of which can only be found using super specific GPS coordinates.
While some installations might be difficult to track down at first go, the struggle with your GPS is worth it for what you’ll eventually find. We recommend pasting the below coordinates into your Google Maps to really pinpoint the exact installations within the sprawling desert.
If you’re around the Palm Springs area over the next couple months, we highly recommend checking out Desert X. After spending a few days visiting each installation, we thought we’d share our favourites, in case you’re short on time. Check them out below.
When we heard Will Boone’s Monument was basically a hatch and bunker situation, we were intrigued and a tad frightened to see what was in store beneath the desert sand. Boone was fascinated by the death of JFK like “lightening in the ground, bunkered in the very same Atlas Survival Shelter that the then president had in case of nuclear attack.” Descend down into Boone’s bunker to reveal a painted bronze figure much like the roadside shrines found in Mexico.
The desert has long been thought of as a reflective place, composed of the environments two most prominent fixtures: land and sky. Phillip K. Smith III’s piece, situated in the Palm Desert, explores these two fixtures through 300 geometric reflectors, each angled exactly at 10 degrees, blurring ones perception of the desert horizon.
Claudia Comte, Curves and Zigzags, 33°42’23.9″N 116°23’55.5″W
One of the most awe inspiring parts of Desert X is experiencing an installation blending into, or standing out from the physical landscape. Claudia Comte’s Curves and Zigzags continues an on-going series of free-standing walls that merge painting with sculpture. Built specifically for the work the wall carries, Comte’s piece looks different from every angle, reinforcing the constant exchange of duality between nature and culture.
You might drive by Jennifer Bolande’s piece while speeding down Gene Autry Trail and not even notice it (we had to turn around more than once.) Visible Distance is a series of billboards that perfectly align with the mountains ahead of them, as seen from a moving vehicle. Each photograph is unique to its position and blends into the horizon completely, drawing ones attention back to the landscape to contemplate the real and artificial.
Mirrors connect the desert horizon at sunrise and sunset, reflecting the immediate yet changing desert landscape at every angle. Doug Aitken’s Mirage is essentially a ranch style suburban house covered completely by reflective mirrored surfaces. The installation “distills the recognizable and repetitious suburban home into the essence of its lines, reflecting, and disappearing into the vast western landscape”.
This super creepy installation blends right into its barren surroundings in Desert Hot Springs. Drive too quickly by and you might think it’s just another abandoned house, but drive up to Richard Prince’s Third Place and you’ll see a number of rather dark tweet print outs pasted on the walls, on the ground weighted down by rocks, surrounding the grounds of the house. Third Place exposes the “sub-currents of sexual and familial tension as they expose themselves through humor and other tropes of psychological dysfunction.”