Desert X: Bringing Illusion to Coachella

Desert X: Bringing Illusion to Coachella

Running until April 30th, the Coachella Valley and 45 miles of its surrounding desert landscape is being disrupted by 16 contemporary art installations. The free event, curated by Neville Wakefield serves as the perfect bridge between Palm Springs Modernism week and Coachella music festival. 

"What excites me about this project is it’s an opportunity to see how art behaves outside of institutional walls," says Wakefield. "To see what it does to communities and how it draws different people in."

'Mirage', by Doug Aitken is modelled on a typical California-style family ranch, only the building is an empty shell that's fully clad in mirrors. The effect camouflages the building against the horizon from afar, but serves to internally ricochet the light of the desert valley from the inside. This creates a fractured, kaleidoscopic effect which adds an angle of discomfort within the empty family home. 



"After World War II, the ranch style's streamlined simplicity gained popularity as commercial builders employed a simplified assembly line approach to create this efficient form, matching the rapid growth of the suburbs," said the artist. "The mass-produced ranch home became a familiar sight across the country, the style filling the American landscape as quickly as each new subdivision was built."

    Aitken describes the Desert X experiment as “a vast sprawling parkour” and “puzzle of pieces that are all different within the land”. “I wanted to be here to see where suburbia ends and the landscape begins. This location was kind of perfect in a way. You have the seductive beauty, and then you have the wind farm, and suburbia.”

    Another display, created by Jennifer Bolande features billboards with snapshots of the mountains behind. Driving slowly down the desert road through Palm Springs, the billboards satisfyingly 'click' into place in front of their backdrops. The artwork was birthed from classic 'Burma-Shave' style sequential billboard ads, which told a story that could only be experienced in motion.



    Desert X will disappear from the valley after April 30th, however Aitken's mirrored house will remain through 'til October later this year. If you're in the area or travelling there, visit the Desert X website for information on how to / when to attend. 

    View more works below from Claudia Comte, Phillip K Smith III & Glenn Kaino. All images by Lance Gerber. 




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