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Desert X 2023 Guide

Rena begum desert x

Come See Art Across the Desert Landscape, March 4 – May 7

Eleven artists from Europe, North America and South Asia will present poetic and immersive works that span sculpture, painting, writing, architecture, design, film, music, performance and choreography, education, and environmental activism in the exhibition curated by Artistic Director Neville Wakefield and Co-Curator Diana Campbell.

The Desert X 2023 exhibition builds on social and environmental themes.  Since its founding, Desert X has provided a neutral platform where artists and audiences generate cross-cultural dialogue and new understanding about the world. “The artists are challenged by the desert, its beauty, harshness, and ever-changing environment,” says Desert X Founder and President Susan Davis. “For 2023, visitors will encounter immersive works that respond to the global impact of climate change, economic challenges and the social transformations we are confronting.”

Desert X 2023 is free and open to the public.

Hub: Ace Hotel & Swim Club. Pick up printed program and meet friendly volunteers.

Hours: Generally sunrise to sunset.

Parking: Follow signs and park in designated areas only.

Desert X 2023 Map

Desert X 2023 Art & Artists

Rana Begum – No. 1225 Chainlink

Approached from a distance, Rana Begum’s No.1225 Chainlink 2022-23 (top) appears as a shimmering pyramidal haze of color floating above the desert floor. Taking the form of a series of concentric rings that respond to the ubiquity of the chain link fence spread across the Coachella Valley, the maze-like structure allows light and air, sand, water, and people to filter through. It reveals a paradox whereby the place of greatest confinement can also be that of greatest freedom.

Through her refined language of Minimalist abstraction, Begum blurs the boundaries between sculpture, painting and architecture. Her visual language draws
from the urban landscape as well as geometric patterns from traditional Islamic art and architecture.

Rana Begum 2021, photo by Angus Mill

rena begum desert x No. 1225 chainlink

rena begum map desert x

Location: 74184 Portola Road, Palm Desert

Lauren Bon – In The Smallest Sea with the Largest Heart

Lauren Bon and Metabolic Studios create a poetic object that submerges visitors in the deep past and the distant future, taking inspiration from plants, which metabolize sunlight into energy, and the Blue Whale, the largest animal known to have lived on Earth. Fueling the potential for future life and visually transforming itself in the process, the work merges swimming pools in a landscape associated with tremendous water shortage. It reminds us of our own connection to water and that the desert was once a sea.

Lauren Bon, courtesy the artist and Metabolic Studio
Courtesy the artist and Metabolic Studio
desert x-lauren-bon-2-lance-gerber-3000px
Credit: Lance Gerber
lauren bon map desert x
Location: 2249 N. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs. On-site parking is limited. Please park along Via Olivera and Junipero Road west of Palm Canyon Drive.

Gerald Clarke – Immersion

Immersion by Gerald Clarke takes the form of a traditional Cahuilla coiled basket scaled to become a giant game board. The goal of reaching the center can only be achieved by correctly answering questions relating to the traditions and histories of the Cahuilla Indians and other sovereign cultures. By gamifying history Clarke sublimates prejudice. At the same time he reminds us how unattainable these same goals have become for those for whom such knowledge has been forcibly withdrawn.

As you view his work, he asks that you do not simply compare or contrast it to “traditional Native American art,” but that you understand his work exists within a spectrum of Indigenous expression that is simultaneously ancient and contemporary.

Gerald Clarke, photo by Nate Abbott
Credit: Nate Abbott

Desert X gerald clarke - Immersion

geral clarke desert x
Source: Desert X
jerald clarke map desert x
Location: James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center
480 W. Tramview Road, Palm Springs

Paloma Contreras Lomas – Amar a Dios en Tierra de Indios, Es Oficio Maternal

Visitors encounter a dated car that has screeched to a halt. An absurd array of tangled limbs of two mysterious characters wearing long hats sprawl out of the car. Plush hands armed with soft-stuffed guns hang from the windows, barely camouflaged by the artificial overgrowth invading the sculpture. These strange characters accompany the visitor on a caricature of a Western-meets-sci-fi, audio-visual tour of the landscape, where the artist pushes back at the violent male gaze of the landscape.

By using drawing, sculpture, performance, writing and multimedia installation, Paloma Contreras Lomas addresses subjects such as gender, violence, structure and political inheritance, class segregation and post-colonialism.

Paloma Contreras Lomas, photo by Hada de Barro
Credit: Hada de Barro

desert x artist Palmoa Contreras Lomas

desert x-paloma-contreras-loma-3-lance-gerber-3000px
Credit: Desert X
Paloma contreras lomas desert x map
Location: Sunnylands Center & Gardens. 37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage

Torkwase Dyson – Liquid a Place

This piece is part of an ongoing series in which the sculptural installation becomes a mediation between the memory of water in the body and the memory of water in the desert. Our bodies are themselves arcs, vessels of existential as well as spiritual survival, reservoirs of stories and reservoirs of water. How these vessels relate to the architectures we design to house and contain them is essential to how we consider the future.

Torkwase describes herself as a painter working across multiple mediums to explore the continuity between ecology, infrastructure, and architecture. Examining environmental racism as well as the history and future of black spatial liberation strategies, Dyson’s abstract works grapple with the ways in which space is perceived and negotiated, particularly by black and brown bodies.

Portrait of Torkwase Dyson
Source:: Suzie Howell

desert x torkwase dyson

torkwase dyson desert x map
Homme Adams Park
72500 Thrush Road, Palm Desert

Mario García Torres – Searching for the Sky

For Mario García Torres the idea of the West comes home as entertainment. Searching for the Sky (While Maintaining Equilibrium) consists of a herd of mechanical bulls. The ‘animals,’ now rodeo facsimiles, combine to create choreography in which the synchronized oscillations of their reflective surfaces seek a harmony and balance that can never be achieved. Designed to make you fall, the mechanical bulls become a macho celebration of failure, where the wild ride of uncontrollable nature has been supplanted by the wild ride of a culture out of control.

Mario garcia torres
Credit: Antonella Dellarossa
desert x-mario-garcia-torres-4-lance-gerber-3000px
Credit: Lance Gerber
Mario García Torres desert x map
Location: Pierson Boulevard between Foxdale Drive and Miracle Hill Road, Desert Hot Springs. This site involves a short walk to view the work.

Matt Johnson – Sleeping Figure

This might be a cubist rendition of a female in a harem except here the cubes are shipping containers and the harem to which they belong is that of the globalized movement of goods and trade. Conceived at the time when a Japanese-owned, Taiwanese-operated, German-managed, Panamanian-flagged and Indian-manned container behemoth found itself for six days under Egyptian jurisdiction while blocking the Suez Canal. Johnson’s figure speaks to a supply chain economy in distress.

Johnson’s work investigates the human desire to interact with the given world through science, mathematics, religion, art, and architecture. His exploration points to our inherent need to connect with the cosmos, our desire to understand it, and our attempts to manipulate it

Artist Matt Johnson

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Credit: Lance Gerber
matt johnson desert x map
Location: I-10 Exit 110 to Railroad Ave. This site requires a half mile walk to view the work up close.

Hylozoic/Desires – Himali Singh Soin and David Soin Tappeser

For Namak Nazar, the artists invite visitors to think through ecological loss and the loss of home, seeking shelter somewhere in the radicality of love in their immersive audio-visual environments. For Desert X, this metaphor is found in salt. Inspired by the proliferation of conspiracies, from Ufologists, Scientologists, Cybernetic Spiritualists, Area 51, Flatearthers, Lizard people and Chemtrails, a salt encrusted utility pole proposes an era of flood from which dry land has only recently been reclaimed. Carried as if by the wind, the sounds and voices of ancient and modern mythologies, folklore, salt songs and other speculations into the known and unknown suggest the shifting sands of human presence.

Hylozoic_Desires, image courtesy of the artists
Image courtesy of the artists

Himali Singh Soin and David Soin Tappeser of desert x

Himali Singh Soin desert x map
Location: Worsley Road between Pierson and Mission Lakes Boulevards
Desert Hot Springs

Tschabalala Self – Pioneer

Pioneer is an equestrian statue that inserts itself in a lineage that runs from Remington’s wild bucking broncos to a more overtly controversial rendition of a former mayor on horseback. Placed in the California desert, the work exists as a figure that is simultaneously born out of the historical event of America’s creation and one that has an short-lived quality. This Desert X 2023 work’s focus is on the largely unidentified Native and African American women whose bodies and labor allowed for American expansionism and growth–– a visual representation of their birthright and place within the American landscape.

Marina Tabassum, photo by Shahid Sabil Sharafuddin

Credit: Shahid Sabil Sharafuddin

desert x-tschabalala-self-1-lance-gerber-3000px
Credit: Lance Gerber
Tschabalala Self desert x map
Location: San Gorgonio Street and Bubbling Wells Road, Desert Hot Springs. This site involves a short hike up a hill to view the work up close.

Marina Tabassum –  Khudi Bari

View The Film

This does not have a location. It is a film to be viewed online.

Khudi Bari (Bengali for ‘Tiny House’) is an example of a modular mobile home that, in Bangladesh, is low cost, durable, and can be assembled and disassembled within a short time with minimum labor. It’s a rigid space-frame structure to save goods and lives in the wake of flash floods on tiny “desert islands” of sand known as ‘chars’ that are dotted precariously across the Bengal delta. Land is fluid on the floodplains of Bangladesh, and these islands often break off and erode into the water, making it necessary for people to physically move their home when the land it is placed on may no longer exist. Desert X 2023 has commissioned a film about the project in which Tabassum addresses dry and wet cultures and the role of design in enabling life in some of the world’s most extreme climate conditions.

Tschabalala Self, photo by Christian De Fonte
Credit: Christian De Fonte

Héctor Zamora – Mexico City

Héctor Zamora’s Chimera is a performative action that transcends, reinvents, and redefines the conventional exhibition space, generating friction between the common roles of public and private, exterior and interior, organic and geometric, savage and methodical, real and imaginary. Zamora implicates visitors’ participation and requires them to question the everyday uses of materials and the functions of space.

From his technical expertise and knowledge of lightweight architecture to his meticulous emphasis on the process of conceptualization and construction of each piece, Zamora incorporates viewer participation to question the everyday uses of materials and the functions of space.

Hector Zamora, photo by Jasper van het Groenewoud
Credit: Jasper van het Groenewoud
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Credit: Lance Gerber

This is performance art so you will need to check for dates and times.

Tyre Nichols – Originals

Born and raised in Sacramento California, Tyre Nichols’ photographs of landscapes, sunsets, monuments and the architectural vernaculars of his adopted town of Memphis, Tennessee are the unassuming documents of a young man whose eye was drawn to the moments of beauty and evanescence that shape the rituals of daily life. “My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens,” he wrote. “I hope to one day let people see what I see and to hopefully admire my work based on the quality and ideals of my work.”

This work represents not just a vision that was brutally denied the opportunity to develop but the potential of all those individuals whose lives have been lost to the state sanctioned violence of institutional racism. Sited on billboards along Gene Autry Trail, Nichols’ work is also a reminder that so many of these needless deaths take place at the side of the road. Here the silent beauty of these levitated images stands in stark contrast with the terror experienced by Nichols and so many others on the shoulder below. But as with the vision the message is also one of hope: hope that with restrictions on pretextual stops California can lead the way in police reform; hope that together we can create a just society in which the fragile and beautiful talents of the likes of Tyre Nichols can flourish and grow.

desert x-tyre-nichols-3-lance-gerber-3000px
Credit: Lance Gerber
tyre nichols desert x map
Location: N. Gene Autry Trail, Between Via Escuela and the I-10


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