Exploring the Desert X exhibit, California

Latest visit: March 2019

I recently had the pleasure to explore the Desert X exhibit in the Coachella Valley.

It’s free and will run February 9th till April 21st. The Desert X app will give you ample information about each exhibit, it’s location and special events going on around them. You can also take a tour bus for $75 that runs on weekends (Saturday & Sunday 9am-1pm to West Valley Coachella sites and 2pm-6pm to east sites).

We experienced the 3 pieces of art I wanted to see (and my favorites): the Specter, the Ghost Palm and Dive-In. Here is the official description of each piece of art, from the website.

  • 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 homestead. 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.
  • GHOST PALM is an echo of a natural form — a meticulous reconstruction of the largest palm species native to California, the Washingtonia filifera (desert fan palm). Nestled in a plot of low desert, between the foreboding San Andreas Fault path and a line of tamarisk trees, Ghost Palm is a manifestation of the artist’s fascination with the tenuous balance between fragility and sheer power. Standing taller than 20 feet, Ryan’s version of this iconic palm is constructed with manmade materials: steel, plastics and glass. Windowpanes in the style of a Victorian-era greenhouse make up the tree trunk; an iconic midcentury modern chandelier becomes the skirt of the tree; its leaves, a facsimile of Mother Nature’s perfect creation, are recreated in the form of glittering plastics. Drawing directly from nature’s design, the piece is self-reflexively manufactured, contextualized by the environmental features of the low desert landscape. While it is a substantially scaled man-made structure, it is essentially transparent, almost invisible. It becomes visible only when it catches reflections of the sun like a faceted crystal. Beneath Ghost Palm lies the geological activity that created this natural wonder. The San Andreas Fault and the palm tree oases that trace its presence are created by two massive tectonic plates meeting — the North American plate and the Pacific plate. Water running deep underneath the earth pools into these fissures, thus creating lush palm sanctuaries. Ghost Palm mimics what already exists in proximity to it, repositioning itself in nature in an homage. It makes visible our bodily connection to these sites, to the churning of the earth beneath us, and the natural forces we humbly exist within and among.
  • DIVE-IN: 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 landscape 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 outdoor 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.

We stopped at The Going nowhere pavilion which was interesting- not my favorite.

We also drove by Lover’s Rainbow and Western Flag which looked very pretty from afar (we ran out of time to stop and admire them)!

I strongly recommend making a trip out to the desert to see the Desert X exhibit!

(or any version of it in the future!)

Related Post: Visiting Joshua Tree during a super bloom.

1 Comment.

  • michele ouellette
    April 3, 2019 10:31 am

    Je n’ai pas de mots vraiment c tellement spécial . Merci de partager. Ne laisse pas tomber ta passion de voyager car c super pour toi et pour nous aussi. Thank’s Sara.