Desert X 2023 Explores Social and Environmental Themes Through Artistic Installations in the Coachella Valley

Desert X 2023 Explores Social and Environmental Themes Through Artistic Installations in the Coachella Valley

Design X has announced the list of participating artists that will present installations at the fourth edition of the site-specific international art exhibitions. The twelve artists from Europe, North America and South Asia are preparing immersive works that span sculpture, painting, architecture, design, film, performance, and environmental activism. The exhibition is open from March 4 until May 7, 2023, at sites across the Coachella Valley, in the Colorado Desert in the United States.

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The exhibition aims to further explore the themes of earlier editions, namely the environmental and social focus. The newly commissioned artistic installations strive to become instruments of self-awareness and devices for wonder. They explore the ways in which we design our environments, how we live, and the messages that we use to reinforce the systems around us. The themes explored in the 2023 edition include the global impact of climate change, economic challenges, and profound social transformations.

Since its founding in 2017, Desert X is conceived as an opportunity to create recurring contemporary art exhibitions that activate desert locations through site-specific installations by internationally renowned artists. The event presents public exhibitions that respond to the conditions of the arid landscape along with its indigenous communities, aiming to promote cultural exchange and foster dialogue across cultures and communities.

Read on for some of the interventions and information about the artists.

No.1225 Chainlink 2022-23 / Rana Begum

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No.1225 Chainlink 2022-23 / Rana Begum. Image © Lance Gerber

The installation presents a shimmering haze of color floating above the desert floor. Formed out of a series of concentric rings reminiscent of the chain link fence, the maze-like structure allows air, sand, water, and people, to filter through. Born in Bangladesh in 1977, Rana Begum lives and works in London, where she has refined a language of Minimalist abstraction, blurring the lines between sculpture, painting, and architecture.

The Smallest Sea with the Largest Heart / Lauren Bon and Metabolic Studios

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The Smallest Sea with the Largest Heart / Lauren Bon and Metabolic studios. Image © Lance Gerber

The poetic installation takes inspiration from plants, with their ability to metabolize sunlight into energy, and the image of the Blue Whale, the largest animal on Earth. The artwork brings swimming pools to a landscape defined by water shortages to remind visitors of their own connection to water and the long-forgotten history of the desert, which was once a sea. Lauren Bon is an environmental artist based in Los Angeles. Her practice, Metabolic Studio, explores self-sustaining systems that regenerate ecosystems.

Immersion / Gerald Clarke

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Immersion / Gerald Clarke. Image © Lance Gerber

The installation, created by the rancher, artist, and educator Gerlarld Clarke, adopts the shape of a traditional Cahuilla coiled basket, or “chi-pat-mal,” scaled up to become a giant game board. The goal of reaching the center can only be achieved by correctly answering questions related to the history and traditions of the Cahuilla Indians. By gamifying history, Clarke aims to sublimate prejudice, while also reminding us of how unattainable these goals can become for those for whom such knowledge has been forcibly withdrawn.

Amar a Dios en Tierrade Indios, Es Oficio Maternal / Paloma Contreras Lomas

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Amar a Dios en Tierrade Indios, Es Oficio Maternal / Paloma Contreras Lomas. Image © Lance Gerber

Visitors reaching the installation encounter a strange assembly: a dated car, an absurd array of tangled limbs belonging to two mysterious characters, and plush hands armed with soft-stuffed guns. According to the artists, this caricature of Western-meets-sci-fi aims to represent a pushback against the violent male gaze of the landscape by exploring the occupation and instrumentalization of territory and the economies of extraction.

Liquid a Place / Torkwase Dyson

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Liquid a Place / Torkwase Dyson. Image © Lance Gerber

The sculptural installation is part of an ongoing series exploring the memory of water in the body and the memory of water in the desert. The artist understands the human body as an arc or vessel, reservoirs of stories, and reservoirs of water. Dyson’s work engages us as liquid beings seeking new forms amidst the landscape around us. Chicago-based artist Torkwase Dyson describes himself as a painter working across multiple mediums to explore the continuity between ecology, infrastructure and architecture.

Searching for the Sky (While Maintaining Equilibrium) / Mario García Torres

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Searching for the Sky (While Maintaining Equilibrium) / Mario García Torres. Image © Lance Gerber

The installation consists of a herd of mechanical bulls, rodeo facsimiles combined to create a choreography of synchronized oscillations seeking a balance that can never be achieved. Designed to make you fall, the mechanical bulls have 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.”

Sleeping Figure / Matt Johnson

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Sleeping Figure / Matt Johnson. Image © Lance Gerber

Johnson’s figure speaks to the crumples and breaks of a supply chain economy in distress. Situated along one of the main arteries connecting the Port of Los Angeles to the inland US, the sculpture overlooks the landscape, reminding visitors that the principles of globalism are connected to this container body that has come to rest in the Coachella Valley.

Namak Nazar / Himali Singh Soin and David Soin Tappeser of Hylozoic/Desires

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Namak Nazar / Himali Singh Soin and David Soin Tappeser of Hylozoic/Desires. Image © Lance Gerber

The artwork is an invitation for visitors to er think through ecological loss and the loss of home, seeking shelter elsewhere. A salt-encrusted utility pole carries the sounds and voices of ancient and modern mythologies, folklore, salt songs, and other speculations suggesting a parallel between the shifting sands and the human presence, from sacred geometry to settler colonialism.

Pioneer / Tschabalala Self

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Pioneer / Tschabalala Self. Image © Lance Gerber

The artwork is built as a monument in homage to the collective foremothers of contemporary America. The desert, though its general symbolic understandings, referenced both the beginning and the end. Similarly, the Pioneer installation represents the lost, expelled, and forgotten Indigenous, Native, and African Women whose labor allowed for American expansion and growth, while also standing as a beacon of resilience for their descendants.

Khudi Bari / Marina Tabassum

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Khudi Bari / Marina Tabassum. Image Courtesy of Marina Tabassum

Khudi Bari, the Bengali word for “tiny house,” is an example of a modular mobile home that is durable and can be assembled and disassembled within a short time with minimal labor. It takes advantage of a rigid space-frame structure to save goods and lives during the flash floods that occur on the tiny desert islands dotted across the Bengali delta. On the floodplains of Bangladesh, the land is fluid, and these islands often erode into the water, forcing people to move their homes when the land beneath them no longer exists. Desert X has commissioned a film about the project, in which Tabassum addresses dry and wet cultures and the role of deign in enabling life in some of the most extreme climate conditions.

Chimera / Hector Zamora

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Chimera / Hector Zamora. Image © Lance Gerber

Chimera is a performative action that aims to redefine the conventional exhibition space and to generate friction between the common roles of public and private, interior and exterior, and organic and geometric. Zamora’s artwork implicates visitors and requires them to question the everyday uses of materials and the functions of space. Here, in the Coachella Valley, the artwork references the ubiquitous, yet often invisible street vendors, which dissipate as visitors buy the balloons, take them home, and interact with the vendors in a space of dignity.

Originals / Tyre Nichols

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Originals by Tyre Nichols. Image © Lance Gerber

The installation by Californa-based artist and photographer Tyre Nichols, aims to represent the lost potential of all those individuals whose lives have been lost due to state-sanctioned violence and institutional racism. Sited on billboards along Gene Autry Trail, the artwork is also a reminder that many of these needless deaths take place at the side of the road. 

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Cite: Maria-Cristina Florian. "Desert X 2023 Explores Social and Environmental Themes Through Artistic Installations in the Coachella Valley" 13 Mar 2023. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/997850/desert-x-2023-explores-social-and-environmental-themes-through-artistic-installations-in-the-coachella-valley> ISSN 0719-8884

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