In an effort to apologize for the quality of the above photo, just know it was taken underground. That's right, as a participant of Desert X, one of the exhibits requires you to ascend into a "bunker", which is more like a cleared out sewer pipe. Texan artist, Will Boone, constructed this piece, entitled Monument, dedicated to the mythical figures of our society, such as one John F. Kennedy. Building on elements of the 1960's, nuclear attacks and fear of invasion of others, Boone also aims to use this figure to discuss these ever continuing contemporary fears with Monument.
A shiny enlarged sculpture of JFK sits peacefully behind a large door at the bottom of a ladder. This hatch however, sits inexplicably on the side of Bob Hope Dr., just waiting for someone to find it. The whole aura of the piece implies a stowed away secret or a hidden temple of worship. Boone's Monument suggests a type of reliquary statue or status of the figure, and is equal part creepy and strange, as well as cheerful. John F. Kennedy in this way portrays a symbol of the optimism of the 1960's, shrugged away and kept safe, but also a little forgotten.
Although we followed the map, trying to capture as many of the exhibits as possible in one day, we heard there was one we could not miss and it was only open at night. Next week, I finish off with my favorite piece of Desert X....
A feature of the map includes descriptions of the pieces, but no photos. This really generated anticipation and excitement surrounding the search. I felt like I was always looking, never knowing really what to expect.
As Doug Aitken's Mirage was one of the first stops, I assumed the other pieces would have an equally large crowd surrounding it, thus making it more apparent to find. This is when the artists of Desert X began truly surprising me. Immediately leaving Mirage, we traveled just down the road to Gabriel Kuri's Donation Box. Very deceiving in its nature, I had spoken to multiple people who couldn't even find it and gave up looking. The piece is located in a strip mall, filled with working businesses. There is a parking space with a sign in front with an "X" and the title, This is your only clue to look up and notice this store front is actually abandoned. This leads to looking through the grimy windows into the store front, only to be shocked at the scene inside. In this 2000 square foot space, the entirety is covered with the familiar sand of Palm Springs, with hundreds, if not thousands of cigarette butts sticking out all over the landscape. It felt as if looking in upon a smaller version of Palm Springs or a decoy of another world entirely. Surreal and strange, this work was unforgettable to me.
We continued in our search, moving on to Jennifer Bolande's piece on Gene Autry Trail. As we drove this long stretch of road, we were looking out into the desert for whatever it was supposed to be. We drove the whole length once. Turned around and headed back to look again. Almost at the end again, we finally looked up! As we drove down the strip, there was a successive beat of billboards all displaying photos of the landscape that is already in front of you. The striking mountain range that encases the desert itself. Each billboard matched a piece of the landscape so as you drove they continued to line up.
The magnitude of the work just astonished me and I couldn't believe I had completely not noticed them before. These pieces were literally changing my way of viewing art itself and I could not contain my enthusiasm to continue....