Press "Enter" to skip to content

Desert X review – a severed torso and a sinister detention pen shatter America’s sun-kissed fantasyland

California’s monumental desert sculpture jamboree, which features billboards of photos taken by Tyre Nichols, is questioning water use and the climate crisis. What a shame it requires so much driving A mountain-shaped cage of yellow metal mesh stands in the desert near Palm Springs, California, looking like a sinister border detention pen. Herds of people mill around inside, as if trying to find their way out of the tortuous enclosure, squeezing their bodies through the narrow passages of this wiry labyrinth as the midday sun beats down. One intrepid figure finally breaks free and begins teetering across the sand in snakeskin heels, back towards the minibus. These are not immigrants trapped in a Trumpian processing centre, but art world luminaries, here to sample the latest edition of the biennial outdoor sculpture jamboree, Desert X.

The chainlink ziggurat is the work of the British-Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum, whose ethereal installations of crumpled metal mesh more often evoke innocuous pastel clouds. Here, she has taken inspiration from the ubiquitous fencing material of the American landscape, used to enclose everything from suburban front yards to high-security military compounds, and crafted something altogether more unnerving. It feels like a monument to the settler urge to enclose the pristine desert landscape, an endless fence twisted into a disorienting spiral, waiting to confound all who enter. This is one of the more powerful of this year’s 11 projects, which are scattered across the sprawling landscape around Palm Springs, two hours’ drive east of Los Angeles. The desert region is an unreal fantasyland of golf courses, gated communities and country clubs, a sprinklered mirage of sun-kissed leisure rising improbably from the parched sands. As an urban phenomenon, it is itself a miraculous work of land art, a paean of man’s determination to bring manicured lawns and swimming pools to the most extreme and environmentally inappropriate contexts.

Founded in 2017, Desert X is an attempt to inject some culture into the area, giving people something to do in between sipping Mai Tais by the pool. It is strategically positioned in the calendar between Modernism Week and the Coachella music festival, and aims to appeal to visitors from both, as well as to locals. Continue reading...

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: