andrea zittel AZ west wagon station encampment andrea zittel AZ west wagon station encampment
oct 21, 2012

andrea zittel AZ west wagon station encampment

inhabitable sculptures – A-Z wagon stations image courtesy andrea zittel

blurring the line between art and life, american artist andrea zittel’s fascinating experiments in functional living showcase her preoccupation with self-sufficiency and adaptability. since a decade she has been creating minimal self-sufficient dwelling spaces in which everyday actions such as sleeping, eating, cooking, bathing and socializing are transformed into acts of art.

‘A-Z west’ is located on thirty-five acres in the california high desert next to joshua tree national park. since it’s inception in fall 2000, ‘A-Z west’ has been undergoing an ongoing conversion into our testing grounds for ‘A-Z designs for living’. the artist wanted to explore how perceptions of freedom have been re-adapted for contemporary living, but despite moving to the desert to be alone, she ended up doing many social and public projects. current structures and projects include two original homestead cabins that serve as zittel’s primary residence and guest house, a studio/shop facility, a shipping container compound, regenerating field, and the wagon station encampment (this initiative started in 2003).

instead of building big ranches and permanent homesteads, today’s independence seekers prefer small portable structures, which evade the regulatory control of bureaucratic restrictions such as building and safety codes. zittel developed temporary living shelters that reference both the covered wagons of the old western frontier and the standard suburban station wagons of today. although the wagon stations do not have wheels, they are easy to collapse, transport, and reassemble. their small size allows them to evade building codes, providing the inhabitant with the potential for greater freedom and autonomy.

a luxurious double-wide A-Z wagon station customized by andrea zittel and david dodge image courtesy andrea zittel

are lightly heated but un-insulated and best suited for habitation in the spring and fall. a number have been adapted by artists and other individuals for use at A–Z west (the guggenheim has acquired two wagon stations).

A-Z wagon station customized by jonas hauptman (super-sized by adding extra sections) image courtesy andrea zittel

of the 17 original wagon stations, 13 were customized by friends and frequent collaborators at A-Z west. when  jonas hauptman (the original fabricator of all the units) left california (2010) to pursue a job opportunity the customized structure began to languish in the desert elements. now zittel turned it into a wagon station vacation where people can stay when they visit A-Z west. ‘it can sleep 2 people and their gear very comfortably, or a family of 4 snuggly’. a rain visor should help stop the rain from leaking in and rotting out the shiny new floor. see images here. there is not a bathroom per se. wagon station vacation is fitted with an environmentally friendly camping style toilet just a few yards from the structure. the caretaker of wagon station vacation will provide 10 gallons of water a day for drinking and cleaning. see the map.

the new footing and a tie down system, along with fasteners on the hatch and back entry door image courtesy andrea zittel

august 2012 – zittel is adding/replacing the compound with a new stock. the new footing and a tie down system, along with fasteners on the hatch and back entry door helps to resist the strong desert wind.

for the last year they have been slowly replacing all of the customized wagon stations with new stock of wagon stations image courtesy andrea zittel

the desert windstorms have managed to flip and smash them on an ongoing basis image courtesy andrea zittel

while expanding the wagon station encampment it also became time to address the never ceasing issue with wind.

repair of wagon stations after they were demolished by the wind in february of 2008 image courtesy andrea zittel

joshua tree basically sits just past the edge of the swath of urban sprawl coming from from los angeles.  the nearby towns of yucca valley and twenty nine palms seem to be succumbing to american homogeneity, with walmarts, burger kings, dollar general, etc. still separated by a few miles of desert, joshua tree retains an independent local character that is refreshing. out of necessity, life and living are different in the remote mojave than in most parts of the country. in joshua tree there is still so much space (both for living and for thinking).

A-Z wagon stations at milwaukee museum of art image courtesy andrea zittel ‘my art suffers in institutions‘, zittel says. ‘we have an open house so that people can come and stay in the wagon stations, where they can see everything in its original context. staying in them is an extension of the museum pieces on show.‘

A-Z wagon stations at milwaukee museum of art image courtesy andrea zittel

andrea zittel was born in escondido, california, in 1965. she received a BFA in painting and sculpture in 1988 from san diego state university, and an MFA in sculpture in 1990 from the rhode island school of design. at first, she started to design furniture that satisfied her needs and desires and saved space. in search for organization systems in all areas of life, she acts as a researcher, test person, inventor and fabricator efficiently rolled up into one, producing objects, dwelling units and clothing. zittel founded ‘A-Z administrative services’ in 1992 as a laboratory, shop, conceptual organization, apartment and office and since then her sculptures and installations transform everything necessary for life – such as eating, sleeping, bathing, and socializing – into artful experiments in living — based on the idea that a person’s possessions and living conditions can influence their views and behavior. zittel is co-organizer of a project called ‘high desert test sites’ which are a series of experimental art sites located along a stretch of desert communities including pioneer town, yucca valley, joshua tree, 29 palms and wonder valley. these sites provide alternative space for experimental works by both emerging and established artists.

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