desert X returns to southern california’s coachella valley for its 2021 edition, celebrating its natural context as both a place and an idea. through their public exhibitions, this year’s artists will explore issues essential to our collective future, investigating the histories, realities, and possibilities of the coachella valley and its many communities. the interactive installations carry themes of land rights and ownership, the desert as border, migration, water exploitation, social justice, racial narratives of the west, the gendered landscape, and the role of women and young people.

 


desert X, video by lance gerber | @lance.gerber

 

 

from march 12th until may 16th 2021, this third edition of desert X exhibits the work of thirteen artists from eight countries. this year’s newly-commissioned projects imagine the landscape as both an amalgamation of natural forms and a terrain forged by people. the 2021 edition rejects the notion of the desert as homogeneous entity. the exhibition includes such monumental works as an enormous and sculptural wall that suggests a geological extrusion, a large-scale maze, a tiny replica of an historic desert homestead, and a pair of monolithic structures made from water vessels.

 

eduardo sarabia, the passenger

 

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of eduardo sarabia, ‘the passenger,’ 2021
photography by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

 

 

mexico-based artist eduardo sarabia presents ‘the passenger’ at desert X 2021. the work is an arrow tip-shaped maze inspired by the trope of the journey that for generations has been closely bound to stories of the desert. from biblical narratives of exodus to the treks of immigrants searching for better tomorrows, the necessity to move from one place to another has shaped a shared experience across cultures. made from walls of petates — traditional rugs woven from palm fibers — the passenger speaks to the challenges and aspirations that encourage journeys and pays tribute to the people who have embarked upon them. ‘the passenger’ seeks to give form to the experience of going to an ‘elsewhere.’ the passenger acknowledges the many people who have passed through the coachella valley while offering visitors time to contemplate their own journey as they navigate the maze.

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of eduardo sarabia, ‘the passenger,’ 2021
photography by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of eduardo sarabia, ‘the passenger,’ 2021
photography by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

 

 

kim stringfellow, jackrabbit homestead

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of kim stringfellow, ‘jackrabbit homestead,’ 2021
photography by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

 

 

for desert X 2021, california-based artist kim stringfellow explores how the law made the desert accessible to a new demographic of land owners. and introduced an architectural vernacular whose imprint persists to this day. the 122-square-foot cabin she created for desert X trades the stark solitary romanticism of sand and sky for a small patch of sprawl nestled between the palm desert chamber of commerce and a CVS pharmacy. decontextualized in this way, the un-glamorous 1950s proletariat kit home becomes a beacon for conversations about class, sustainability, capitalism, public land, and the commons. inside the cabin, a woman’s voice — that of catherine venn, who chronicled her 1950 homesteading experience for desert magazine — is heard as part of an audioscape collaboration between the artist, georgia-based musician/artist/author jim white, and fellow georgian singer/songwriter claire campbell. tim halbur contributed sound design.

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of kim stringfellow, ‘jackrabbit homestead,’ 2021
photography by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of kim stringfellow, ‘jackrabbit homestead,’ 2021
photography by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

 

 

serge attukwei clottey, the wishing well

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of serge attukwei clottey, ‘the wishing well,’ 2021
photography by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

 

 

for desert X 2021, serge attukwei clottey presents ‘the wishing well,’ a sculptural installation of large-scale cubes draped with sheets of woven pieces of yellow plastic kufuor gallons. these gallons are used to transport water in ghana. transforming a public park into a destination, the wishing well refers to the wells to which many people around the world must trek daily to access water. europeans introduced kufuor gallons, or jerrycans, to the people of ghana to transport cooking oil. as repurposed relics of the colonial project, they serve as a constant reminder of the legacies of empire and of global movements for environmental justice. sited in the coachella valley, whose future is deeply dependent on water, the wishing well creates a dialogue about our shared tomorrow.

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of serge attukwei clottey, ‘the wishing well,’ 2021
photography by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of serge attukwei clottey, ‘the wishing well,’ 2021
photography by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

 

 

zahrah alghamdi, what lies behind the walls

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of zahrah alghamdi, ‘what lies behind the walls,’ 2021
image by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

 

 

zahrah alghamdi intertwines material and memory in her desert X 2021 exhibition ‘what lies behind the walls.’ many of her works involve large accumulations of material that seemingly layer the histories and cultures of the places from which they come. when alghamdi, who grew up in the southwestern region of saudi arabia, visited palm springs, she was struck by the connection between the desert landscapes and architectures. for desert X, she has created a sculpture that echoes and synthesizes the traditionally built forms from her country with the architectural organization she found in the coachella valley. the result takes the form of a monolithic wall comprised of stacked forms impregnated with cements, soils, and dyes specific to each region. it expresses a highly individualized language corresponding to feelings, emotions, and memories associated with place and time.

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of zahrah alghamdi, ‘what lies behind the walls,’ 2021
image by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

desert X 2021 returns to california's coachella valley with themes of social justice
desert X installation view of zahrah alghamdi, ‘what lies behind the walls,’ 2021
image by lance gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X

 

 

exhibition info:

 

exhibition: desert X 2021

location: coachella valley, california

curator: neville wakefield, césar garcía-alvarez

photography: lance gerber | @lance.gerber, courtesy the artist and desert X