Desert X is an incredible series of art installations in Palm Desert. After a few eventful days in LA, Ian and I made our way to Desert X in Palm Desert. Though the installations are only up until April 30th, I wanted to share my Desert X experience! Read on to see our favorite installations, a bit about each of the artists, and our overall thoughts!
The journey from LA to Palm Springs took about 2 hours. Not so bad! But keeping in mind that we were headed east in the desert, we definitely had to prep for the heat. I didn’t know what to expect, I just knew I had to see this mirror house everyone was taking photos of, and that thing that looked like a bottomless pit. Luckily we ended up just going to The Desert X Hub. Located inside the ACE Hotel in Palm Springs, we met two lovely folks part of Desert X handing out maps and notifying us what was closed, what two installations were close to one another, and the times. They were incredibly helpful and made my anxiety of wtf where am I even going, a looot more bearable.
Onto the best part, the installations. Spread all over Palm Desert were 15 installations. And Ian and I only made it to 6. Over a span of the maybe 4 hours of sunlight we had while we were there, we had to plan out our travels accordingly. Especially with some installations being as far as 15 to 35 minutes from each other, we had to be so smart about it. This is when our map came in handy! From ACE, we went straight to the Instagram famous Mirror House and ended it at the ‘I am’ installation.
Mirage by Doug Aitken
This beautiful work of art was the first stop of ours, we ended up spending a lot of time here just admiring the work itself, then taking some photos and experimenting with the space both inside and outside. Paneled with a reflective surface, Mirage by Doug Aitken was a house of mirrors that perfectly reflected the desert landscape. I loved how wherever you would be in our outside of the house, the perspective would completely change. Especially with the outside, the house would reflect the landscape looking as if it would disappear!
Donation Box by Gabriel Kuri
This next one was the closest to Mirage, about a 5 minute drive. I don’t have any photos of it, but it was an interesting piece. Donation Box by Gabriel Kuri is viewable by peering into a storefront that contains what looks like miles of sand. Serving as an indoor landscape, the sand is seasoned with cigarette butts. According to the Desert X website, “donation box is a commentary on the desire to control and profit from the indomitable” and “aims to invite the spectator to share its reflection on the nature of speculation and its mark on the environment.”
Hollow Earth by Glenn Kaino
This one was hands down my favorite installation! Hollow Earth by Glenn Kaino was a journey in itself. We drove about 30-35 minutes from the first two installations we visited and texted ‘hollowearth’ to ‘41411’ for an entry access code for when we arrived. The experience altogether was mysterious and thrilling since we didn’t know what to expect! We waited in line outside of a shed and all we could hear from the inside was laughter, screams, and a lot of excitement.
When it came to our turn, we walked inside and to activate the piece to light up, we had to press a button multiple times and hold it while we were in complete darkness. I loved it, and the illusion of the depth of the tunnel itself was both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Ian wasn’t really a fan and it was the funniest thing seeing him walk atop of it.
Paradoxically, as the viewer stares down at the piece, wondering about the depth of the tunnel, they are actually staring at themselves as seen through a series of mirrors. In this ironic case, art directly reflects (their) life and the meaning, value and power that they assign to it. – Desert X Website
Curves and Zig Zags by Claudia Comte
This one was another half hour journey from the last installation. Because of the mountains, the sun set fairly quickly there and we caught some light right before it completely went away to enjoy this piece. Curves and Zig Zags by Claudia Comte is a freestanding structure built for the painting on it. The curves of both the painting and the 3D structure itself gradually changes into zig zags which is a neat thing to see in person. It would’ve been super cool to have a drone to see it from atop, but nonetheless, it was a great piece!
The Circle of Land and Sky by Phillip K Smith III
This one was another favorite of mine! Composed of 300 reflectors angled in the sand at 10 degrees, The Circle of Land and Sky by Phillip K Smith III creates a space that reflects the landscape and the sky, which was so cool to see in person. Walking around, between, and within the reflectors, we got to experience so many different perspectives similar of that of the Mirage piece. We caught it right at sunset and got to experience the sky change different colors and reflect upon the installation. It was stunning!
‘I am’ by Tavares Strachan
This last installation we made it to, ‘I am’ by Tavares Strachan, was open from 7-10pm and for good reason! We had to sign a waiver just in case anything were to happen it would be on us. It wasn’t until you walk in to see giant craters lined with neon lights that you really understood why you had to sign the waiver. It was really cool to see in person, especially as the sky turned into night. Just knowing that an arial shot of this would have spelled out ‘I am’ serves a reminder that there are so many different perspectives, and a bigger picture.
The viewer will interact with what seems like an abstracted glowing crevasse of light, but if viewed from the sky one will read the exploded phrase “I am.” – Desert X Website
I honestly loved every moment of exploring Desert X. It was like a scavenger hunt when we were given a map and figuring out where these installations were just based off coordinates or a random address. We had no idea what to expect and I think that was the best part of it!
Here are my tips for those checking out Desert X before they take down the installations:
- Stop by the Desert X Hub located in ACE Hotel, check their hours online first! Pick up a map and chat with the folks there, they are super informative and shared a lot of insight especially as to what installations are closed, which are closest from there, and whether or not things have been super busy.
- Have snacks and your gas tank full! The distance from each installation can be anywhere from 15 to 30+ minutes away from each other! This is when it’d be good to be there the majority of the day and when the map comes in handy!
- If you’re planning on visiting Hollow Earth, don’t forget to text ‘hollowearth’ to ‘41411’ to get an access code to the shed. And keep in mind it would be handy to have someone there with you to activate the light illusion by pressing a button to get those photos in!
- Bring a drone for some dope footage! It isn’t allowed at Mirage, but it is at ‘I am,’ The Circle of Land and the Sky, and Curves and Zig Zags!
Rumor has it that they may be back in two years! So if that’s the case, I’m super excited to revisit and check out the new installations! Had an overall amazing experience at Desert X, especially exploring with Ian 🙂