Few experiences give you a view of Greater Palm Springs quite like Desert X, which is back with its fourth biennial exhibition of site-specific art, March 4 through May 7.
For Desert X, artists from around the world visit Greater Palm Springs, immerse themselves in our histories and contemporary issues and respond with thoughtful, often massive works of art that draw literally hundreds of thousands of visitors from near and far during its two-month run.
Free to the public, this year’s installations are as big and meaningful as ever, as a new slate of artists addresses topics such as climate change, social justice, and freedom. Each has created a visual spectacle to behold, and their artworks are augmented by a robust offering of public programs. “This is among the ways we encourage cultural inquiry and dialogue among people from all walks of life, creating an intergenerational, pluralistic, democratic coming together around art,” explains Desert X founder and president Susan Davis.
The 11 projects selected by artistic director Neville Wakefield and co-curator Diana Campbell suggest “new ways to build healing cultures that embrace and protect (bio)diversity and open opportunities for joy and hope anchored in justice,” Campbell explains.
Start at the Desert X Hub, located at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in South Palm Springs. Here, you can pick up the Desert X program, meet staff, glean viewing tips, and more.
Rana Begum’s No. 1225 Chainlink
Desert X installation view of Rana Begum, No. 1225 Chainlink. 2023. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy of Rana Begum and Desert X.
Where: 74184 Portola Road, Palm Desert
Head to Palm Desert, where you’ll find two installations: Rana Begum’s No. 1225 Chainlink and Torkwase Dyson’s Liquid A Place, located in Homme Adams Park.
Begum, an Anglo-Bangladeshi artist, transforms the ubiquitous chain link fence into an ethereal sculpture that appears to float over the desert floor. Her “maze” of concentric circles upends the material’s purpose of containment and creates a place of great freedom.
Torkwase Dyson’s Liquid A Place
Where: Homme Adams Park at 72500 Thrush Road
Liquid A Place, part Dyson’s an ongoing series that started from the premise that we are the water in the room, is a monumental sculpture that is a poetic meditation connecting the memory of water in the body and the memory of the water in the desert.
Paloma Contreras Lomas’ Amar a Dios en Tierra de Indios, Es Oficio maternal
Desert X installation view of Paloma Contreras Lomas, Amar a Dios en Tierra de Indios, Es Oficio maternal. 2023. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy of Paloma Contreras Lomas and Desert X.
Where: 37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage
Check in at Sunnylands Center & Gardens, where you’ll find Paloma Contreras Lomas’ Amar a Dios en Tierra de Indios, Es Oficio maternal. Here you’ll encounter an old car with the tangled limbs of two mysterious characters sprawling onto the site’s pristine, manicured grounds. They accompany you on a fictional tour of a seemingly familiar world.
Next stop: Desert Hot Springs. Here you’ll find Mario García Torres’ Searching for the Sky (While Maintaining Equilibrium) and Tschabalala Self’s Pioneer.
Mario García Torres’ Searching for the Sky (While Maintaining Equilibrium)
Where: Pierson Boulevard between Foxdale Drive and Miracle Hill Road, Desert Hot Springs
García Torres’s work, located on Pierson Boulevard between Foxdale Drive and Miracle Hill Road, reflects on “cowboy culture,” including the macho, forceful control of nature, encapsulated in bull riding (live or mechanical). He replaces the bull component with a flat surface to reveal what this object really is. The work leads us to contemplate the “wild West” and our relationship to landscape and our role within it.
Tschabalala Self’s Pioneer
Where: San Gorgonio Street and Bubbling Wells Road, Desert Hot Springs
Located at San Gorgonio Street and Bubbling Wells Road, Self’s Pioneer is an homage to the foremothers of contemporary America, representing the lost, expelled, and forgotten Indigenous, Native, and African women whose bodies and labor allowed for American expansion and growth, while also standing as a beacon of resilience for their descendants — a visual representation of their birthright and place within the American landscape.
Hylozoic/Desires' Namak Nazar
Desert X installation view of Hylozoic/Desires, Namak Nazar. 2023. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy of Hylozoic/Desires and Desert X.
Where: Worsley Road between Pierson and Mission Lakes boulevards, Desert Hot Springs
Also in Desert Hot Springs, located to the west, on Worsley Road between Pierson and Mission Lakes boulevards, is Namak Nazar by the artist collaborative Hylozoic/Desires, which uses metaphors from the natural environment to construct imaginary cosmologies. In the desert, they found this metaphor in salt and created a wooden pillar that branches into loudspeakers that spew an imaginary conspiracy theory about Namak Nazar, a particle of salt that spells the doom of climate change and offers redemption by looking inward.
Matt Johnson’s Sleeping Figure
Where: Interstate 10 at the Haugen-Lehman Way exit toward Railroad Avenue, Palm Springs
Before heading south into Palm Springs, access Matt Johnson’s Sleeping Figure, off Interstate 10 at the Haugen-Lehman Way exit toward Railroad Avenue. The massive sculpture was built with shipping containers as a commentary on a supply chain economy in distress.
TYRE NICHOLS’ ORIGINALS
Desert X installation view of Tyre Nichols, Originals. 2023. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy of Tyre Nichols and Desert X.
Where: N. Gene Autry Trail between Via Escuela and Interstate 10, Palm Springs
Tyre Nichols had a passion for photography and liked to bring viewers into his views of beautiful landscapes and sunsets. “My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens,” said Tyre, according to the Desert X website.
Desert X’s website continues shares, “this work, now celebrated as part of Desert X, represents not just a vision that was brutally denied the opportunity to develop but the potential of all those individuals whose lives have been lost to the state sanctioned violence of institutional racism."
His photos are displayed on billboards along N. Gene Autry Trail, Between Via Escuela and the I-10 freeway.
Gerald Clarke’s Immersion
Where: 480 W. Tramview Road, Palm Springs
Cahuilla artist Gerald Clarke’s Immersion unfolds at the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center (480 W. Tramview Road) in the form of a monumental maze-like board game that immerses us in the local Native history and culture, inviting us to advance through by learning.
Lauren Bon's The Smallest Sea with the Largest Heart
Where: 2249 N Palm Canyon, Palm Springs
Open on select evenings (visit desertx.org for information), The Smallest Sea with the Largest Heart by Lauren Bon and Metabolic Studio is a steel sculpture of a to-scale blue whale heart submerged in a pool of Salton Sea water. Rather than stand as a harbinger of death, the sculpture metabolizes and creates energy and clean water that it deposits back into the atmosphere, fueling the potential for future life and visually transforming itself in the process.
Marina Tabassum's Khudi Bari
Download the Desert X app or visit desertx.org to view Khudi Bari (Bangladeshi for “tiny house”), a film by architect Marina Tabassum addressing wet and dry cultures and the role of design in enabling life in some of the world’s most extreme climate conditions.
Check desertx.org and they app as it will point you to locations and dates for Héctor Zamora’s Chimera, a performative action in collaboration with local street vendors.
Start your Desert X adventure with these helpful resources below.