The desert is God without man. -Balzac
The desert has long exercised its fascination over the minds of artists, architects, musicians, writers, and other explorers of landscape and soul. From the theological cast of the Biblical desert wilderness to the secular observations of Joan Didions Holy Water, it is a place of scarcity, of stark contrasts, crude survival, mystery and transformation. But it is its very inhospitality towards life that has in part made it receptive to new forms. Nowhere more so than in Palm Springs itself. Here the boundless flatness that reaches from the base of the San Jancinto Mountains has proved fertile ground for the mid-century architectural melding of solid form and transparency, structure and openness, of inside and out. The same rarefied air which called to the denizens of old Hollywood seeking privacy and retreat, now draws other generations to the more public ceremonial of Coachella where the visual silence of sand and rock is offset by the rush of music, the throb of beat. But around these manifest utopias of establishment and youth, the desert also wages its own wars of attrition. Nature and the accelerated battle for water rights have taken their toll, gradually transforming the Salton Sea from miracle resort to harbinger of toxic apocalypse. Social and cultural entropy has depleted the Cahuilla traditions and with them the understanding of their homeland. Against this backdrop of geological time human endeavor may pale into insignificance but in the continual making and unmaking of the desert world can be found the creative impetus of all who are drawn there.
Desert X is a site-specific show that will take place in the spring of 2017. Artists from different parts of the world will be invited to make work that responds to the unique conditions of Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley. The desert of Desert X is the blank canvas upon which contemporary artists - like the writers, architects, musicians and other before them – will be invited to project their vision and to create of the extraordinary natural and social history around them objects and experiences that reflect upon the matchless spectacle of the geologic epic, the radical abstraction of the surroundings and the singular incursions of man into the seemingly barren landscape. Unique in that it takes the landscape itself as its exhibition space, Desert X will offer the opportunity to explore both the familiar and the unknown through the eyes of others. If the desert is indeed God without man, then Desert X is art without constraint.
- Neville Wakefield