Weekend at the HQ

IMG_8277All of our High Desert Test Sites volunteers are away for the holidays, so I spent this weekend sitting the HDTS HQ.

IMG_8289Emmett showed me the white pocket knife that he wants…

IMG_8328I got to  commune with the  Field Kitchen by Harald Kantz  –   my own personal object of desire.  (someday I’m going to get one!)

IMG_8321Tim brought us a cool new book that he found in Wonder Valley for our Desert Research Library called “Our Desert Neighbors”

IMG_8298If anyone is super organized and has the time to get involved in a project, we could use help organizing our library and making cards for each book listing who donated it.

IMG_8341And Kip came by to brainstorm about a film screening at the HQ!

richard rigg


Richard Rigg, a wonderfully well mannered and willowy artist from Newcastle (UK) has been our guest here at AZ West for the last week while he works on a project “Inhabitant of the Watchtower”  – a collaboration with CIRCA Projects that coincides with his exhibition at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.  After working tirelessly all week to assemble the transmitter in the sweltering August heat, he finally headed out to the hottest and most remote edge of Wonder Valley to install – working quickly to get everything set up during the brief cooling sunset hours.


Amy and Wendy Yao’s Art Swap Meet


Here are a bunch of photos from Amy and Wendy Yao’s HDTS Art Swap meet at the Sky Village Swap Meet last weekend!  For those unfamiliar with Sky Village – this it is one of the secret gems of the high desert.  Formerly a drive in movie theater, the swap meet is owned by Bob Carr, who has turned the entire location into an extension of his own amazing art practice (for more of this check out the “Crystal Cave” in the heart of the swap meet – right next to the cafeteria)


The latest addition too the Crystal Cave (just in time for the big weekend) is a running river that flows through the center of the cave (Bob says that eventually there will be three rivers – so that means two more tributaries still to be built in the future)


Amy and Wendy’s events always draw a really great and hugely diverse array of artists – this year there were participants from New York, Portland, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Canada, Norway, Brussels, Glasgow, Berlin, Paris, Sweden and more…


the hq has it all…

IMG_8792 Last Thursday Patrick, our intrepid HDTS intern Ari, and Andrea erected and installed our beautiful new HDTS signs. The HQ is tucked around the corner off of 29 Palms Hwy – and we don’t have a lot of visibility to those taking the straight and narrow through Morogono Basin.  Plus lots of people don’t even know who we are.  A guy came in a few weeks ago asking if High Desert Test Sites is where we give tests to the homeschoolers!  Anyway, Randy Brill at the Sky Harbor Swap Meet came through for us once again with this suite of signs, hand made with a router.  And Patrick and Ari dug some REALLY deep holes right next to the sidewalk by the entrance of the HDTS HQ.
Like the sign says, the HQ sort of has it all.  You can check out our HDTS archive (both in book form and on a DVD), old HDTS publications and posters (including some really amazing hand made silkscreens by Jenny Nichols),  the most current driving map to existing sites, and lots of other really cool stuff made by HDTS artists and Joshua Tree locals that we are selling to help offset the costs of running the space.IMG_8801

How to Survive


Last weekend  at A-Z West Michael Parker and Alyse Emdur led their fantastic  “How to Survive”  workshop – part of High Desert Test Sites “The New Everyday Life” series.  For two days 12 participants constructed their own solar ovens in the brand new studio at A-Z West,  practiced survival choreography in the western wash with Flora Wiegmann,   were initiated into the nuances of liquor distillation by Aaron Freeman and Tyler Nathan, ate a delicious solar cooked dinner up at the cabin, and finally partook in a sunday afternoon exploration of  Aaron and Ronda Mueller’s completely off-the-grid lifestyle up in one of the most remote areas behind Pioneertown.


now screening at the HQ…

110326_0202We just got a big flat screen monitor at the HQ – Look at how great Brennan Conway’s video “Trajectory” looks on it!  We first met Brennan when he volunteered to help out with the deep dessert screening of Bernd Behr’s video.  After finding out more about Brennan own work we thought it would be a great addition to the ever expanding offerings at the HDTS Headquarters.

In 2008 Brennan was awarded a residency at CLUI’s Wendover, Utah location  – The town is near wide open salt flats and surrounded on two sides by vast weapons- testing areas.  Brennan thought this was a good place to perform his own weapons test with a lever-action rifle, or “repeating rifle” – often called the “gun that won the west.”  Taking aim at the distant horizon, he fired a single bullet across the desert… then he went searching for it.

Indigo Girls



Here are some photos from the Indigo Girls performance by Travis Boyer.  Originally I thought this would be a sort of “dye party” but once we got going it became clear that it was really an endurance performance in which Travis magically helped a never-ending line of participants unravel the mysteries of indigo dying.  Like why the stuff comes out of the dye-bath a bright acid green. And how to avoid getting any extra oxygen into the batch.


And it is still cold in the desert – cold enough that in the late afternoon everyone’s clothes froze on the clothesline.





Amy and Wendy Yao hosted another groud-breaking HDTS swap-meet – this year at the Sky Village Swap Meet which is the local swap meet right behind Barr Lumber off of Old Woman Springs Road.  I love their press release so I’m going to reprint some of it here:

“We grew up going to swapmeets nearly every weekend, tagging along with our grandparents at the break of dawn and riding illegally amongst the boxes in the back of their customized white Toyota minivan. Our grandparents worked at the swapmeet every weekend for years, selling video rewinders and novelty erasers imported from Taiwan.  We would help out and watch all the strange characters pass through, everyone buying or selling something.  These are some of our earliest memories: the improvised look of each booth, everything on the go.  If we were good, at the end of each day our grandparents would let us buy one thing from the used book vendor next door.  We would get things like old paperback books published by Mad Magazine, full of jokes and innuendo that we were still too young to fully understand…”


“The Art Swap Meet has always been an experiment in how an ephemeral, mobile marketplace works within the desert, an environment of extremes where only the fit survive.  It provides a chance for its participants to test ideas, make artist direct sales, create works and experiences that might not be salable, or embrace the absurdity of setting up shop in a location where your customer may or may not show up. In all, it’s a beautiful spectacle where trading posts sprout up at sunrise and then evaporate like mirages…”


“This Saturday’s Art Swapmeet will be the 5th time we’ve convened to give, trade and sell art and experiences at very affordable prices!  Always fun! Always great bargains and great artwork!! Come early, we start at 8pm and end at 1pm! Don’t miss the mirage!!”


The photo above is of Bob Carr, the owner of the Sky Village Swap meet – the mothership for this year’s art swap meet.  Bob is an amazing artist in his own right and it is fair to say that the entire swap meet is a really a gigantic, long term, communally based art project.  If you look in some of the shacks you can see his really cool and sort of psychadlic spiders and spider webs that are all works in progress.  And of course then there is the famed crystal cave which will be revealed later this month as Mette and Merete’s HDTS project.


One of the most amazing things to me are the people who turn out for Amy and Wendy’s events – this year’s participants included David Benjamin Sherry from NYC, Tobias Madison from Zurich, Marlous Borm from NYC Berlin, John Rieppenhoff of Green Gallery in Milwaukke, Rob Halverson from Cool Art in Portland Amy’s MFA students from Arizona State University, and LA’s own local Alice Konitz, Lucky Dragon, Gabbie Strong, Piero Golia, and Erik Wesley (and there are even more) Oh – and of course the “group formerly known as smockshop”

Specific at the HDTS HQ


While the VonTundra project was going down at A-Z West the “Specific Apartment” was the main feature at the HDTS HQ about a mile away in downtown Joshua Tree.  Specific is a really great new gallery/shop on Beverly in Los Angeles curated by Brooks Hudson Thomas.


Brooks created an installation of the “Specific Apartment”  in the back room at the HDTS HQ.  The HDTS HQ is already evolving into what I like to call a “Life Enhancement Shop” – and it was exiting to see the space chock full of accouterments for living.


There were some funky little paintings on fabric and cardboard by Sean Brian Mc Donald that I loved,  a walnut covered plywood chair and table set by Jalal Poehlman with really nice details (check out the legs in the image above), a sweet striped quilt by Denyse Schmidt and a bunch of other really great objects including an audio cabinet by todosomething that was DJed for the Saturday night event.




The last week has been so insanely action packed that I’m going to be posting everything six or seven days late.  A lot has been going on from two fantastic new stained glass windows by my friend Steve Halterman, the Von Tundra/Specific weekend at A-Z West, and a massive work party in my own studio with seven people working full steam on the upcoming show for Berlin.  The image above is from the “Make Shade” workshop by Von Tundra…

On Friday Brooks of Specific, Brad, the Von Tundra guys (Dan, Brian and Chris) arrived at A-Z West along with their crew and cohorts Coleen, Cyan, Zach and Christian, for of a really super incredible and intense weekend.


The event kicked off on Friday night with a cocktail party at Blake’s new motel the Mojave Sands (with delicious Persian food brought out by Dorna), and continued on Saturday with a watermelon rind pickling workshop by Coleen, A make shade workshop by VonTundra, A really nice artists talk by the VT guys, and an insanely delicious dinner by chef Colleen French of the  Renegade Dining Club in the A-Z Wash


….followed by an even more stupendous brunch the following morning. By Sunday night everyone sunburned and muscle-sore from lugging tables, chairs, loads of food and of course beverages back and forth to the far end of the wash – but it was so totally worth all the hard work.


Brooks was great and I totally want to work with him again.  The VonTundra crew are amazing and I want them to make a winter studio in Joshua Tree (or maybe they can customize a Wagon Station and come live in the wash),  the participants were totally interesting, generous and incredibly good sports – and as always the volunteers made all of this possible and saved the day by jumping in every time one of us were in over our heads.  (thank you so much Dorna, Merete, and Mette!)