Believe it or not, the Coachella Valley is home to more events than just the annual music festival that shares its namesake. Currently, the annual art festival Desert X is playing host to a handful of art projects that push the boundaries of cultural commentary. The installments are scattered throughout the valley in different areas, and attendees are sent on an art scavenger hunt each year to find the pieces throughout the Palm Desert. One such installment that lies on the shores of the Salton Sea has been mysteriously destroyed. Now, the festival is hard at work finding the vandal.
Some installments at Desert X aim to make a stronger commentary than others. Such is the case with pieces like “Western Flag.” The installment by John Gerrard comprises a large LED screen sitting in a vast open space just outside of Palm Springs. The Piece aims to comment on the consumption of the oil industry as a major destroyer of the environment. The screen, which simply portrays a flagpole spewing black smoke in a barren desert, is one of the most popular pieces at Desert X this year.
Other pieces are less heavy but just as noteworthy. A rainbow made of painted rebar shoots up from the ground in Pia Camel En’s “Lovers Rainbow” piece, which is also an Instagram favorite that’s meant to symbolize hope. The piece has a twin, which sits just south of the U.S. border in Baja, Mexico. “Exposed rebar usually signals development, but too often in the Mexican landscape we see those dreams thwarted and abandoned. Historically, rainbows have symbolized rain and fertility. Located in desert territory, the act of bending the rebar into the ground is a way to re-insert hope into the land,” reads the description of the piece on the Desert X website.
The art at Desert X is set to be up for another few weeks, but one installment didn’t last that long. Eric N. Mack took to Instagram last night (clearly this happened before The Big Crash™) to address the loss of the art installment. “As I process the loss of this artwork that I and many others worked tirelessly to realize, I am only pacified by knowing that many visitors experienced and appreciated it as it was. While the violence and hate enacted on this installation is astounding, I will not allow for this disregard to become a gesture that obstructs nor defines this work of art,” said Mack on Instagram last night.
“Halter,” was very fragile to begin with. The piece occupied a space in a famously abandoned gas station on the edge of the Salton Sea. The gas station was covered in various fabrics and textiles to be re imagined as a desert tent. Fabrics from designers like Missoni were draped across the large car port gas station, allowing the fabrics to freely blow in the wind. Harsh desert winds made the installment fragile, so it’s not unimaginable that the piece would have been destroyed prior to the ending of Desert X in just a few weeks.
Authorities are still investigating who could have vandalized the art installment and why. The artistic director of Desert X, Neville Wakefield, has also speculated that the cause could have come from weather. “The desert does reclaim works in many ways. Eric’s was an amazing piece but very fragile and susceptible to weather conditions. It was a dissertation on wind and fragility. It was always vulnerable,” he said to ArtNews. The piece was reportedly destroyed. While the artist considers what happened to his piece to be vandalism, speculation that the elements could have destroyed it are just as possible. Fire reports suggest that the piece was burned, but no official statement has said exactly what happened to the piece. Maybe it was aliens.
Julia Sachs is a staff writer at Grit Daily. She covers tech, entrepreneurship and entertainment news and is based in Park City, Utah.