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The Quad: Exploring Coachella Valley art exhibition Desert X

People frustrated by long lines at Doug Aitken’s “Mirage” simply walked around the side, but the view inside was worth the wait. (Kelly Yeo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Kelly Yeo

April 19, 2017 4:30 pm

In these heady days on campus between Coachella’s first and second weekends, UCLA students who already attended Goldenvoice’s famous music festival slump over in lecture hall seats from lack of sleep. Those gearing up for Weekend 2, though, can hardly wait for Friday’s eastbound drive in festival traffic – prepared to prance onto the grounds of the Empire Polo Club and pose for the perfect Instagram-worthy festival picture.

As students get ready to dance in the desert, it’s worth taking note that other Insta-worthy sights are available outside festival grounds.

Desert X, a free art exhibition of pieces installed in Coachella Valley’s natural landscape, debuted in late February and will continue until the end of this month.

For those willing to venture beyond the campgrounds or the air-conditioned confines of their Airbnb or hotel room, Desert X is the perfect way to take in some art, get away from the crowds, snap some off-the-beaten-path photos and possibly even reflect on the themes behind the art itself.

Although it’s no-chella for me this year, some friends and I took an overnight trip a few weekends ago to see most of the exhibits, stopping at the Desert X Hub at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs to get a map of the exhibits.

If you have time to spare between your short rest from your late night and whenever you decide to re-enter the world of Coachella, the Hub – located behind the hotel pool and decked out like a mid-century modernist dream in a standalone room with wall-sized windows – is worth a pit stop.

However, given you’re likely short on time and limited to the morning and early afternoon hours, I suggest at least visiting the two exhibitions highly proximate to Coachella: Phillip K. Smith III’s “The Circle of Land and Sky” and Glenn Kaino’s “Hollow Earth.”

With light traffic, Google Maps estimates “The Circle of Land and Sky” is about 22 minutes away from Empire Polo Club, while “Hollow Earth” is 13 minutes away.

Both “The Circle of Land and Sky,” a series of 300 mirrored posts arranged in a circle leaning at a 10-degree angle, and “Hollow Earth,” an exhibit inside a small, assuming shed, attracted significant crowds when I was there. Be prepared for a short wait to get the picture you so desire, unless you’re going earlier in the morning.

Easily seen from the roadside, “The Circle of Land and Sky” reflects the landscape around it. One’s perception of the piece changes depending on the time of day. The mirrored posts tilt precariously, seeming to infinitely reflect the horizon and landscape as you walk around the circle. For anyone who forewent sleep in lieu of Coachella after-parties, it may be a great way to watch the sun rise.

To enter “Hollow Earth,” text “hollowearth” to 41411 for the door code. In a rather nondescript location, the shed containing “Hollow Earth” can be difficult to spot, so keep your eyes peeled as you round the corner of Avenue 42 and Golf Center Parkway. Inside the somewhat stuffy shed is a sculpture projecting the optical illusion of an illuminated tunnel dropping into infinite darkness.

According to the Desert X website, the perceived tunnel is actually a series of mirrors.

“In this ironic case, art directly reflects (their) life and the meaning, value and power that they assign to it,” the online description states.

Make of that what you will.

Although out of the way, I’d be remiss to not recommend the Instagram granddaddy of all of Desert X’s various pieces: Doug Aitken’s “Mirage,” located some 40 minutes out of the way from the festival.

The piece – a house covered entirely in mirrors – is aptly named, seeming almost invisible on the horizon as you drive up to it. Like “The Circle of Land and Sky,” it reflects the desolate desert landscape around it as it glitters in the sun, and also draws a crowd. People, it seems, are like ravens, forever attracted to shiny things.

As you head back, most likely in a Lyft or perhaps someone’s car, to re-enter the chaos of hundreds of thousands of people dancing, drinking and eating in the dry desert heat, I hope you feel like I did as I drove away from the exhibits of Desert X: rejuvenated and ready to rejoin the fray of civilization.

Phillip K. Smith III’s “The Circle of Land and Sky”
Frank Sinatra Dr. and Portola Ave, Palm Desert
Open daily, sunrise to sunset.

Glenn Kaino’s “Hollow Earth”
Avenue 42 and Golf Center Parkway, Indio
Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 pm.

Doug Aitken’s “Mirage”
1101 W. Raquet Club Dr., Palm Springs
Open Monday through Friday, 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Open Saturday & Sunday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Kelly Yeo
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