High Desert Test Sites , cofounded and directed by Andrea Zittel, is a nonprofit arts organization based in Joshua Tree, California. Started in 2002 by a loosely knit group of collaborators (Andrea Zittel, Andy Stillpass, John Connelly, Shaun Regen and Lisa Anne Auerbach), HDTS has since hosted the work of more than 450 artists, 11 expansive site-specific programs, and 25 solo projects.
As a conceptual entity HDTS is dedicated to “learning from what we are not” and the belief that intimately engaging with our high desert community can offer new insights and perspectives, often challenging art to take on new areas of relevancy.
To challenge traditional conventions of ownership, property, and patronage. Most projects will ultimately belong to no one and are intended to melt back into the landscape as new ones emerge.
To insert art directly into a life, a landscape, or a community where it will sink or swim based on a set of criteria beyond that of art world institutions and galleries.
To encourage art that remains in the context for which it was created - work will be born, live, and die in the same spot.
To initiate an organism in its own right-one that is bigger and richer than the vision of any single artist, architect, designer, or curator.
To create a center outside of any preexisting centers. We are inspired by individuals and groups working outside of existing cultural capitals, who are able to make intellectually rigorous and culturally relevant work in whatever location they happen to be in.
To find common ground between contemporary art and localized art issues.
To contribute to a community in which art can truly make a difference. HDTS exists in a series of communities that edge one of the largest suburban sprawls in the nation. Many of the artists who settle in this area are from larger cities, but want to live in a place where they can shape the development of their own community. For the time being, there is still a feeling in the air that if we join together we can still hold back the salmon stucco housing tracts and big box retail centers. Well maybe.
Who We Are
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Shaun Caley Regen
CURRENTLY ADMINISTERED BY
Andrea Zittel - Founder/director
Vanesa Zendejas - Administrative Director
Elena Yu - Administrative Assistant
Kristy Campbell, Aimee Buyea, Emily Endo, Sarah Greenlee, Eloise Hess, and Tayler Straziuso. Thanks to Bob Carr, Elizabeth Carr, and Zena Bender at the Sky Village Swap Meet!
High Desert Test Sites is grateful to The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Tides Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation - Arts Regranting Program/Inland Empire at The Community Foundation, Strengthening Inland Southern California through Philanthropy, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Ranch Projects, Sky Village Swap Meet, and our generous donors for their support.
When HDTS was founded in 2002, part of the original mission was to run on zero budget and generate relevant and rigorous programming through the most efficient means. Fourteen years later, the socio-economic climate has changed—Joshua Tree has changed—and the world has changed. HDTS artists have always been resourceful, but we are increasingly aware that an important part of showcasing and supporting their work is compensating them for their time, efforts, and ideas.
Bringing our audience such programming also wouldn’t be possible without the small, paid staff who we rely on. Each event that we host requires hours of planning, managing, and communicating—from finding the right site for an artist, to sourcing volunteers, to updating our website and managing the books.
Together, along with countless dedicated volunteers, we’ve managed over the years to:
- Showcase the work of over 450 artists and presenters
- Host 11 large, site-specific programs
- Support over 25 solo projects
- Produce 10 publications
- Host a monthly book club
- Maintain a local presence with our HQ
- Host workshops and community events
- Pass out hundreds of maps to HDTS sites
- Build a Desert Archive
- Provide an online resource for those interested in local sites and projects
As a small arts organization, in a rural community, we heavily rely on the support of our donors both from the High Desert region and beyond. Every contribution, large and small, helps support the staff and artists in continuing to offer more immersive and intimate experiences and exchanges between critical thinkers from many different walks of life.
(Please use the "add special instructions to the seller" box in PayPal to let us know if would like your contribution to directly support a specific upcoming project.) You can also mail a check to High Desert Test Sites at P.O. Box 1058, Joshua Tree, CA 92252.
Thank you so much for your support - any amount helps!
Although many of our projects are only temporarily sited, some are permanent and are located throughout the Joshua Tree region. The best way to find these works is to follow the directions on our current HDTS driving map.
The HQ at the Sky Village Swap Meet
The HDTS HQ is temporarily closed. We hope you'll visit us when we reopen (as soon as it's safe to do so)
The HDTS HQ is a visitor's center and creative hub where artists, craftsmen, visionaries, and friends engage with the high desert community through creative projects and performances. You can pick up a copy of our driving map to HDTS projects and other local sites of interest at the HQ every Saturday from 9 am–1 pm—and please check our website regularly to see what special events we have on the calendar.
The HQ is collectively run by a small group of volunteers who review and accept proposals several times a year. We are open to a wide variety of projects to present at the HQ, but are particularly interested in work that engages with our local community (who have a strong presence at the Swap Meet), encouraging their participation in a contemporary practice. Proposals are accepted via email and are reviewed about once every three months.
Directions: 7028 Theater Road (just off Hwy 247, right behind Barr Lumber), Yucca Valley, CA 92286; 760-365-2104
*Email us if you'd like to get involved with the HDTS HQ at Sky Village Swap Meet!
Ok. So I'm excited about the next HDTS event. What should I bring with me to the desert?
You are awesome. We love your enthusiasm. Bring plenty of drinking water and snacks. Bring sunscreen and a wacky wide-brimmed hat for extra protection in the bright sun. Bring a sweater or jacket, as it can get chilly at night. Bring lots of cash.
Cell phones and mapping apps don't always work out here, so be sure to look up directions and print out driving maps ahead of time (many addresses in the desert don't register properly on cell phone mapping applications, and service can be spotty).
Please remember this is a fragile desert environment. Leave no trace! Be prepared to haul out everything that you haul in.
I am coming to the desert this weekend, is there anything up to see?
Most of our current HDTS projects are short term or temporary, but you can download the current HDTS driving map for directions to ongoing HDTS projects and points of interest.
When is the next HDTS event?
Check our website as we do list all upcoming events well before they happen and you can also sign up for the HDTS mailing list to stay abreast of HDTS updates, events, and projects.
Does HDTS have a physical space? Where are you located, and what is your operational structure like?
HDTS is a conceptual project as much as a physical one – so while we have a full schedule, almost two hundred acres of land at our disposal, and a (small, part-time) staff - we do not have a physical roof over our heads. Because our mission supports work that actively engages the world at large, we like to spend as much time as possible out in that world.
We have a small core team who all work part-time on the project. We do lots of work remotely on our computers, or driving around out in the desert, and then tend to meet up in Andrea’s studio when we need a big table and things like envelopes, scotch tape, and a stapler.
You are welcome to visit the HDTS HQ at the Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley, open Saturdays 9–1PM.
How can I get involved?
We periodically need help assisting artists with their installations. This may include hard labor, sweat, and blisters, but installations are generally a lot of fun, and a good way to meet people. If you are sturdy, reliable, and up for the task, please email us, and we will let you know about upcoming installtions.
You can share information with us about a destination that we should check out, or an inspirational figure who we might be interested in researching.
I'm interested in proposing a project - are you accepting proposals, and what kind of proposals are you looking for?
We are not taking project proposals at this time, except for projects done at the HDTS HQ at Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley. Programming at this site is geared towards a diverse local audience, and due to its unique swap meet context we ask all artists to visit the swap meet at least once before sending in a proposal.
OK - I’m confused... What's the difference between A-Z West and HDTS?
A-Z West is Andrea Zittel’s home and land in Joshua Tree, dedicated to her life practice and special programs. It includes her home, studio, A-Z Wagon Station Encampment, and the Institute of Investigative Living. The activities that go on at A-Z West are primarily related to Andrea's practice and are separate from HDTS, but at certain times A-Z West will expand by hosting HDTS programs/installations/artists.
High Desert Test Sites is a non-profit support entity for artists whose practices explore the intersection between contemporary art and life at large. The HDTS sites include many different pieces of land used for projects and programming. These include A-Z West, as well as other parcels scatted throughout Pioneertown, Joshua Tree, and Wonder Valley.
I love what you are doing and can see that you are a small program desperately in need of resources - how can I help support HDTS?
How do I contact a High Desert Test Sites representative?
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for the HDTS mailing list to stay abreast of HDTS updates, events, and projects.
Tradewinds Sign Rally
Tradewinds Signs Rally is an open-ended choreographic, sculpture and light experiment along Route 66. Drawing from road signs and placards, color guards, flag corps, parades and military pageantry, we give rise to deliberations about power, control and empowerment. The performance contrasts free-form movement with rigid, grid-based choreography in order to see what kinds of visual phenomenon arise from varying interactions of bodies, props and lights.
Video documentation of the project can be viewed here.
Text by Ellen Babcock published in the Fall 2014 edition of online journal Arid:
Roadside visibility and signage along a decaying stretch of route 66 became a point of departure for an open ended outdoor public experiment that took place on a barren Albuquerque lot where the light becomes beautiful at sunset in October. UNM art students and volunteers held sign like props made from scraps of cloth and repurposed embroidery hoops lined with tiny remote-controlled LED lights. They moved in a loosely choreographed tracing of the floor plan of the once rather fancy Tradewinds motel that had stood on the lot for decades, but was razed in 2008 because it had slowly wasted into a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes Accompanied by a wistful rendition of pep tunes by the rag tag, street clothed marching band of the nearby public high school, the dance became an incantation, a revival of the lot’s former, more festive spirit. The dancers spelled out the name of the hotel in semaphore, chanting the name in unison after the last letter had been signaled.
I had imagined this event as a way to frame a range of movement from the idiosyncratic and vulnerable to orchestrated shows of strength and pageantry that is evoked by people holding signs in public spaces. On one end are protesters, picketers, and the homeless, on the other--flag corps, color guards, sports pageantry and military parades. I am interested in how people move with signs when they are holding them, and how this can give rise to deliberations about power, control and impulse. Because signs can increase the volume, range and temporal presence of a person’s message, these objects become extensions or even magnifications of a particular body’s capacity to address the world, often employed by groups and sometimes individuals needing to assert themselves in situations in which they feel disempowered. Sign wavers or spinners, people employed to physically carry or wear a sign advertising the business that pays them sometimes resist what can be a demeaning form of employment in which personhood is obliterated by the advertising message, and simple, dumb repetitive movement is expected. I salute those rare sign spinners who heroically reassert themselves in eye-catching, crazy, free- form median dances.
There was no organized opposition to the Tradewinds Rally, just the inertia of emptiness and the tug of economic decline, no internal force or resistance to express other than the exuberance of dancing across an empty dirt lot to resurrect the spirit of travel and adventure associated with the long-gone motel. Student projects stationed around the edges of the lot riffed on themes of travel, play, and the kitsch of Route 66. Bradford Erickson dragged a bed, rug, side table and lamp to the lonely patch of dirt that had once supported a room of the motel. Sarah Diddy stacked handmade oversized alphabet blocks to invite sign games similar to three dimensional Scrabble, and Noel Chilton set up Roadkill Central, a bittersweet mock café where a short order cook served up live cockroaches. In the midst of this ring of sideshows, the dancers conjured the motel, marching in a tight circle where the driveway had led to the front door of the Tradewinds. In lockstep, they passed two-by two through a steel arch placed where the entrance to the pool had been, then exploded in frolicking free form when they reached the imagined water.
As dusk settled in and the band wound down, the LED lights came on, the dancers in a semaphore incantation called out to the Tradewinds. The rally ended as the dancers placed their sign props, now blinking like tail lights, along the long wall of an old carwash on the western edge of the lot. A mural created by the painter KB Jones graces that wall with a view of the horizon one might enjoy if the building were to vanish.
The Tradewinds Sign Rally was conceived and directed by Ellen Babcock and Rafael Gallegos, with assistance from
Aurora Tang and High Desert Test Sites Black Rock Arts Foundation
Liberty Tax Co. Santosh Mody
And the creative contributions of:
Jessamyn Lovell Cortez Lovato Wae Phonky Kaylee Delfin Sarah Diddy Bradford Erickson
Ian Kerstetter Kayla Wagner Noel Chilton Lindsey Schmitt William Geusz Sarah Gonzalez Emily Vosburgh Andrew Delgado and Josephine Gonzales and the Highland High Marching Band
OCTOBER 12, 2013 - OCTOBER 19, 2013
High Desert Test Sites hits the road for a full week of experimental art and exploration, from Joshua Tree to Albuquerque!
HDTS 2013, the ninth program in a series of free ranging and ever evolving contemporary art events, expands our range and depth to take in everything from Joshua Tree, California to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Roughly 60 new projects will take place over an entire week, during which artists and audience alike will traverse over 700 miles of desert roads to check out the new work and explore the hidden gems and diverse desert communities along this spectacular stretch of the Southwest.
Project sites include: Amboy Crater, Arcosanti, Area 66 (Yucca), Art Queen (Joshua Tree), Bluewater Lake State Park, El Malpais National Monument, El Rancho Hotel (Gallup), Giant Rock (Landers), Hill Top Motel (Kingman), Magdalena Ridge Observatory (Socorro), Mill Restaurant (Crown King), Montessa Park (Albuquerque), Palms Restaurant and Saloon (Wonder Valley), Petrified Forest National Park, Octopus Car Wash (Albuquerque), Pink Post Office Projects (Wonder Valley), Tamarind Institute (Albuquerque), Warehouse 1-10 (Magdalena), in addition to our regular HDTS sites.
The week's festivities include a Saturday night opening dinner (first-come-first-served) at The Palms in Wonder Valley October 12, with musical performances by The Sibleys and The Renderers.
A zine-style publication, designed by Brad Hudson Thomas, with original texts by James Trainor and Eden Solas, will accompany the event.
Special thanks to our amazing supporters, and to media partner ForYourArt.
HDTS 2013 ON KCHUNG RADIO - E.A.R. WINTER/SPRING 2014
EVENT RECAP & THANKS
DRIVING MAP, SCHEDULE, TRAVEL TIPS
PLAN YOUR TRIP
HDTS 2013 RIDESHARE
HDTS 2013 BLOG