High Desert Test Sites advances Andrea Zittel’s vision of creating art within the context of everyday life. The organization stewards A-Z West, Zittel’s 80-acre compound and artwork, where artists, writers, and thinkers spend time in residence while realizing projects that engage with our surrounding desert communities.
Co-founded in 2002 by Andrea Zittel, Andy Stillpass, John Connelly, Shaun Regen and Lisa Anne Auerbach—High Desert Test Sites has hosted the work of more than 460 artists, 12 expansive site-specific programs, and 25 solo projects.
Who We Are
PO Box 1058
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Office hours: Tuesday & Thursday, 10am-5pm PST
Vanesa Zendejas - Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Connor Schwab - Facilities and Grounds Manager, email@example.com
Sydney Foreman - Director’s Assistant and Visitor Services, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Shaun Caley Regen
WEBSITE AND DESIGN
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
David Knaus - Chair
Andrea Zittel - Founding Director/Treasurer
Brooke Hodge - Secretary
Marilyn Loesberg - Member
Susan Lubeznik - Member
Aram Moshayedi - Member
Paul Bessire - Member
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, California Arts Council, Sky Village Swap Meet, Copper Mountain Mesa Community Association and our generous donors for their support over the years.
When HDTS was founded in 2002, part of the original mission was to run on a zero budget. The idea was to support artistic visions in practical terms—provide help, guidance, tools, a cot, and infinite space. For many years this worked and it produced self-driven projects that were ambitious and independently spirited.
Over the past ten years, HDTS has been working towards building a more substantial funding structure for artists’ projects. This has included hosting recurring fundraising projects such as our Artist Painted Rock Auction, Gem/Mineral Expo, pop-ups at art fairs and art museums, and producing limited edition artworks for sale.
But these endeavors never quite add up to what we need—to pay our artists fairly, for venue rentals, for staff, liability insurance, the bookkeeper, to feed our volunteers, pay for all-terrain forklift rentals, and so much more.
As our programs grow every year, so does our budget. And although we make every effort to raise the money that we need with Andrea’s self-sufficient spirit in tow, we still rely on support from donors to make it all happen.
HDTS has been a registered 501c3 since 2013. Please consider a gift in any amount to help us in providing access to engaging, experimental, contemporary art in the high desert region.
Donate via PayPal, via Venmo (@hdts_azwest), or via check:
PO Box 1058 Joshua Tree CA 92252
Many past HDTS projects have only been temporarily sited, but some are permanent and scattered throughout the Morongo Basin. The best way to find these works is to follow the directions on our current HDTS driving map. This map also includes sites we’ve partnered with in the past and admire as independent projects. Most HDTS works are located at sites that we regularly activate and operate out of. Those sites include:
Our base of operations, A-Z West is Andrea’s project, where she lived and worked for 21 years. Located a few minutes outside downtown Joshua Tree, this 80-acre compound includes four restored homestead cabins, several experimental living structures, permanent sculptures, 4,000 square foot studio space, and pristine desert landscape.
Public tours of A-Z West are offered twice a month. Tickets for these tours can be purchased through the West Works store. All funds raised from tour ticket sales support HDTS programming and operating expenses.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left, then the next right. At the hanging wooden signs, go straight to park in the Encampment lot, or make a left to go to the house, cabins, or studio.
Behind the Bail Bonds
Sited on this 10-acre boulder strewn parcel adjacent to A-Z West are several works that may take some deeper exploring to divulge: Morongo by Nathan Lieb, Surveillant Architectures by Julia Scher, and CA Truck Heads by Sarah Vanderlip. Feel free to visit this site sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking and do not block the road.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left. Follow along power lines, park just before the turnaround area.
Andy’s Gamma Gulch
Co-founder Andy Stillpass has generously allowed countless HDTS projects to take place on this wildly beautiful 100-acre parcel north of Pioneertown off of Pipes Canyon Rd. Several works are sited here, includingGradually/We Become Aware/Of a Hum in the Room by Halsey Rodman, Trail Registry by Scout Regalia and Tapwater Pavilion by Tao Urban. Andy’s is also available to visit from sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking or if you do need to park off the side of the road, be careful not to end up in soft sand.
Directions: From Hwy 62 turn right at Pioneertown Rd. Drive about 7.5 miles. Turn right on Pipes Canyon Rd. Drive 2.2 miles to Gamma Gulch Rd, turn left (respect our neighbors – do not drive above 20 mph on this road!) Drive 1.6 miles to God’s Way Love (if the sign has blown off look for Dave & Jeannie’s sign), turn right. Drive 0.4 miles.
This 40-acre site, located at the most eastern edge of Wonder Valley, in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness area, is surrounded by BLM wilderness land. Located at the very end of the valley, but feels like the end of the world, this site is home to several permanently sited works, including Dineo Seshee Bopape’s HDTS 2022 work, and a mostly “invisible” project: Bob Dornberger and Jim Piatt’s Secret Restaurant. On the opposite side of Ironage Rd and slightly to the north is a work by Kiersten Puusemp (Untitled) that you will probably need to get out of your car and explore in order to find. Be very careful when parking off the side of the road as the sand is very soft here.
Directions: From 29 Palms continue east on Hwy 62. Drive forever (23 miles) and turn left at Iron Age Rd. Drive a mile or so until you see something. (Iron Age Road connects both Amboy Road and Hwy 62, so you can reach it using either access road.)
How to be a Joshua Tree
ALEKSANDRA MIR IS A JOSHUA TREE AND HDTS HAS QUESTIONS
1. What possessed you to want to become a Joshua Tree?
Impulse. I had been watching them for a couple of days and when it was time to leave the park, I passed by this dumpster / shooting range and it was kind of last chance to salute them. I don’t think any other Joshua Trees could see me though, which now when I think of it maybe is a little bit sheepish. Of course it is best to be a Joshua Tree among other Joshua Trees.
2. And, while at work in your transformation, ever really feel like you actually were a tree?
Yes. We humans can identify with Joshua Tree so well because they are relatively similar in size, stand up straight and no two are alike. I don’t think Joshua Trees are very smart though. They know what to do because their bodies tell them from the beginning. If a Joshua Tree was smart, it would run away and go and live in New York for a change. But they are beautiful, I think, because they stay and adapt to the environment in a very dignified way. Permanently rooted as they are in one spot for their whole lives, they get to express their individuality and desires by sprouting all these wacky branches, extrusions, arms and legs in endless variations instead.
3. what kind of posture made this transformation the most natural for you?
All the stretches were natural. Pride and simplicity.
4. Do you have any advice to give to others who may be interested themselves in being trees?
Anyone can do it. You know the song, “Got my arms, got my legs, got my brains, got my liver”. It’s like that. Start with the basics. For credibility, I usually throw in a little tradition, Balinesian Monkey Dance, American Indian Eagle Dance, Marcel Marceau and Smithson. But for the choreography itself, it really takes looking very hard at a tree so to ultimately become one. Physical movement circumvents drawing that way.
5. While you were a tree, what did you miss the most about being Aleksandra?
Nothing much at all. I was very happy being a Joshua Tree, if only for three minutes and it was sad it had to end.
Interview between Aleksandra Mir and HDTS, May 13, 2003 (from the HDTS 2 catalogue)
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HDTS 2 (2003)
MAY 24, 2003 - MAY 25, 2003
“Welcome back to HDTS for another go round in the desert. Bigger and better is an understatement. HDTS has gone from a handful of artists to nearly a stadiumful. We’ve put together the following suggested itinerary to help you plan your time in the desert. Be sure to bring along plenty of water and sunscreen during your visit. Please be aware that the distances between sites can be fairly long.
Suggested HDTS 2 Itinerary:
Saturday morning: Show up at The Projects on Acoma in Yucca Valley to pick up a map and publication.
Saturday 10:00-6:00 view sites 1,2,3,4,5,6
8:00 pm. Drive along hwy 62 to see light pieces on site 5
8:00-10:00pm. Dinner at Palms
10:00pm. after party at Site 7*
Sunday 12:00-6:00 view site 1,2,3,4,5,6”
—From the HDTS 2 catalogue