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
Vanesa Zendejas - Acting Director
Elena Yu - Programming Manager
Kristy Campbell, Emily Endo and Sydney Foreman. Thanks to Elizabeth Carr and Zena Carr at the Sky Village Swap Meet! RIP Bob Carr.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
David Knaus - Chair
Andrea Zittel - Director Emeritus/Treasurer
Aram Moshayedi - Secretary
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 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 (closed July-August)—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 email@example.com. Sign up for the HDTS mailing list to stay abreast of HDTS updates, events, and projects.
The Palm Talks
James Owen Weatherall
M. Cay Castagnetto
Community has become a buzzword for everything from right-wing fraternities, ecological collectives, and Silicon Valley burners to gentrification activists. The very notion of the term brings people together as much as it divides them; it creates a sense of belonging and a case for segregation, shared sets of beliefs and prejudices. More than likely, we are all voluntary and involuntary members of different communities, with contradictory values and conflicting agendas. Therefore, it might be more relevant to think of a non-community, where each and every one of us can be left alone together. But is this possible in today’s political climate? Is there anything left of the social infrastructure that supports operations of the self?
The Palm Talks wants to know what the future of our non-community looks like. How can we not belong to a group that would likely take us as a member? How can there be the acceptance of difference without otherness? These are some basic ideas. The Palm Talks affords an opportunity to think about the groups to which we belong. Particularly in the context of the High Desert and the convergent ideologies represented there, it becomes ever more important to address the notion of community—as well as non-community—through personal anecdotes and oral histories, as well as critical methodologies. There is perhaps no better place to ask these questions than Wonder Valley, where some come to create communities, others to escape them, some a combination of both, and where all rely on the land, water, trees, animals, and everything else that is seemingly common to all.
This “pseudo symposium” includes both local and non-local thinkers and musicians at our favorite desert bar, The Palms. Speakers include: Fiona Connor, Trinie Dalton, Gary Dauphin, Steve Kado, Alexander Keefe, Nancy Klein, Annelies Kuiper, Cailin O’Connor, Litia Perta, Linda Sibio, Laura Sibley, Bobby Jesus and Frances Stark, Sam Thorne, James Owen Weatherall, Aurora Tang, and others. With music by The Renderers and M. Cay Castagnetto.
OCTOBER 21, 2017 - OCTOBER 22, 2017
Since 2002, High Desert Test Sites has organized a semi-annual series of roving events that bring together local, domestic, and international artists whose contributions have responded to Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, and the surrounding areas. The nature of these works have been for the most part ephemeral, yet even those projects imagined with more solidity and structure have had trouble enduring the elements. For the most part, the history of High Desert Test Sites is preserved in the memory of the participants and the viewers of each edition rather than the landscape.
This year’s iteration of High Desert Test Sites is built around An Ephemeral History of High Desert Test Sites: 2002-2015, a month-long exhibition focused on the project’s history. In addition, a pseudo-symposium titled The Palm Talks compliments the exhibition with live music and presentations on the topic of non-communities.
The Palm Talks includes both local and non-local contemporary thinkers, historians, writers, and artists, whose contributions culminate in a momentary glimpse into our collective state. Set within the context of the legendary Palms Restaurant in Twentynine Palms and presented with live musical accompaniment by M. Cay Castagnetto and The Renderers, there will be a negotiation between language and sound, noise and meaning, music and speech. Participants in The Palm Talks include Fiona Connor, Trinie Dalton, Gary Dauphin, Steve Kado, Alexander Keefe, Nancy Klein, Annelies Kuiper, Cailin O’Connor, Litia Perta, Linda Sibio, Laura Sibley, Bobby Jesus and Frances Stark, Sam Thorne, James Owen Weatherall, and others.
An Ephemeral History of High Desert Test Sites presents an incomplete and partial look at the organization’s fifteen-year history, based on the artifacts, ephemera, and facsimiles that have been recovered by High Desert Test Sites and past participating artists. It has prompted a desire to document the organization’s history, to create a living archive of contributions that were otherwise ephemeral and temporary, and to observe the narrative of the gathered material in order to tell the story of the organization, the vast community of artists involved, and the landscape that has witnessed these activities.
High Desert Test Sites 2017 is complimented by new projects and contributions by Fiona Connor, Bob Dornberger and Sarah Witt, Neil Doshi, Edie Fake, Glenn-Murray & Co., Oliver Payne, Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, and Ry Rocklen.
A publication for the exhibition will be available as part of the Saturday, October 21 edition of the Hi-Desert Star, a local newspaper that has served the community since 1957.
High Desert Test Sites 2017 is curated by Sohrab Mohebbi and Aram Moshayedi, with Tatiana Vahan, Elena Yu, Vanesa Zendejas, and Andrea Zittel.