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.
Give and Take: Iraq War Memorial Tattoo Project
Mary Beth Heffernan
Give and Take: Some war tokens
When you drive up Adobe Road towards the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the largest Marine base in the country, the road is flanked not by the namesake palms or the decommissioned planes and guns that welcome you at other bases. The sole objects of monumental scale are the town's "Oasis of Murals," illustrating local prospecting history, or desert flora and fauna, serving as much as distractions from the yawning adjacent vacant lots as edifying visual narratives. The most ambitious mural, Don Gray's "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is surprising in its focus on battle confusion, or Marines rescuing their wounded. Saying "I had to talk myself into this one" because he didn't want to celebrate war, the mural can't be seen until you're heading out of town, or leaving base, depending on whether you're a tourist or a soldier. Aside from Gray's haze-filled depiction of brotherly loyalty amidst battlefield confusion, the lion's share of memorializing takes place nearby in more prosaic places, and on a far more intimate scale.
Brightly lit with florescent lights and smelling of disinfectant, the six or so tattoo studios of Adobe Road exude the antiseptic feeling of the clinic as much as being sirens of what Adolf Loos famously called the crime of ornament. The days when the tattoo parlor attracted only bikers, soldiers and denizens of the underworld have been traded for a professionalization marked by blood-borne pathogen certifications, sterilizers, reams of carefully laid out plastic and examination gloves. So when the Marines go in to get their tattoos (one thing hasn't changed) the feeling is as much akin to a medical procedure as a ritual wound/image.
As an observer, this scene is filled with a canny likeness to those I experienced 18 years ago as a young DWNAD (Dependent Wife, Navy Active Duty, the icky-sounding acronym pronounced "Dwah-Nad"), a child bride, as my friends called me, married to my long-time neighbor who became a Navy flight surgeon. Attached to a squadrom of Marine helicopter pilots, and periodically sent to 29 Palms for combat training, my then-husband indulged my curiosity about the clinical setting my letting me pose as a medical student so I could, up close, observe him cleaning out wounds, express particularly nasty abscesses, or later, when we became a urologist, cut open testicles and the like. And so I've come back to Twentynine Palms; it's another Bush, another desert war, again a Marine in the chair under the knife or needle, but this time it's me who's probing the wounds.
Drawing attention to the fact that Marines get tattoos, even in great numbers, is like reminding us that the sun comes up every day, or that cops are corrupt. But their practice of getting memorial tattoos, sometimes even before heading off to war, is both curious and haunting. At once intimate and monumental on a bodily scale, the tattoos seemed to function as a prompt for both stories and silence. Some buddies design a tattoo together, agreeing to get the tat if one of them dies. Others simply get one, in advance, knowing that one of them will "fall" as they call it. Often, a group will get matching tattoos when they return with a common symbol, or with lists of their dead buddies' names. More often than not, the design involves some version of the "soldier's battle cross," a half-cross, half-skeleton arrangement of a soldier's helmet atop his rifle, jammed near his empty boots with dog tags hanging down.
The site of my project is not only the bodies of Marines and the images that they create in relation to the war. It's located in the conversations with the tattooists, waitresses, shopkeepers and residents of the Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree area. It exists in the stories and shared burden of witnessing what happens to the 20 year olds who act as the pointy end of our nation's foreign policy stick. Extending this sense of exchange, I've created a token for you to take with you, and a chance to leave something of your own behind.
—Mary Beth Heffernan (from the HDTS 5 catalogue)
Girl with poster, Mary Beth Heffernan, 2006.
This girl attended HDTS 5 with her mother and twin brother. When she picked up the poster, she draped it around her back and said, "Mommy, I want a tattoo!"
Young Marine being tattooed with the names of the 10 of 2/7 Fox Company Marines who died in a December 1, 2005 blast, Mary Beth Heffernan
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HDTS 5 (2006)
MAY 6, 2006 - MAY 7, 2006