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.
Desert Research Library
The Desert Research Library is a community project that aims to construct a collective history of our region through a centralized, publicly accessible collection of multimedia materials and related public programming. The content and thematic emphasis of the collection is driven by artists in our local community, as well as HDTS’ mission to provide and support experimental, public engagements with art in the High Desert.
Our growing collection comprises books (including many antique and rare volumes), periodicals, brochures, zines and other ephemera, and we hope to someday include films, videos, physical objects, audio recordings and more. The library covers such topics as site specific art and architecture, desert ecology, sustainability and permaculture, utopian communities and visionary environments, the history and ethos of the American West, the settlement of the Mojave Desert, Indigenous histories and practices, and fiction and poetry set in the desert. The library also includes books that may not directly mention “the desert,” yet nonetheless address timely topics with broad resonance in our unique community such as mental illness, Earth building, racial justice, contemporary art made in rural communities or “how to live in a car or van.”
Part of the library’s mission is to place a special emphasis on marginalized histories and experiences. The desert has provided refuge and resources for Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities in the past and present, but these roots are less visible in the predominant narrative of the desert as a frontier free to be colonized by the American mainstream. By searching for examples of how marginalized peoples have lived together in the desert in the past, we seek answers to the question of how we can thrive today.
The Desert Research Library is located at our new long-term site in North Joshua Tree, the Copper Mountain Mesa Outpost, where we occupy a 1,200 square foot building that previously served as a fire station. Stay tuned for library public hours!
Click here to view our current library catalogue (this list is continuously being updated and expanded).
The Desert Research Library Cohort
In order to ensure that the library continuously reflects the experiences and interests of our community, we have formed the “Desert Research Library Acquisition Team,” a rotating cohort of ten local artists who meet regularly to discuss the collection, use library funds to expand the collection based on their individual areas of interest and develop publications and public programming inspired by the library. Together we will build the Desert Research Library into a well-versed, comprehensive collection that encompasses a wide array of geographies, histories and experiences falling under the broad term “desert.”
The 2021 Desert Research Library Acquisition Team cohort includes:
Desert Research Library Acquisition Team members are currently thinking about…
California Desert WildflowersEarth ArchitectureMental IllnessMining / What’s UndergroundQueer Desert RomanceChemehuevi MythologyDesert ArtistsDIY Living Other Deserts
- Administrations of Lunacy, Mab Segrest, The New Press, 2021
- Adventures with the Mojave Phonebooth, Godfrey Daniels, 261pgs, 2018
- Angela Davis: An Autobiography, Angela Davis, 416pgs, Intl Pub,
- Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel, 224pgs, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
- Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, The, Pico Iyer, 96pgs, Simon & Schuster/ TED, 2014
- Asdzáá Beat, The, Amber McCrary,
- Battleborn: Stories, Claire Watkins, 304pgs, Riverhead Trade, 2013
- Before the Wilderness: Environmental Management by Native Californians, Harry James, Malki-Museum Press,
- Billionaire Wilderness, Justin Farrell, 392pgs, Princeton University Press, 2020
- Cactus Thorn: (A Novella) (Western Literature Series), Mary Austin, 163pgs, University of Nevada Press, 1994
- Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition, Marc Reisner, 608pgs, Penguin Books, 1993
- California Fault, Thurston Clarke, 417pgs, Ballantine Books, 1997
- Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture: How to Build Your Own, Nader Khalili, 233pgs, Cal Earth Press, 1996
- Chemehuevi Indians of Southern California, Ronald MIller, Malki-Museum Press , 2069
- Chemehuevi Song, A, Clifford Trafzer, 328pgs, University of Washington Press, 2015
- Collected Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom Vol.10. Numbers. 1,2,4,5,7 & 8. 1973-75, The, George Tassel, 102pgs, Independently Published, 2020
- Collected Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom Vol.11. Numbers. 4,8,& 10. 1977-78, The, George Tassel, 54pgs, 2020
- Collected Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom Vol.8. Numbers. 7, 8 & 10. 1968-69, The, George Tassel, 54pgs, 2020
- Collected Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom Vol.9. Numbers. 2,3,5,6,7,8 &13. 1970-73, The, George Tassel, 118pgs, Independently Published, 2020
- Colony High, David Brin, 218pgs, 2021
- Degas and the Dance, Jill DeVonyar, 303pgs, Harry N Abrams Incorporated, 2002
- Desert Memories, Ariel Dorfman, 304pgs, National Geographic Books, 2011
- Desert of the Heart, Jane Rule, 222pgs, Open Road Media, 2013
- Desert Pilgrim's Bestiary, A, Anthony West,
- Desert, The, Brandon Shimoda, 192pgs, Song Cave, The, 2018
- Desert Underground, The, Robin Kobaly, 52pgs, Summertree Institute, 2019
- Digna; Reclaiming Dreams, Blanca Villalobos, 12pgs,
- Dune, 40th Anniversary Edition (Dune Chronicles, Book 1), Frank Herbert, 544pgs, Ace Trade, 2005
- Each of Us a Desert, Mark Oshiro, 332pgs, Tor Teen, 2020
- Easy Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Southwest (Easy Field Guides), Rick Harris, 32pgs, Primer Pub, 1995
- Empire of Sand, Tasha Suri, 496pgs, Orbit, 2018
- Enduring Seeds, Gary Nabhan, 225pgs, University of Arizona Press, 2016
- Erosion, Terry Williams, 336pgs, Sarah Crichton Books, 2019
- Faded Sun Trilogy Omnibus, The, C. Cherryh, 784pgs, Penguin, 2000
- Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession, Craig Childs, 304pgs, Back Bay Books, 2013
- Gardening with Less Water: Low-Tech, Low-Cost Techniques; Use up to 90% Less Water in Your Garden, David Bainbridge, 128pgs, Storey Publishing, LLC, 2015
- Gathering the Desert, Gary Nabhan, 221pgs, University of Arizona Press, 2016
- Gobi Desert, The, Mildred French, 320pgs, Virago, 1984
- Gold Fame Citrus: A Novel, Claire Watkins, 352pgs, Riverhead Books, 2016
- Goodbye to the Sun, Jonathan Nevair, 292pgs, 2021
- Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, A, William deBuys, 384pgs, Oxford University Press, 2013
- Half and Half, Claudine O'Hearn, 288pgs, Pantheon, 2008
- High Desert, Noah Purifoy, 134pgs, Gerhard Steidl Druckerei und Verlag, 2015
- His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina, Danielle Steel, 336pgs, Delta, 2000
- House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest, Craig Childs, 512pgs, Back Bay Books, 2008
- How to Live In a Car, Van, or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom, Bob Wells, 178pgs, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014
- I'm in Charge of Celebrations, Byrd Baylor, 32pgs, Simon and Schuster, 2014
- I Rode a Flying Saucer., George Tassel, 54pgs, 2020
- It's Hot Today, Zack Lee,
- Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin, 116pgs, Applewood Books, 2000
- Luna Arcana: The Alchemy of Earth & Sky: Volume 1, ed Walker, 52pgs, 2021
- Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, Michael Moore, 368pgs, Museum of New Mexico Press, 1989
- Mirages and Speculations: Science Fiction and Fantasy from the Desert, Lyn Worthen, 272pgs, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017
- Mirror and Pattern: George Laird's World of Chemehuevi Mythology, Carobeth Laird, 374pgs, Malki Museum Press, 1984
- MNRL CVLT Field Report, Nxoeed Nxoeed, 24pgs, Fluke,
- Musicking, Christopher Small, 238pgs, Wesleyan University Press, 2011
- Nature Poem, Tommy Pico, 128pgs, Tin House Books, 2017
- On Foot in Joshua Tree National Park: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide, Patty Furbush, M. I. Adventure Pubns, 2005
- One Hundred Desert Wildflowers of the Southwest, Janice Bowers, Western Natl Parks Assoc, 1987
- Other Desert Cities, Jon Baitz, 57pgs, Dramatist's Play Service, 2012
- Plants of the Cahuilla Indians of the Colorado Desert and Surrounding Mountains, Robert Hepburn, 216pgs, 2012
- Pottery by American Indian Women, Susan Peterson, 224pgs, 1997
- Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions (P.S.), The, Winifred Gallagher, 256pgs, Harper Perennial, 2007
- Prickly Words for Wounds, Amy Tea,
- Queer Ecologies, Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands, 424pgs, Indiana University Press, 2010
- Red Deal, The, The Nation, 144pgs, Common Notions, 2021
- Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature, The, Geary Hobson, 429pgs, University of New Mexico Press, 1981
- Rest Is Noise, The, Alex Ross, 640pgs, Macmillan, 2007
- Rise Up! Good Plant Witches Summer Solstice Zine 2021, Corinna Rosella, 2021
- Rise Up! Good Plant Witches Winter 2020; No Maidens, No Mothers, Corinna Rosella, 32pgs, 2020
- Serrano Indians of Southern California, The, Francis Johnson, Malki-Museum Press , 2069
- Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera, 128pgs, And Other Stories, 2015
- Smell of Rain on Dust, The, Martín Prechtel, 184pgs, North Atlantic Books, 2015
- Staying with the Trouble, Donna Haraway, 304pgs, Duke University Press, 2016
- Stories from the Country of Lost Borders, Mary Austin, 312pgs, Rutgers University Press, 1987
- Sunbelt Justice, Mona Lynch, 280pgs, Stanford University Press, 2009
- Tainted Desert, The, Valerie Kuletz, 368pgs, Routledge, 2016
- Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, James Baldwin, 496pgs, Vintage, 1998
- Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants, Lowell Bean, 225pgs, Malki Museum Press, 1972
- Turquoise Ledge, The, Leslie Silko, 336pgs, Penguin, 2010
- Undoing Gender, Judith Butler, 288pgs, Routledge, 2004
- Undrowned, Alexis Gumbs, AK Press, 2020
- Unsettling the Commons, Craig Fortier, 100pgs, Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2017
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, 272pgs, St. Martin's Press, 2018
- Woman Artist in the American West: 1860-1960, The, Phil Kovinick, 59pgs, Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1976
- Women and Indians on the Frontier, 1825-1915, Glenda Riley, 352pgs, University of New Mexico Press, 1984
- Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and the Betrayal of the Navajos, Judy Pasternak, 336pgs, Free Press, 2011