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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for the HDTS mailing list to stay abreast of HDTS updates, events, and projects.
Part III–Transition Joshua Tree Permaculture Meeting
III. Permaculture Principles
The permaculture principles may sound like a holy grail one would find hidden in a box underneath a stone walkway in a pyramid covered in vines. When I blew the dust of ones and zeros off of the box, I opened it to find this set of principles is not set. Different permaculture designers have their own versions of the principles. Toby Hemenway argues that permaculture and its principles might be hard to define because they exist in a paradigm that is exists outside of the paradigm of domination and exploitation we are currently experiencing. As both Einstein and Buckminster Fuller said, “We will not solve the problems we face today with the same thinking that got us into them.” I paged through different sets of principles and pulled together the ones that resonated the most with my internal ecosystem and categorized them into six themes.
Some Possible Principles of Permaculture
— Pattern Literacy —
To create a design that responds to the site, first observe the context. Over multiple seasons, observe the climate, landform, water, legal issues, access & circulation, vegetation & wildlife, microclimate, buildings & infrastructure, zones of use, soil, and aesthetics. Also spend time doing unguided observation.
Accept feedback from the system as it unfolds through the spectrum of time. Creatively use and respond to change.
Make the least change for the greatest effect.
Identify leverage points in a system and intervene there, where the least work accomplishes the most change and the least unwanted side effects.
Design From Patterns To Details
Practice pattern literacy by observing patterns and integrating them into designs to intentionally create functions and relationships. Begin with overall patterns first, then refine towards the details. Patterns reflect the ecological functions and relationships of an ecosystem. Understanding patterns brings an understanding of how to help things flourish. Patterns arise from: needs, goals and desires; the relationships between us, plants, birds insects and microbes. They exist at multiple scales in space and time. Some distribution patterns include random, regular, clump, scatter, carpet, patch, tuft, cluster, constellation, and drift. Some root patterns include flat, heart, tap, rhizome, stolon, sucker, tuber, corm, bulb.
— Relativity —
Design a meshwork of relationships, rather than an assortment of isolated elements. Base spatial relationships on how elements interact and assist one another, their frequency of use and maintenance. Attempt to bridge the gaps between wildlife areas to reform continuous corridors.
Zones are a way of analyzing and dividing space based on frequency of use and maintenance. Typically, zone mapping begins as concentric circles that are then modified. Elements of frequent use and maintenance are placed closer to the center zone. Elements requiring less frequent interaction are placed in outer or preserved zones.
Sectors are used to analyze space based on how external energies enter and pass through the system. Elements are strategically placed to cooperate and synergize with incoming energies.
— Multiplicity —
Each element performs multiple functions.
Select and locate elements that contribute in multiple ways to the success of the whole. Identify, the multiple functions and interactions of elements. Strive for interactions that are cooperative, facilitative or neutral. Avoid designing interactions that are competitive, inhibitive, or predatory unless they are used for an intentional, advantageous purpose. Stack elements in time and space.
Each critical function is supported by multiple elements.
Identify critical functions, such as water, food, and energy. Ensure that these critical functions are supported in two or more ways. Redundancy can build resiliency: if one element fails, a redundant element can expand to fill the gap in functionality.
— Mutual Aid —
Practice Mutual Aid
Mutually cooperate with plants and animals to conserve energy and perform functions that would otherwise require fossil fuel resources.
Collaborate with Succession
Assist with, rather than inhibit, the successive waves of evolution of a system towards greater diversity and productivity. Means of collaboration can include following the path of least resistance, using biological means to cycle energy and increase organic material, inoculating a site with diversity species, creating a habitat to attract a cohort of beneficial collaborators, and long term thinking.
— Work with nature rather than against it —
Cycle Energy and Material
To increase the available energy on the site, identify, capture, store, chelate and cycle energies and materials present on the site and coming into the site from external sources that would otherwise flow out of the system. Strive to produce no waste. In a cycle, decomposition is as important as growth.
Reduce Energy Use Before Acquiring Energy
Design to reduce energy use before attempting to acquire energy. Attempt to generate energy by collaborating with biological means before resorting to renewable sources. Use small scale renewable energy rather than large scale renewable energy that displaces ecosystems—colonizing the last wild spaces in the name of saving the “environment”.
Small Scale Stacked Systems
Because small scale systems take up less space, they can be managed with less resources and allow more space for wildlife and autonomous zones. Design stacked systems to attempt to maximize abundance within a small area. Stacking functions and diversifying the use of vertical and horizontal space can be used to intensify systems. Stacked systems can do less damage if they are placed in existing “developed” rather than “undeveloped” areas.
— Think, act, and feel like an ecosystem —
Everything modifies its ecosystem to improve its habitat and ability to obtain food and energy. Humans are a keystone species: our actions and inactions are primary determinants of ecosystem health and evolution. We can become intentional guiders of change in our ecosystems by attempting to mimic the physical and social structures of ecosystems. Analysis is only one method of learning how to mimic an ecosystem. Spending time connecting with the other-than-human-world is another way to learn how to think, act and feel like an ecosystem. Humans and habitats share immune systems: we are organism-environments. Ecosystems occur both outside and inside the human body.
Integrate native elements. Native elements increase ecosystem health because they have evolved to thrive with the resources available, tolerate climatic conditions, and practice mutual aid with their neighbors. Native elements form essential webs of relationships and embody knowledge beyond our scope of understanding.
Integrate diversity in form, function, time and space. Diversity provides more niches for food, energy and habitat. By making more niches available, diversity reduces completion while increasing productivity and yield. Diversity generates resiliency because diverse ecosystems are more resistant to disease and pests and more stable during crises because of functional redundancy. Diversity reduces herbivory because predators spend more time looking for food than eating food.
Ecological analogs can be used to mimic native or desired ecosystems while enhancing desired yields. Ecological analogs are made by substituting native plants with plants that perform similar functions and thrive in similar conditions. The practice of ecological analogs can be expanded beyond plants.
Katherine Ball was in residence as our HDTS Scout in Spring 2014.
The HDTS Scout Residency is dedicated to learning more about the people and places that make up our diverse and ever evolving community.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Katherine has worked on projects around the world, exploring alternatives to the dominant discourse. Some of these include: bicycling across the US to interview Americans working on small-scale solutions to the climate crisis, coordinating a national day of action to halt business at banks and corporations unduly influencing state laws, living in an off-grid floating island building mushroom filters to clean a polluted lake, and studying the behaviors of various species acting as the ecological counterpart to civil disobedience. An amateur in the best sense of the word, Katherine strives to give more energy to our dreams than our fears.
During her residency, Katherine engaged in a series of in-depth interviews and conversations with high desert residents, focusing on our human impact on the desert landscape. Her book represents a condensed version of those discussions, encompassing water conservation, big solar, wildlife linkages, and asks: what is a sustainable life in the desert?