Arts & CultureDesert X 2023 Announces It’s Official Environmental Art Lineup

Desert X 2023 Announces It’s Official Environmental Art Lineup

For its fourth anniversary, Desert X is back with a lineup of 11 artists, all pushing boundaries in their exploration of environmental and social themes. The design works on display span three continents, Europe, North America and Asia, and will be showcased across the Coachella Valley, deep in Colorado’s desert. 


Produced by The Desert Biennial, Desert X launched with the stated mission “to create and present international art exhibitions that engage with desert environments through site-specific installations by acclaimed artists from around the world.” The exhibition serves as a showing of the conditions of desert locations and their Indigenous communities, “promoting cultural exchange and education programs that foster dialogue and understanding among cultures and communities about shared artistic, historical, and societal issues.” 


Here is a look at this year’s selection.


No. 1225 Chainlink by Rana Begum

An image of yellow chain-link fences on display for Desert X.

Courtesy of Rana Begum and Desert X


Rana Begum’s No. 1255 Chainlink takes the staple concept of chain link fences and flips it, creating a sculpture which appears to be floating in its environment. Made out of a series of concentric rings, the sculpture looks like a maze, one that is not closed off however, allowing the desert’s natural ecosystem to pass through.


Liquid a Place by Torkwase Dyson

An image of a black arc in the desert for Desert X.

Courtesy of Torkwase Dyson and Desert X


Part of an ongoing series born out of the idea of exploring the concept that “humans are the water in the room,” Liquid a Place is a provoking sculpture. It continues Torkwase Dyson’s exploration of our connection to the water on our planet, this time weaving it both as it exists within our bodies and within the desert.


Amar A Dios en Tierra De Indios, Es Oficio Maternal, by Paloma Contreras

An image of a car with numerous things emerging from it for Desert X.

Courtesy of Paloma Contreras and Desert X


According to Paloma Contrera, Amar A Dios en Tierra De Indios, Es Oficio Maternal is a representation of the Western world meeting science fiction, aimed at addressing the patriarchy, violence, class segregation, colonial guilt, and class identity constructs. It employs a sense of humour to provoke its viewers to explore hard concepts which exist within Mexican society.


Searching for the Sky (While Maintaining Equilibrium) by Mario García Torres

An image of solar panel looking sculptures for Desert X.

Courtesy of Mario García Torres and Desert X


Mario García Torres’ piece is a reflection on cowboy culture, taking the mechanisms used for bull riding and replacing the bull that would normally be fascinated on top with a flat surface, all to encapsulate what this object of projected masculinity truly is. Bull-riding has become a means of presenting an air of toughness, but with the impossibility of not falling off presented by these flat surfaces, the impossibility of “machoness” as a concept is confronted.


Pioneer by Tschabalala Self

An image of an abstract sculpture for Desert X.

Courtesy of Tschabalala Self and Desert X


Tschabalala Self’s Pioneer is a piece built to reflect the “collective foremothers of contemporary America.” As the desert represents eternity, encapsulating the beginning and end, Pioneer seeks to represent the forgotten Indigenous and African women who were integral in the crafting of modern America, whose labour has not received the shine it so deserves.


Namak Nazar by Hylozoic/Desires

An image of a pole with speakers on it for Desert X.

Courtesy of Hylozoic/Desires and Desert X


This multimedia piece uses a salt-encrusted utility pole to carry the voices of ancient and modern mythologies, folklore, salt songs and more. Namak Nazar creates a link between the desert’s changes over time and the humans who have basked in its presence.


Sleeping Figure by Matt Johnson

An image of an series of shipping containers for Desert X.

Courtesy of Matt Johnson and Desert X


Matt Johnson’s Sleeping Figure uses a series of shipping containers, all aligned following classic cubist techniques, to bring about a vision of a distressed economy. Inspired by the 2021 blockage of the Suez Canal, it is a direct reflection of our world’s “crumpled” supply chain system.


Originals by Tyre Nichols

An image of a series of billboards on the side of a road for Desert X.

Courtesy of Tyre Nichols and Desert X


Tyre Nichols’ exhibit follows a series of billboards which guide viewers through the “potential of all individuals whose lives have been lost to the state-sanctioned violence of institutional racism.” The billboards’ location was intentional, reflecting the fact that most of these needless deaths take place on the side of the road.


Immersion by Gerald Clarke

An image of a crop circle looking maze for Desert X.

Courtesy of Gerald Clarke and Desert X


Gerald Clarke is a Cahuilla artist who seeks to immerse people within local Indigenous history and culture. With Immersion, he crafted a maze-like game board that welcomes viewers to walk and move through it, follow instructions, and play games, all with the goal of leading to a better understanding of the land.


The Smallest Sea with the Largest Heart by Lauren Bon and Metabolic Studio

An image of a metallic whale sized heart sitting in a pool for Desert X.

Courtesy of Lauren Bon, Metabolic Studio and Desert X


A steel structure of a blue whale’s heart submerged in a saltwater pool, The Smallest Sea with the Largest Heart is a sculpture representing the connection between swimming pools, water shortages, and the animals being affected most. According to Desert X, “the sculpture metabolizes and creates energy and clean water that it deposits back into the atmosphere, fueling the potential for future life and visually transforming itself in the process.”


Khudi Bari by Marina Tabassum

An image of two people outside of a house made of natural property for Desert X.

Courtesy of Khudi Bari and Desert X


A film directed by architect Marina Tabassum, Khudi Bari is a touching piece documenting both wet and dry cultures, and the essential role that design has played in allowing life to exist within some of this planet’s harshest climates. It serves as a reminder of the power of locally rooted knowledge in survival. 


If you’d like to see the pieces for yourself, the exhibit will be running until May 7.


Enjoyed reading this piece? Check out “The ROM’s Canadian Modern Exhibit: Canadian Design Roundup” on Glossi Mag.


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Thomas Publow is a contributor at Glossi Mag. Currently finishing his degree in journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University, Thomas considers himself an expert in all things VMAs and Beyoncé.

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