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Desert X announced their participating artists in its third edition of the site-specific, international art exhibition at sites across the Coachella Valley. Thirteen artists from eight countries have been presented in the exhibition curated by Artistic Director Neville Wakefield and Co-Curator César García-Alvarez. Desert X 2021 is among the first art experiences in the region since widespread lockdowns, offering a safe, outdoor experience that is free and open to all.

Newly-commissioned projects build on themes explored in previous iterations, looking deeper at ideas essential to the sustenance of our future and identity and the histories, realities and possibilities of the Coachella Valley and its many communities. Imagining the landscape as both an amalgamation of natural forms and a terrain forged by people, the 2021 edition refuses the notion of the desert as homogenous entity. The projects explore many of the issues we face in these difficult times: the history of land rights, ownership and stewardship, the desert as border marked by narratives of migration, social justice and racial demarcations of the West, the gendered landscape and the role of women and children and the creation of new dialogues between regional and global desert experience.

“As much as the desert is a state of place, it is also a state of mind. Its borders are not singular but multiple, and it is defined as much by social geography as physical boundary,” said Artistic Director Neville Wakefield. “Desert X 2021 seeks to explore this idea of the desert as a place where the marginalized and migratory - whose voices and histories may have struggled to manifest within the dominant discourses of growth and development - can also be heard.”

We refute the dichotomy of local versus global, and instead champion the nuances that connect both.

“For Desert X 2021, we took our cues from the way deserts are formed, from the natural processes that weather their surfaces and expand their geographies, said Co-curator César García-Alvarez. “Acting upon this place, the projects seek to identify and uplift lesser known and complex stories of immeasurable impact through conversations between the lived experience of people here with those who came before them and the realities that we live in now. We refute the dichotomy of local versus global, and instead champion the nuances that connect both.”

In What Lies Behind the Walls, Zahrah Alghamdi creates a monumental sculptural wall, which, like a geological extrusion, reveals the different stratas of time as they have been captured both in millenia of geological transformation and the last few centuries of rapid development so connecting the desert landscape of the Coachella to the transformations of other deserts across the globe.

Never Forget by Nicholas Galanin addresses the issue of monuments and what they memorialize, functioning as both a raising of consciousness and a call to action, that by linking to the landback movement, interrogates the ideas of land on which the land art movement has been historically based.

Christopher Myers’ The Art of Taming Horses explores the relationship between myth and history to shed light on lesser known stories of the region. Through a new series of equestrian sculptures adorned with narrative banners Myers tells of African-Americans who traveled South to escape bondage and of Mexican-Americans who journeyed north for a better life. Through a fictional story of a pair of cowboy friends, one African-American and one Mexican, Myers shed light on the kinds of lives these communities could have had here one day.

In The Passenger, a large-scale maze structure made from woven palm tree fiber walls, Eduardo Sarabia examines the desert as a border through the trope of the journey—a motif that connects peoples across geographies and cultures.

Xaviera Simmons employs billboards in Because You Know Ultimately We Will Band A Militia to craft language and image that confronts white stereotypes and complicity within narratives that shape our societal structures.

“More so than ever, Desert X 2021 is an exhibition for our times”, said Desert X Founder and President Susan Davis. “The curators have brought together an extraordinary group of international artists who have made compelling works that celebrate the Coachella Valley and its histories while provoking us to explore our commonalities and celebrate our differences.”

At a time when it is challenging to exhibit and experience art in the same way as it was before the global pandemic took hold and in an effort to make the exhibition and the ideas and conversations provoked by it available to the widest possible audience, the exhibition will be accompanied by a robust series of public and education programs. Among the participants will be artists, curators, members of the community and special guests. A dedicated Desert X 2021 film, produced by Desert X and presenting sponsor Richard Mille, will premiere globally across multiple platforms to provide free access to the exhibition to audiences around the world. 

Desert X is produced by The Desert Biennial, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, conceived to produce recurring international contemporary art exhibitions that activate desert locations through site-specific installations by acclaimed international artists. Its guiding principles include presenting public exhibitions of art that respond meaningfully to the conditions of desert locations, the environment and the indigenous communities; promoting cultural exchange and education programs that foster dialogue and understanding among cultures and communities about shared artistic, historical, and societal issues; and providing an accessible platform for artists from around the world to address ecological, cultural, spiritual and other existential themes.

For more visit: desertx.org

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