2016-10-02

I got back from Joshua Tree earlier today in a bit of a haze. Partly from a fun, loose weekend, but also because of the raw landscape between Joshua Tree and Los Angeles. Joshua Tree itself is surreal—truly geological in (spatial) scale and otherwise a charmingly weird desert outpost.

Some time before coming West I read this amazing Georgina Voss essay. My interests in land use have been steadily growing, so mixing that with musings on alternative energy and tech mysticism totally got my goat. But I didn't internalize that it was all just East of LA.

Then, on my drive from Tucson to Los Angeles, I drove through the windfarm. It's insane—a true spectacle of infrastructure up against raw landscape. I didn't remember the essay; I was simply awestruck.

Seeing it again reified its intensity. Wind, rock, and water (or lack thereof) are the key tools in geomorphology, and here they all felt present. There's a reason folks came to the American West to install land art—the property is cheap, the land is easy to work with, and the sky is big. Being a land artist here makes you feel like you can play a hand in the same round as mother nature.

I wonder if there could be more art that engages with wind as an object of interest. Or if I could afford to gain a keener interest in sailing. Wind is so slippery, it evades that inevitable commodification of material art. But land art and conceptual art are linked in that often it is the fact of the posit that stands for the thing more than the realization; most land art will be talked about far more than looked-at. Sturtevant played this game well.

Los Angeles has ignited the urbanist in me. I'm excited by the places where wind, rock, and water have rammed into concrete, power lines, human flesh. The LA river has been tamed and feels near-death. The mountains are ever-present but midcentury bungalows are perched on top.

I'm glad Joshua Tree is a protected national park, but I also think the surrealism would almost be amplified if people were living amongst the rocks, bewildered that infrastructure can carry that far, considering what else might have been done with that scrappy plot of desert dirt.



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