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An Excursion Into LA’s Mojave Hinterland at the CLUI Desert Research Station

Kim Stringfellow
Re-blogged from KCET
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The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) has always occupied a somewhat paradoxical space–one that is informatively neutral but at the same time also subtly provocative. This aspect allows its organizers to penetrate often, impenetrable places such as the Nevada Test Site. Indeed, the CLUI is as well known inside the art world as it is outside of it. It is in fact one of the more internationally well-known and respected interdisciplinary entities in contemporary art that often does not appear as an arts organization at all but instead as a highly creative interpretive center for some institutional-like agency.

Founded in 1994 by the Center’s director, Matthew Coolidge along with various CLUI associates as a research and educational organization whose mission is “dedicated to the increase and diffusion of information about how the nation’s lands are apportioned, utilized, and perceived.” The CLUI stipulate that “the manmade landscape is a cultural inscription, that can be read to better understand who we are, and what we are doing.” The Center is interested in multiple interpretations of landscape from a variety of perspectives and points of view.

The Center supports and presents a variety of exhibition programs at its main exhibition and office location in Culver City, CA adjacent to another SoCal gem of hard-to-classify arts practice–The Museum of Jurassic Technology. The Culver City location also features a bookstore where one may sign up for the Center’s newsletter, The Lay of the Land and purchase various Center produced publications. The CLUI also organizes highly popular bus tour trips. Its years of research have been organized into a publicly accessible online Land Use Database. On occasion, the Center hosts outside researchers though its Independent Interpreter Series.

The Center for Land Use Interpretation Desert Research Station. | Photo: Kim Stringfellow.

The Center for Land Use Interpretation Desert Research Station. | Photo: Kim Stringfellow.

The Center’s American Land Museum is a group of associated satellite locations including the Wendover facility located deep within the Great Basin at the Nevada/Utah border adjacent to Utah’s Great Salt Lake–home of land speed records and Robert Smithson’sSpiral Jetty. Here resides the Center’s Wendover artist residency program at a former WWII training airbase whose claim to fame is its role supporting the first atomic bombing missions dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Wendover visitors may casually visit the Enola Gay hanger that housed the B-29 bomber that forever sealed Hiroshima’s nuclear fate, later immortalized in early Richard Misrach photographs.

Other field office locations and facilities include the Gulf States Field Office in Houston, TX; the Northeast Field Office in Troy, NY; the New Mexico Field Site outside of Albuquerque, NM; the Central States Exhibit Unit in Lebanon, KS and the Desert Research Station located in Hinkley, CA.

Opened in 2000 as part of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition Flight Patterns, the Desert Research Station (DRS) focuses on the California Desert region, specifically the Mojave Desert extending from Los Angeles outward fringes within the Antelope Valley eastward into Las Vegas, Death Valley, and the Mojave National Preserve–essentially “the desert beltway around the hinterlands of Los Angeles.” Exhibits are open year-round to the public and are accessible as self-guided gallery walk-throughs (visitors must access the facility through the combination keypad after phoning the CLUI during regular business hours for the access code; call-in information is located at the door). The DRS grounds include interpretive walking trails with signage exhibits. Additional facilities on site are available for researchers conducting operations with the CLUI.

Walking Trail. | Photo: Courtesy of CLUI.

Walking Trail. | Photo: Courtesy of CLUI.

Recent projects include several sound installations “related to spatial dynamics of the ground.” Steve Badgett and artist and interdisciplinary artist, Deborah Stratman produced the Desert Resonator, a 75-foot long aeolian harp which reacts and interprets the wind movement’s over the ground into sound, using a spherical acoustic resonator. This permanently installed sonic sculpture’s “six 75′ long strings pass over dual bridges and produce multi-harmonic drones contingent upon the force and consistency of the air currents”–effectively translating the wind.

Desert Resonator (Steve Badgett, Deborah Stratman). | Photo: Deborah Stratman.

Desert Resonator (Steve Badgett, Deborah Stratman). | Photo: Deborah Stratman.

CLUI associate, Steve Rowell explores the phenomenology of sonic booms linking sky, sound, and ground in unexpected ways. Due to the DRS’s proximity to Edwards Air Force Base and Naval Air Weapons China Lake Facility makes it a perfect location to research and collection of such sonic phenomena.

Wendover artist residency program participant William Lamson ended up staging his Line Describing the Sun project in the winter months of 2011 on nearby Harper Dry Lake when the originally intended site conditions at the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover proved inadequate. Using a Fresnel lens apparatus mounted onto a mobile unit Lamson inscribed a 366-foot burn arc other the course of one day onto the lakebed. The concentrated intensity of the 1,600-degree point of light melted the lakebed’s dry surface, “transforming it into a black glassy substance.” When the project was later exhibited in NYC the project prompted the NY Times to comment, “Mr. Lamson can’t go back in time, but he can still go to the desert.”

 

William Lawson executing 'Line Describing the Sun.' | Photo: Courtesy of CLUI.

William Lawson executing ‘Line Describing the Sun.’ | Photo: Courtesy of CLUI.

Other current projects include a collaboration with University of Southern California art curatorial graduate students that is studying and documenting experimental aircraft crash sites found throughout the region.

Future research projects include those supported by independent/autonomous solar power systems, an underground bunker space, additional sound/space projects, and one concerning DIY low altitude aerial photography. The walking trail is scheduled for completion by January 2013 with a combination gate to allow public access.

For more information visit the Center’s website.

The street address for the DRS is 40083 Hinkley Road, Hinkley, CA 92347.
Directions to CLUI’s Desert Research Station: From downtown Los Angeles, take I-10 east, to I-15 north towards Las Vegas/Barstow. Just before Barstow, take Highway 58 west. Proceed approximately 9 miles to Hinkley Road, which is sometimes indicated with a “Hinkley 1 Mile” sign. Turn right on Hinkley Road and drive north 4 miles to the DRS, located on the east side of the road. Phone the CLUI at (310) 839-5722 for combination access code during normal business hours.

Top Image: Using the horns at the DRS, acoustic “binoculars” on the walking trail. | Photo: Courtesy of CLUI

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2014, well for the five months that I have tasted, its been a roller coaster..

I’m still making and developing ideas and its this weird oddity that the unsettled nature of life sometimes spawns the biggest output.  Though with this creative time comes the realisation also of the never studio or mobile studio.  Being dislocated from anywhere and nowhere I currently feel uncertain of where I am making work.  Time, space, country, me or another.

My time in Japan ended suddenly though for the better.  No real mental space to channel in thoughts whilst there.  Now back seeking time and refuel at the olds.  A place that is neither home or away.  However a chance to scheme and plan the next chapter and fund the new energy to get back out there.

New plans are being made with current work and travel planned for Chile from the end of June through to September.  Once the wheels start I then will be rolling again.  Heading to Armenia after Chile and finally onto USA come the end of 2014.  Through these times my studio changes endlessly.  If anything the never studio is a studio of the person.  Where I stand is where my studio is, this functions quite well unless the feet don’t feel stable.

I am not sure what the work will be or how it will unfold though right now the fascination with change and transience within my work has come to a head.  I currently exist within a place that I am neither certain or uncertain, an unknowing of whether where I am heading is right however where I have been is no longer a route that I choose to travel.  Pushing further into a zone that is both liminal and borderless.  An adventure and into the realms of the never studio.

In my own practice I have interested in spaces that are under utilised and focus on expanding their use and meaning.  Though not really providing practical outcomes or real life answers.  I prefer to suggest and open up discussion about a space.  However here in this film by Monocle we see people within cities in Japan, Norway and the US making the most of spaces within the city infrastructure.  This is city farming.

http://monocle.com/film/edits/city-farming/

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‘Settlement XI’, Anthony Haughey 2011

Global Ghost Towns: Photography Showcase 23.3.2013 Emma Cummins continues her exploration of contemporary ghost towns by showcasing the work of five artists and photographers. From Anthony Haughey’s images of Ireland’s ‘ghost estates’ to Richard Allenby-Pratt’s photographs of deserted cities in Dubai—the effects of the global economic crisis are revealed in a very visual way. Attracting attention from newspapers such as The Guardian and The New York Times, ‘ghost towns’ are a common architectural landmark across today’s globalised world—but what do these images reveal about neoliberal development? (re-post from Future State Blog)

‘Ibex’, Richard Allenby-Pratt (2011)

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From the series ‘Ordos’, Michael Christopher Brown (2010)

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From the series ‘Tu Casa es Mi Casa’ (Residencial Francisco Hernando in Sesena), Markel Redondo (2011)

The ghost town in SeseÒa, near Madrid, Spain.

From the series ‘This Is Not A House’, Edgar Martins (2008)

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             Walead Beshty – Passages 2009

I keep returning to Beshty’s work as a form of grounding as I research more and contemplate my current and future thoughts I find his work a great reassurance.  I am not sure as to why I feel this way as even though I am an artist there are only a few works that give me this sense.  At present I see this as healthy so until otherwise I will use it as so.

The floor within this exhibition was also covered in strengthened glass similar to the glass used in Beshty’s FedEx boxes.  However here the viewer leaves their mark whilst viewing the work.  The cracks and traces left on the glass change and add to the exhibition over the course of the show.

Here is part of the text from the Frieze article written by Sarah-Neel Smith about Beshty’s solo show at  LA >< ART, March/May 2009.

In the ‘Passages’ (2009) series, nebulous large-scale colour prints confess their trajectory through an airport X-ray machine in the form of blurred lines and hazy irregularities. Echoing the processes of fingerprinting and body scans used in the increasingly politicized zone of the airport, the images are an appreciable evocation of the legislative and ideological transformations of a post- 9/11 world, as felt by every traveller. (The project is an intentional exercise stemming from an earlier accident, when film Beshty had taken of the deserted Iraqi Diplomatic Mission in Berlin was run through X-ray machines during his journey, and later shown at the 2008 Whitney Biennial.) They are also thoroughly charming abstract fields of fading colour: the new systems of corporeal degradation exercized in airports since September 2001, which establish a state of exception as a civic norm, are rendered oddly palatable.