Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Joshua Treenial

The inaugural Joshua Treenial, a series of site-responsive installations and performances, unfolded over Memorial Day weekend 2015. Some 60 artists representing 15 nationalities participated at 5 venues. Co-founded and co-curated by KJ Baysa and Bernard Leibov of BoxoPROJECTS, the series was dedicated to what Joshua Tree inspires and what it makes possible.

The weekend kicked off with two sound performances in the acoustic perfection of The Integratron. The first performance was led by composer/musician Seth Olinsky. Seth led a group of 13 local musicians through several pieces that included a composition for multiple acoustic guitars, a percussion piece and closed with a wonderfully evocative call for rain that included audience participation and ping pong balls. 

After a short break, Kio Griffiths, two other musicians and a vocalist performed a 45 minute meditative journey utilizing the unique acoustic qualities of the space to full effect.

The venue itself was wrapped in imagery by Faces of Water artist Moses Hacmon and the grounds contained several sculptures of desert flora created by the Boiling Process collective from Tijuana.

The performances were followed by a sprint back to BoxoHOUSE for the opening of the installations located throughout the house, studio, land and in the nearby rocks. Bob Dornberger served up endless Balinese Pork Tacos (and nopali for the meat challenged amongst us) to fortify everyone for the task at hand. 

Several projection pieces by Jesse Gilbert were prominently visible on the rock face behind the property. Neighbors sat on their porches and watched the works for several hours. Also visible in the rocks was Ali Beletic's light sculpture, Illuminated Passage, which turned a desert cove into a seemingly icy contemplative space.


The studio contained a single installation of new works by Phillip K. Smith III based on the phenomenon that was Lucid Stead. A series of photographs overlaid with bands of color recalled the changing hues of the homestead's openings. Two wall sculptures contained wood and mirror of the original structure and, with subtly changing colors, created a collage of the original experience. 

Across the field behind the studio, more projections beckoned. They were part of an installation by Janet Belolotto inspired the the dunes and camels of the desert surrounding Dubai where Janet resides. The projections on the side of a cargo container was paired with a modified vehicle that hearkened to Mad Max and Burning Man. The field itself contained several reflective metal sculptures of Bajan desert flora by a collective of six artists from Tijuana. 


The house itself was filled with several works. Performance artist Kiki Seror was engaged in a colorful act utilizing an internet site called Chatroulette. There were large wall works by the duo of Anna Stump and Daphne Hill as well as interactive pieces by Ichiro Irie and Lucas Kazinsky and smaller works by David Eddington and Jon Kolkin. 


Video works included films by Megan Evans and Biddy Connor, Fred Fleisher, Grimanesa Amoros and Tuguldur Yondonjamts.


At 10.30pm, BoxoHOUSE closed down to allow time to get to the Aaron Sheppard performance at Art Queen. And what a performance it was. Aaron appeared in a twisted mermaid ensemble to the accompaniment of a live band. He undulated, gave birth to floating objects, cut off his tail, shed his "skin" and ran naked into the desert night.

In the daylight of the next day, several additional works were revealed. There were a trio of installations co-located up in the rocks. Bennet Lieberman had installed several canvases, splashes of color with poetry emblazoned on them, along with a media player from which the poems emitted. Nearby, Kevin Lin installed a sculpture which was watched over by a friendly iguana for the whole weekend. The iguana was likely entranced by the bubbles emanating from a rock cave - the work of Andrew Binkley who also created an elusive rock hidden in the huge pile above the cave.

Across the field and adjacent to the Arabian desert installation, Kio Griffith created a sound piece in the skeleton of an old station wagon. Two hundred artists, and Peter Frank, spoke about the color blue. Closer in to BoxoHOUSE, Jon Bernad and Skye Quadling had created a sand painting and an effigy by Rodney Dickson was hung in a tree. Fluorescent lengths of plexiglass cast their colored shadows across rocks and sand in an installation by Elena Bajo. Nearby, large fluorescent swathes of cloth by Dineke Van Huizen ruffled in the wind, announcing the location brightly several roads away. In the courtyard, Naomi Campbell's sculpture stood watch as Sydney Cooper was raking contemplative patterns into the sand all over the acreage.


As participants came and went, some partook in David Goodman's Tuning Field project, planting stakes in the field in front of BoxoHOUSE. In the late afternoon, Kim Stringfellow arrived to brief some adventurers on their trip to spot homestead shacks in Wonder Valley. The group set off and eventually arrived at the site of a High Desert Test Sites project taking place in cooperation with the MAK Center.

As the sun began to set, the destination was The Palms in the far reaches of Wonder Valley for screenings of Diane Best moving image works. Diane projected three works onto a large outdoor screen with live musical accompaniment by Reverend Screaming Fingers, The Renderers and Artemis Robeson. The magic continued into the night.

The following day, the action was back at BoxoHOUSE with all works on display and an impromptu reenactment of Aaron Sheppard's performance provided by a visiting artist. This took place on the Celtic Knot, Steed Taylor's large-scale sculpture not quite intended for this purpose though picturesque nonetheless.

Sunday evening saw the focus move to Joshua Tree Astronomy Arts Theater for a  performance by Yi-Ping Hou and an episode of Message in the Sky by Shih-Wen Young and Jiayi Young. This was followed by a night sky exploration led by the Astronomy Arts team.

By Monday morning, energy was flagging - a perfect moment to offer a coffee gathering to the artists who mingled and debriefed. At noon, de-installation began and by late afternoon the Joshua Treenial was truly over.

Many thanks to the more than 500 participants who attended, to the dozens of artists who contributed and the many who attended, to the Karl sisters and staff at The Integratron, to the Sibley family at The Palms, to Randy Polumbo and Larry Lane and staff at Art Queen, to Tom O'Key and Leonard Homburg at JT Astronomy Arts Theater, to Natasha Peterson for documentary photography and to everyone else who contributed to making this first Joshua Treenial a resounding success. Until next time!


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