Six artists have waited two years to feature their work at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and the installations feature themes of gathering, the local environment, immigration and a nod to historic design.
This year’s mix of artists are from Romania, Argentina, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.S. and Palm Springs.
Spectra, the seven-story, multi-colored tower, also returns. It was intended to be a three-year installation through 2020, but there has been no official word if the tower will remain beyond this year.
Here is a list of the installations and the artists’ descriptions.
‘The Playground’ by Architensions
Gathering places are popular at Coachella, and landmarks that stand out are useful meeting spots during the afternoon. That’s what “The Playground” by Architensions provides with four 42- to 56-foot steel towers with benches and piazzas connected by skybridges. Italianate — the piazza — is a 174-by-104-foot public square.
Architensions, an architectural design studio led by Brooklyn and Rome-based architects Alessandro Orsini and Nick Roseboro, looked to visual artist Constant Nieuwenhuys’s “New Babylon,” designed 1959-74 to be an anti-capitalist city, for inspiration. It never came to fruition, but made many wonder about its possibilities.
“It’s like a city intertwined with piazzas, benches and places to gather,” Orsini said. “It’s a place to gather and a place where we hope that our differences will be at ease.”
Roseboro said they were also inspired by theater director Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price’s “Fun Palace,” a single building the pair thought of in 1961 as a place where the community could come together to celebrate arts, science and culture. It was proposed for London but never built.
“The grids create a new common ground and open space that opposes the isolation and homogeneity of technology-mediated experiences,” Roseboro said. “Through that, we were able to develop these four towers and public spaces to intertwine with each other for the experience of the festivalgoers.”
‘Cocoon (B.K.F.+H300)’ by Estudio Normal
This 38-foot tower tells the story of the B.K.F. Chair, which is also known as the Hardoy Chair, Butterfly Chair, Sling Chair and many more. The chair’s original 1938 design was created in Buenos Aires and credited to designers Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan, and Jorge Ferrari Hardoy. There are 300 of these chairs incorporated into its design.
Martin Huberman of the Argentinian design firm Estudio Normal told The Desert Sun the story of the chair will be a “difficult read” for festivalgoers who are not familiar with its origins.
“For us, it’s very important because it’s going back to the place where everything happened and the chair became very popular,” said Huberman. “But at the same time, it got copied and the original names behind it vanished, which were two Argentinian architects and one from Catalonia, Spain.”
‘Circular Dimensions x Microscape’ by Cristopher Cichocki
“Circular Dimensions x Microscape” features a 50-foot pavilion made of 25,000 feet of PVC pipe by Palm Springs artist Cristopher Cichocki that includes new technology by L’Acoustics called L-ISA. It’s activated by Cichocki’s “Circular Dimensions,” which features microscopic video paintings through digital microscopes. The installation also includes original compositions mixed with experimental music and new sculptures.
Cichocki told The Desert Sun the work is an “exploration” into the significance of water in the desert and a “snapshot” of the planet’s interconnection to water.
“My art calls attention to the natural world and industrial mutation. This I want to reflect upon the permanence of change and transience, where visual and aural elements transform between levels of perception,” Cichocki said. “Are we looking through the microscope or the telescope? I find these elemental perceptions become indistinguishable at times. My own microscopic imagery created with barnacles, salt, algae deeply resembles video I captured 1000 feet above the drying shoreline of the Salton Sea.”
‘Mutts’ by Oana Stănescu
Romanian architect Oana Stănescu was inspired by her dog, Perry, when creating this work of art. The three 18-foot-tall dog sculptures with greenery inside them represent multiple ideas, including Stănescu’s goal to reduce any waste from the installation.
“I don’t want to call it a monument, but an installation that’s a celebration of nature through different ways,” Stănescu said. “On one hand, there’s the three dogs and on the other, using native plants to the area and allowing the installation to be just that.”
She said adopting Perry was “one of the best decisions I’ve ever done with my life” and spends a lot of time with him on walks and hikes, in the forest and mountains, beaches and values those experiences.
“I feel we have so much to learn from animals, and maybe a little bit of Mother Nature altogether,” Stănescu said. “I think there’s a lot to be said about the purity of how they move through the world to the simplicity of the unconditional love, support, the simplicity of their feelings and so forth.
‘Buoyed’ by Kiki van Eijk
Dutch designer Kiki van Eijk has designed many beautiful things such as decorative household objects, furniture and carpet. For Coachella, she designed three 36-foot buoys. A white buoy features a slim neck with illuminated butterfly wings that spread from its steeple during the evening. The blue buoy is an igloo combined with a Dutch-style windmill. The green buoy is the largest, with a 24-foot diameter base with a white stucco rim.
She described the buoys to The Desert Sun as a “funky mix of different ingredients, which makes it light and playful.”
“To me, it’s all about the idea that all the different cultures and people, regardless of age or background come together at the festival,” van Eijk said. “In the end, we feel and make things better. What’s so special about the festival is you’re making this journey together, you’re in this bubble for three days, everybody is one and that’s an added value. I want to bring that out with my pieces.”
‘La Guardiana’ By LosDos
LosDos, a husband and wife duo of graphic artists Ramon and Christian Cardenas, created this 30-foot sculpture based on artwork done in collaboration with the band Rage Against the Machine.
The couple told The Desert Sun their sculpture is about “strength, protection and love” surrounding a guardian looking after refugees around the world.
“We definitely want to send a message of solidarity for the refugee and migrant communities with what’s happening everyday and all around the world due to many different things,” Ramon Cardenas said.
The couple produces artwork on both sides of the border near El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis as thousands of migrants have set up camps.
“This type of security has been escalating at the southern border for decades and it’s been part of my life growing up here,” Christian Cardenas said. “As far as getting international attention, I think a project like this being shown at Coachella is a platform that continues the conversation outside of the border. We feel that’s important and it’s also great to be supported at that level.”
‘Spectra’ by NEWSUBSTANCE
The seven-story, multi-colored spiral tower known as “Spectra” has been on-site since 2018, and thousands of festivalgoers walk the spiral stairway to the viewing deck at the top of the structure for a 360° view of the festival.
The total weight of Spectra is 349,440 pounds, according to creator Newsubstance. It is made of 54,000 bolts, nuts and washers.
Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment for the Desert Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bblueskye.