Thursday, May 31, 2018

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Kansas and Parker Bowling

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Guardian on Bombay Beach Biennale

When ecological disaster hit Bombay Beach, a resort town marooned by a dying lake in California’s desert, the result looked apocalyptic.

Birds and fish died. Toxic dust swirled. The air stank. Tourists and most residents fled, leaving a virtual ghost town of abandoned, decaying homes.

For decades the only regular visitors were film-makers who came to shoot horror flicks about zombies and Armageddon.

Now, Bombay Beach, population 295, is enjoying a rebirth of sorts with an influx of artists, intellectuals and hipsters who have turned it into a bohemian playground.

There is an opera house, a gallery, an “Hermitage” museum, a conceptual pavilion and a drive-in movie theatre. Which sounds rather grand, but the desert wind whistles through the cracks and it looks like Mad Max did the decorating.

The closest thing to a hotel – a shipping container with plywood floors and walls – is adorned with photographs of the criminally insane.

There are also giraffe sculptures, a defunct sensory deprivation tank, a four-dimensional hypercube called a tesseract and a fake particle accelerator made of gold-painted junk. Plus a festival, the Bombay Beach Biennale, with exhibitions, philosophy seminars, ballet and poetry. Sandstorms and scorching sun can make it feel closer to Mars than Venice’s biennale.

“People are engaging with the idea of creating this outpost of freedom and creativity. Hopefully it just stays authentic and weird,” Tao Ruspoli, a photographer, musician and film-maker who has led the charge, said last week, giving the Guardian a tour.

Ruspoli, 42, started coming in 2007, making the three-hour drive from Los Angeles, and friends followed, intrigued by his declaration that here was the most interesting town in America.

Several have bought property – trailers, bungalows and empty lots – as homes, studios and exhibition spaces.

“We don’t want it to be a passing thing. We want to leave a mark, though with the knowledge that everything is impermanent. We’re attacked from all directions – vandalism, extreme heat, 50 mph winds,” said Ruspoli, who is also the son of an Italian prince.

Even so, an influx of artists who buy property and push up prices may sound ominous to those pushed out of homes by gentrification in formerly run-down parts of Brooklyn, Oakland and Los Angeles. Some activists say artists pave a path for moneyed investors and speculators.He considers the corporate razzmatazz of the Coachella festival, 40 miles north, the antithesis of the “Dadaist” experiment unfolding in Bombay Beach, which has little commerce besides two grocery stores and two bars. The nearest gas station is 20 miles away.

Prices are rising in Bombay Beach. Some bungalows which cost a few thousand dollars 15 years ago now fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

“They’re buying up all the old stuff, it seems like they’re taking over,” grumbled an 80-year-old customer at the Ski Inn bar, who gave his name only as Wacko. “A lot of the buildings are painted ridiculous colours.” Vandalism and petty theft has hit some exhibits, suggesting there are additional detractors.

Still, Wacko appeared to be in a minority. Of a dozen residents interviewed at random, 11 welcomed the bohemians. “The town was dying. They’re bringing in young people, fixing places up,” said Mark Hagedorn, 65.

“It’s a shot in the arm,” said Ernest Hawkins, 75. “This place used to rock. Then it went to sleep. Everyone left or got old.” Lisa Trujill, 52, a housepainter, said she wanted more music, more arts. “I love it.”

A 2012 award-winning documentary chronicled some of the town’s lost souls.

Without wind, from a distance, Bombay Beach looks ravishing. It sits by the Salton Sea, California’s biggest lake, a 360 sq mile swath of tranquil water ringed by white beaches.

Appearances deceive – the lake is dying. It formed in 1905 when the Colorado river breached a canal and poured into this dry desert basin, creating a habitat for hundreds of species of fish and birds. Bombay Beach and a few other resorts sprang up and thrived in the 1950s.

Then growing salinity and agricultural pollution killed the fish. Their bones are what makes the beaches white. Hunger and disease ravaged the birds. The lake is receding, leaving winds to whip up toxic, odiferous soil. The smell can travel far, notably in a 2012 event known as “the big burp”.

State authorities announced a plan last year to restore some of the lake, the first phase of a long-promised rescue. Skeptics fear it will never happen.

The Bombay Beach Biennale – which despite the name has taken place each year – riffs on its environs. The first in 2016 was themed on the “art of decay”. The 2017 festival asked artists to imagine the future that did not happen. This year, held over a weekend in March and aided by a Getty foundation grant, was themed “God’s silence”.

Melody Sample, 31, built a “dream house” installation in a ruined bungalow which included a bathtub and a table set for high tea. “The energy here is really fresh. It’s like a forgotten place in a death, rebirth cycle,” she said. This applies to her exhibit: thieves stole the benches and incense and other artifacts, leaving the dream house somewhat forlorn.

Stefan Ashkenazy, who owns the Petit Ermitage hotel in West Hollywood, is Bombay Beach’s svengali. He has bought several abandoned lots and brings in artists to transform them.

He arrived last week at the wheel of an open-top Mercedes playing Bizet. The appeal was not property but experience, he said. “Of all the things I do this is the most free, the most inspiring.” He wants to turn E street into a cultural hub to host, among other things, film premieres at the drive-in which is populated with vintage, wrecked cars.

Wacko, the refusenik, was not impressed. “They wouldn’t allow that in LA. Down here they get away with it.”

Click here for the full article

Saturday, April 21, 2018


Friday, April 20, 2018

Block, Age 101; Bombay Beach

Friday, April 13, 2018

Susanna, Mike, and Alessandro

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bob Weir, John Perry Barlow Memorial

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Yucca Nights

Monday, March 26, 2018

Susanna; Bombay Beach

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bombay Beach Biennale, 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bombay Beach

Melody; Bombay Beach

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Chris Hanley and Jay Jopling

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Melody and Praxedes, Bombay Beach

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Political (f)Art