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Andrea Zittel: High Desert Test Sites | Art21 “Extended Play”


[Andrea Zittel: High Desert Test Sites] [REPORTER] For thirty years, Curtis Springer
operated his Zzyzx Mineral Springs, selling health, religion, and the Springer
specialty, Antediluvian herb tea. But then, the troubles with the government
over who owned the land finally caught up with him in 1974, and he was evicted. [Boulevard of Dreams] [ROB FULTON] Oh, I never did explain Zzyzx,
did I? Curtis invented it to be phonetically or alphabetically
the last word– nothing more than that. But then he incorporated that in his advertising, both in literature and on radio. He’d say things like, “Come to Zzyzx Mineral Springs, the last word
in health.” [ANCHORMAN] Well, according to the bureau
of land management, legally, Hell has frozen over, and Springer will never get Zzyzx back. [CSU Desert Studies Center] [AURORA TANG] Zzyzx is currently this desert
studies center, which is about three hours from both Joshua
Tree and L.A. So, it’s just far enough out to be a trip. One of the reasons to do High Desert Test
Sites programming here was to continue to keep that sense of exploration and that feeling of discovery and learning. [Aurora Tang, Managing Director, High Desert
Test Sites] And also, it keeps things interesting for
both Andrea and I. [FULTON] We’ve salvaged some of the old resort
signs and everything. I brought this out of mothballs today so you
could see it. This would have been posted here at the building. To kind of underscore the religious underpinnings
of his ministry here– and his foundation and his mission here– he developed the pool in the shape of a cross. And then, if you wanted to sun yourself on
the slabs out here, these pipes sticking up would provide cool
water to flood the surface and cool it down. [ANDREA ZITTEL] So, it’s always a little hard
to explain what High Desert Test Sites is, [Andrea Zittel, Co-Founder, High Desert Test
Sites] because we’re, sort of, deliberately not trying
to make an institution. But it’s a non-profit entity that… It’s a support entity for work that sort of
lives in the world at large. So this weekend, High Desert Test Sites is
being curated by Aurora Tang. It’s all about water in the sense that being in the desert is only possible because
of water. And so water takes on a special… I mean, I would probably call it like a “life
force”. We have a mix of different artists that we
work with, and some are local– like, people that we discover out here who we think are like really amazing and inspirational, and we sort of want to bring more attention
to them. [ALYSE EMDUR] The desert, I think, is a place
of escaping civilization. My film really looks at this attempt to escape
the aging bodies of retirees [Alyse Emdur, Artist] in the healing mineral spring in Florida. They travel there every year in hopes that the water will alleviate illness and restore health. [ZITTEL] We do a lot of different things, but the sort of trademark things are these
big events that we create. [MATT COOLIDGE] Well, hello everybody. My name is Matt Coolidge. I’ll be talking about lakes of the Mojave! [ZITTEL] Like, we have an audience here that’s not necessarily an art audience, but people who are really interested and willing to support art that inserts itself directly into the world. I don’t know… I like working with Aurora so much, and we talk, like, at length about what it is and what it isn’t, and what it should be, and what there’s a necessity for, and how art functions. [SANT KHALSA] I thought, “It’s absurd that people are going to water
stores to buy water” “when their tap water is perfectly safe.” [Sant Khalsa, Artist] But, realize, that they didn’t think that
their water was safe. The primary consumer of this water was immigrant
populations who had come from countries where their tap
water wasn’t safe. I realized they had some really interesting
names, and that’s actually what drew me to them. The process of photographing the water stores was really more about the idea of taking this
pilgrimage, looking for, in a sense, the sacred springs. [TANG] Sometimes we’ll send people off to
these remote sites to look for projects, and they won’t find it, with our little primitive
driving maps. But the thing is, they’re never usually that upset about it, because they found something else equally
amazing that they might not otherwise have found. [ZITTEL] We bought a hundred acres of land
to use that we let artists do projects on. And we wanted to find parcels where you wouldn’t ever necessarily see two artworks
at the same time. We’ve always tried to help artists find situations to make their work, where it can retain that, kind of, quality
of unknowableness. If you’re, sort of, out somewhere, and you see some weird, amazing, inexplicable
object, you can wonder about it for days. It’s been this constant discussion about how
to remain a support entity without becoming another institution that’s
commissioning people to do works. And that’s a very very fine line to walk. [FULTON] So, I believe, in about fifteen minutes, there is a lecture scheduled in the main hall
down there. You might want to go up and use the restroom,
if needed, and, thank you very much for attending! [APPLAUSE]

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