Set into the side of a boulder-strewn mountain, overlooking the point where the city of Palm Springs intersects with raw, untouched desert, sits an empty suburban ranch house clad entirely in mirrors- a kind of life-size kaleidoscope that blends landscape and sky. But instead of being an actual home, the structure is an installation called Mirage by the artist Doug Aitken. Its angled mirrors refract the sepia tones and vibrant greens of the land as well as an endless expanse of sky, distorting and abstracting everything in view. At night, the glowing reflection of nearby suburban homes flickers across the walls. The whole area glows; it goes from amber to magenta to purple. The installation is part of Desert X, an exhibition of site-specific work from 16 artists, among them Richard Prince and Phillip K. Smith, which is spread across the Coachella Valley. Aitken says he had been working on the concept for years, but it wasn’t until Neville Wakefield- the artistic director of Desert X- invited him to take part in the exhibition that the project came together.
Aitken says the house’s generic structure is a commentary on Los Angeles’s suburban sprawl. Without windows or doors, the interior of the structure is devoid of all human activity and in a certain light, the house disappears into the landscape completely. It’s really just this holographic space that’s living on its own, and when people are drawn inside, they kind of lose time. Perched on a mountainside of tumbled rocks- Aitken wanted the viewer to have to really discover the piece and hike up to it- the house offers a view of the mountains that stretch into the distance. Aitken wasn’t interested in this idea of a beautiful arid desert, rather in the frontier land, this space in-between where that raw desert is being encroached upon by civilization. The artist has a long history of art outside the confines of the gallery. One of the things that’s so fascinating to him is that it changes over time. Whether it’s a full moon crossing a nocturnal sky, and those reflections are multiplied by a thousand inside the sculpture, or whether it’s the rising sun projecting beams of light through it, Mirage is constantly in flux. Through October 31, 2017 www.dougaitkenmirage.comTags: Architecture, Art, Desert X, Design, Doug Aitken, Los Angeles, Mirage, Palm Springs