Mirage, Desert X

Palm Springs, California

Bring water and drive a car with working air conditioning.

Desert X is an art festival held every two years in the Coachella Valley in Southern California. It is not so much a cluster of art installations in the same way that, for example, The Gertrude Street Projection Festival is (that festival confines its installations to a couple of city blocks in Fitzroy), but instead site specific installations are scattered in disparate areas throughout the valley, so it can be more challenging, by design, to see them all. You should be prepared to drive, and wear cool breathable clothing and bring water.

Also, as mentioned above, make sure your car’s air conditioning is working well.

The first Desert X started off with a bang as it featured one site-specific installation that slaked the lust of #fomo fanatics the world over: Mirage, by Doug Aitken.

Mirage was/is an art installation that consists of a tract home in which all surfaces are mirrors , except of course the floor, for issues of propriety and safety. Propriety because of people visiting who might be wearing skirts (or kilts), and safety because of the potential for someone to get the tar beaten out of them by somebody’s instagram husband who thinks their influencer girlfriend is being photographed in an inappropriate manner because there was no way to not take a picture of the house interior without, well, you know…

You can see what I mean about the floors.

Like Seven Magic Mountains, Mirage was an instagrammer’s dream.

  1) It was there for a limited time frame
  2) It was out in the Coachella Valley (“Influencers” frequent Palm Springs)
  3) It looked incredible in publicity photos
 4) Art is cool y’all

It’s hard to say if Desert X anticipated this or it worried them, but it seemed like they weren’t crazy about all the influencers posing in front of the house. Signs were posted around the house stating “no professional photo shoots,” although what is a professional photo shoot anymore? Marketing agencies charge companies six figure sums for social media campaigns shot on iPhone 7’s while influencers get their boyfriends or husbands to photograph them with Canon Digital Rebels set in “A” mode to post to their Tinder and Bumble profiles to gain followers on Instagram.

The latter was in prime form at Mirage, along with a lot of other people there to observe and experience the space. I could not help but chuckle though as there was simply no way to photograph this space without other people in your shot. Even if you got a split second of a view with nobody in it, people behind you and to the sides were reflected in the mirrors.

I imagine that prior to installation here, Mirage may have been assembled in a studio. That would have been something to see. Smooth, crisp, perfectly reflective panels can be seen on Aitken’s site, when it was first installed in Palm Springs. Untouched by people or elements, you can imagine James Bond and Scaramanga hunting each other in this house. The elements, and people, had taken their toll on Mirage by the time I got there. Some panels had warped and bubbled. Others were dented, and surfaces were covered in smudges, scratches, and fingerprints from the thousands who had come through, touching everything. But to have seen this fresh would have been incredible.

Mirage was never meant to be a permanent installation, and has since traveled to Gstaad, Switzerland as part of a similar arts effort called ‘Frequencies,’ where it will be displayed until January 2021.

There is even a live webcam of the house if you want to see whether or not instagrammers have invaded there as well.

This isn’t from the webcam.

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