Research: Desert Research Library 2023 Artist

Posted: September 18th, 2023 | Author: | Filed under: desert, exhibition, games, installation, library, portals, spring, Unknowing, Updates, works in progress | No Comments »

In January I was invited to be join the 2023 Cohort of Artists with the Desert Research Library. A project sprung from the High Desert Test Sites. This library is unique among special library projects I have experienced. The entire collection is curated through artist’s selections. In being invited as an artist, I was invited to curate a selection of reading materials for a library in the desert. Being a super fan of all libraries- so quiet! so full of ideas! so teeming with future potential! so careful in preserving history! I was so excited to contribute my own ideas and archive of thinking and material to the library.

Of course, I went down my own rabbit hole tangent which involved spending A LOT of time researching video games, gaming history and philosophy and interweaving research on desert landscapes as gaming landscape. By mid-March, I had surfaced a short list of games that I believed were worth including in a library whose focus is the desert. I was also prepared with my understandings of video games as a kind of cultural property which we can “read” like a long form novel as justification for inclusion in a library of artist’s researching.

An important challenge to acquiring these games for the library is a technological and existential problem of collecting and preserving that any institution which maintains a “new media collection” faces. How to acquire and maintain workable, playable items for future publics. This challenge was much larger than I could invest my collection stipend in as many choices would have narrowed and winnowed the research into acquiring ONE gaming console which would only play one or two games and for no doubt a limited future until inevitable acquiring costly repair and maintenance problems. So, instead I spent most of my time just learning and researching and developing a list.

Game TitlePlatform
WastelandApple II/PC/Commodore
It Came from the DesertPC
Wasteland remasteredXbox
Fallout New VegasXbox
JourneyApple iOS
Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom PainPlaystation, Xbox
DuneMS DOS, Amiga, Sega CD
Zelda: Ocarina of TimeNintendo
My acquisition wishlist of games to add to desert library

When it came time to share which “books” I had acquired along with other artists who dutifully mined their own practices and came up with physical material acquisitions, I had to scramble into another direction. I had used my time generatively, but impractically. Which is to say I believe I used the opportunity wisely- to focus my interests in a meaningful direction with the support of a cohort of desert artists. But, I hadn’t spent a single dollar on acquiring anything that could sit on a shelf and be reviewed by another library visitor.

With less than a week to go before revealing our collection to one another on March 12th, I returned to a separate, but related subject for which there are many publications: the labyrinth. The Labyrinth is a form that seemed to seek me out when I first moved to California. I found them in almost all hiking landscapes, from urban parks to suburban edged rural spaces. I continue to be curious about the ways that the labyrinth is both an experience and a symbol; A metaphor and an invitation to embodied somatic process; a defined form and an ambiguity. With these interests, I acquired my favorite labyrinth texts and some art, the earth and the desert texts I was enjoying alongside all of my studio practice.

Book TitleAuthor(s)
The Invention of the American Deserted. Massey and Nisbet
WanderlustRebecca Solnit
Four times through the labyrinthO. Nicolai & J. Wenzel
The Idea of the LabyrinthPamela Reed Doob
Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual PracticeLauren Artress
Exploring the Labyrinth: A Guide for Healing and Spiritual GrowthMelissa Gayle West
Clay: The History and Evolution of Humankind’s Relationship with Earth’s Most Primal ElementSuzanne Staubach
my completed acquisition list

In May, we were invited to present our work to the public and I came up with an installation Where Two Deserts Meet, that addressed my videogame research and my labyrinth acquisitions. This labyrinth arcade at Joshua Tree Firehouse presented a walkable labyrinth with two controllers at the center. The controllers were for games available on two different screens: Zelda, Breath of the Wild (player located in Gerudo Desert) and Fallout New Vegas (player in Mojave Wasteland landscape).

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