High Desert Test Sites is a nonprofit arts institution that supports and stewards experimental artwork in the Joshua Tree region. We support programs that intersect contemporary art with everyday life, creating intimate exchanges between individuals, artworks, landscape, and community, challenging art to be relevant both to a region and beyond.
Since 2002, High Desert Test Sites—cofounded by Andrea Zittel, Andy Stillpass, John Connelly, Shaun Regen and Lisa Anne Auerbach—has hosted the work of more than 450 artists, 11 expansive site-specific programs, and 25 solo projects. Long directed by Andrea Zittel, HDTS leadership was recently handed over to Vanesa Zendejas, Zittel’s longtime administrator and program manager.
Who We Are
PO Box 1058
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Office hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-5pm PST
Vanesa Zendejas - Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elena Yu - Assistant Director of Programming and Communications, email@example.com
Connor Schwab - Facilities and Grounds Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sydney Foreman - Director’s Assistant and Visitor Services, email@example.com
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Shaun Caley Regen
Elena Yu, Emily Endo, Emma Palm, Sydney Foreman and rotating A-Z West Work Trade Residents. Thanks to Elizabeth Carr and Zena Carr at the Sky Village Swap Meet! RIP Bob Carr.
WEBSITE AND DESIGN
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
David Knaus - Chair
Andrea Zittel - Director Emeritus/Treasurer
Brooke Hodge - Secretary
Marilyn Loesberg - Member
Susan Lubeznik - Member
Aram Moshayedi - Member
High Desert Test Sites is grateful to The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Tides Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation - Arts Regranting Program/Inland Empire at The Community Foundation, Strengthening Inland Southern California through Philanthropy, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Ranch Projects, California Arts Council, Sky Village Swap Meet, Copper Mountain Mesa Community Association and our generous donors for their support over the years.
When HDTS was founded in 2002, part of the original mission was to run on a zero budget. The idea was to support artistic visions in practical terms—provide help, guidance, tools, a cot, and infinite space. For many years this worked and it produced self-driven projects that were ambitious and independently spirited.
Over the past ten years, HDTS has been working towards building a more substantial funding structure for artists’ projects. This has included hosting recurring fundraising projects such as our Artist Painted Rock Auction, Gem/Mineral Expo, pop-ups at art fairs and art museums, and producing limited edition artworks for sale.
But these endeavors never quite add up to what we need—to pay our artists fairly, for venue rentals, for staff, liability insurance, the bookkeeper, to feed our volunteers, pay for all-terrain forklift rentals, and so much more.
As our programs grow every year, so does our budget. And although we make every effort to raise the money that we need with Andrea’s self-sufficient spirit in tow, we still rely on support from donors to make it all happen.
HDTS has been a registered 501c3 since 2013. Please consider a gift in any amount to help us in providing access to engaging, experimental, contemporary art in the high desert region.
Donate via PayPal, via Venmo (@hdts_azwest), or via check:
PO Box 1058 Joshua Tree CA 92252
Many past HDTS projects have only been temporarily sited, but some are permanent and scattered throughout the Morongo Basin. The best way to find these works is to follow the directions on our current HDTS driving map. This map also includes sites we’ve partnered with in the past and admire as independent projects. Most HDTS works are located at sites that we regularly activate and operate out of. Those sites include:
Our new base of operations, A-Z West is Andrea’s lifelong project, where she lived and worked for 20 years before handing the keys to HDTS in 2022. Located a few minutes outside downtown Joshua Tree, this 85-acre compound includes four restored homestead cabins, several experimental living structures, permanent sculptures, 4,000 square foot studio space, and pristine desert landscape.
Public tours of A-Z West are offered every 2 weeks, alternating between 1-hour outdoor only tours, and 2-hour tours that include most interiors. Tickets for these tours can be purchased through the West Works store. All funds raised from tour ticket sales support HDTS programming and general operating expenses.
HDTS office hours at A-Z West are Tuesday through Thursday from 10 am–5 pm. Our office is not open to the public during these hours, but by appointment only. Please email Sydney if you have an inquiry regarding A-Z West.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left, then the next right. At the hanging wooden signs, go straight to park in the Encampment lot, or make a left to go to the house, cabins, or studio.
Behind the Bail Bonds
Sited on this 10-acre boulder strewn parcel adjacent to A-Z West are several works that may take a few hours of exploring to divulge: Morongo by Nathan Lieb, Surveillant Architectures by Julia Scher, and CA Truck Heads by Sarah Vanderlip. Feel free to visit this site sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking and do not block the road.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left. Follow along power lines, park just before the turnaround area.
Andy’s Gamma Gulch
Co-founder Andy Stillpass has generously allowed countless HDTS projects to take place on this wildly beautiful 100-acre parcel north of Pioneertown off of Pipes Canyon Rd. Several works are sited here, includingGradually/We Become Aware/Of a Hum in the Room by Halsey Rodman, Trail Registry by Scout Regalia and Tapwater Pavilion by Tao Urban. Andy’s is also available to visit from sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking or if you do need to park off the side of the road, be careful not to end up in soft sand.
Directions: From Hwy 62 turn right at Pioneertown Rd. Drive about 7.5 miles. Turn right on Pipes Canyon Rd. Drive 2.2 miles to Gamma Gulch Rd, turn left (respect our neighbors – do not drive above 20 mph on this road!) Drive 1.6 miles to God’s Way Love (if the sign has blown off look for Dave & Jeannie’s sign), turn right. Drive 0.4 miles.
Purchased from a tax sale back in the early aughts, this 40-acre site is surrounded by BLM land. Located at the most eastern edge of Wonder Valley, in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness area, this site is a commitment to get out to, and feels like the end of the California high desert before being clearly on the way to Arizona. This flat, sandy, washy land is home to several permanently sited works, including Dineo Seshee Bopape’s HDTS 2022 work, and a mostly “invisible” project: Bob Dornberger and Jim Piatt’s Secret Restaurant. On the opposite side of Ironage Rd and slightly to the north is a work by Kiersten Puusemp (Untitled) that you will probably need to get out of your car and explore a little in order to find. Also accessible from sunup to sundown, be very careful when parking off the side of the road as the sand is very soft here.
Directions: From 29 Palms continue east on Hwy 62. Drive forever (23 miles) and turn left at Iron Age Rd. Drive a mile or so until you see something. (Iron Age Road connects both Amboy Road and Hwy 62, so you can reach it using either access road.)
HQ at Sky Village Swap Meet
The HDTS HQ is a visitor’s center and creative hub where artists, craftsmen, visionaries, and friends engage with the high desert community through creative projects and performances. You can pick up a copy of our driving map to HDTS projects and other local sites of interest at the HQ every Saturday from 9 am–12 pm (closed July-August)—and please check our Instagram page regularly to see what special events we have on the calendar. More on the HDTS HQ here.
Directions: 7028 Theater Road (just off Hwy 247, right behind Barr Lumber), Yucca Valley, CA 92286; 760-365-2104
One of our favorite community partners is Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center, where we’ve hosted many past HDTS programs and events. CMMCC is located in North Joshua Tree, about 15 minutes north of A-Z West. On the property is an old firehouse that served the neighborhood in the 80s, and now HDTS rents for community programs, public exhibitions and events. Currently HDTS is working on siting our Desert Research Library at the Firehouse Outpost and later opening this resource to the public. Stay tuned for project updates!
The Firehouse Outpost is currently open to the public only during public events. Please email Elena if you have questions about the space or are interested in Firehouse Outpost programming.
Directions: 65336 Winters Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252; Driving west on Hwy 62 into downtown Joshua Tree, pass Park and make a left on Sunburst. Right on Golden, left on Border, past Aberdeen and make a right on Winters. Take Winters past where it turns to dirt road, CMMCC is on the left.
Sometimes it is a Murmur, Sometimes it is a Pulse: Part One
On Saturday, March 5, 2022 during sunset, Los Angeles-based composer/performers Byron Westbrook, Celia Hollander and Jeremiah Chiu will create a sonic intervention with Halsey Rodman’s Gradually/We Became Aware/Of a Hum in the Room. This will be the first activation of “Sometimes it is a Murmur, Sometimes it is a Pulse;” the second phase of Rodman’s project which was first installed on our “Andy’s Gamma Gulch” site in Pioneertown in 2014.
During their hour-long performance, Westbrook, Hollander and Chiu will simultaneously give a distinct voice to one face of the 3-sided structure, responding to both the bold colors of the work as well as the changing hues represented in the landscape. The audience will be invited to navigate the environment and explore different points of visibility and audibility within and around Halsey’s structure as the light changes during sunset.
This event is free and non-ticketed. Arrive around 4:30pm to join us for refreshments and give yourself time to navigate to the site. Performance will begin around 5:30pm, in conjunction with the changing sky/light. Please bring a flashlight to walk back to your car.
From Hwy 62 turn right at Pioneertown Rd. Drive about 7.5 miles. Turn right on Pipes Canyon Rd. Drive 2.2 miles to Gamma Gulch Rd, turn left (respect our neighbors – do not drive above 20 mph on this road!) Drive 1.6 miles to God’s Way Love (there are a lot of signs on this corner), turn right. Drive 0.4 miles. Carpooling is highly recommended, as parking is limited. Park on the side of the road, but be careful not to drive into soft sand or disturb vegetation.
Attending this performance requires walking about .25 miles one-way on undeveloped desert terrain, and walking back after sunset. At the performance site, there is the option to ascend four steps onto an approximately 12-inch-wide ledge that circles the perimeter of the structure, or to remain at ground level. Performance will be audible from the parking area (the closest dirt road, .25 miles away).
Jeremiah Chiu is Los Angeles-based artist, musician, educator, and community organizer. Chiu’s hybrid practice often operates under his studio moniker, Some All None, where projects lie at the intersection of art, music, technology, and publishing. As a musician, Chiu participates in the electronic and experimental music communities in Chicago and Los Angeles and is currently an artist on International Anthem Recording Co. In addition to Some All None, Chiu is an Assistant Professor at Otis College of Art & Design, faculty member at Art Center College of Design, and a resident DJ at Dublab. Chiu’s work has been exhibited/performed at The Getty Center, LACMA, Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center, The Chicago Cultural Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, amongst others.
Celia Hollander is a Los Angeles based composer and artist working with audio, scores, performance, installation and text. Her work critically engages ways that audio and the act of listening can shape temporal perception and question cultural infrastructures. Her work has been performed or installed at institutions and venues including MOCA, The Getty, Skirball Cultural Art Center, Various Small Fires, Human Resources and Zebulon. Her discography includes releases on Leaving Records, Recital and Noumenal Loom and she is a resident dj on Dublab Radio. She holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts where she studied music composition.
Byron Westbrook is an artist and composer based in Los Angeles, CA. He works with both music performance and installation formats with a focus on architectural qualities of sound and the potential for audio to generate visual and social spaces. Westbrook’s work has been presented by international institutions such as the Walker Art Center, ICA London, Rewire Festival and MaerzMusik Festival. He has recorded releases with Important Records, Root Strata, Hands in the Dark, Ash International and Umor Rex. Westbrook holds an MFA from Bard College and has recently been visiting faculty with Pratt Institute MFA, Columbia University Sound Arts MFA, and International Center of Photography’s New Media Narratives program.
Sometimes it is a Murmur, Sometimes it is a Pulse
Change is constant, this configuration of material and these round windows enframing distance and rocks are temporary. Everything is temporary. 2675 revolutions of the Earth and counting, 7 years and 8 months of cycles: day to night, closing in on 8 trips around the Sun, nearly constant wind. The time stretches out, long silences punctuated by occasional visitors, the sun and moon arc through the sky, seasons pass. This continuity is difficult to measure, so short in the larger scheme but long enough for cycles to be established: the habits of animals, a certain readjustment of vegetable growth, scattered paths from parking area to structure, innumerable ways of being have developed in this brief time.
There’s no simple way to say it, language is already unstable: your red and my red are already different; we each look out the portal from a different viewpoint; I can never see you from where you see me; it’s not getting bigger you’re getting closer; gradually we became aware of a hum in the room.
The building listens continuously: to light, to sound, the movement of air, animals, minerals, that hum of vegetable life. We listen for songs within the vast expanse of what is already there.
The title of the project emerged from music so it seems fitting that this new phase should begin with a shared experience of sound; to experience the mutuality and alterity of sound against that backdrop of silence. We invite you to join us for a new series of activations, “Sometimes it is a Murmur, Sometimes it is a Pulse”, meditating on transformation and continuous difference. The ear is always open.