The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is, at this point, a Southern California monolith. It’s become an institution unto itself, featuring the most famous musicians performing at the top of their game. The “art” part of the festival is fittingly monumental. If one theme unites all the art at the festival, it would be scale, says the festival’s Associate Art Director, Raffi Lehrer.
Lehrer wants the art-loving festival goers to see Coachella' art program as just another of the many great art shows and festivals out in Palm Springs and Palm Desert (like Desert X, Sunnylands, and the Bombay Beach Biennale) and its many great mid-century architectural landmarks. The Coachella Valley does, in fact, exist, even if the Walmart yodeler isn’t around to see it, and the art scene is strange, unique, and vibrant.
The festival’s art program speaks the desert’s language, featuring an interdisciplinary program of visual artists, designers, and creatives that are as eclectic as the music program’s lineup. In the spirit of going big or going home, Coachella 2018 features two augmented reality installations as well as several large-scale physical installations, which serve as landmarks to orient festival-goers in the seemingly endless green space. Here are this year's highlights.
Designed by NEWSUBSTANCE, Spectra is about as monumental as installation art gets: 7 stories high, with 360 views of the festival, and more than 6,000 feet of LEDs to glow after dark. The nearest tall building is several miles away, so the views promise to be breathtaking. Bright, shiny, and candy-like from the outside, NEWSUBSTANCE’s intention was to offer a serene, meditative space for festival-goers to change their point of view, consider light, space, and color, and to escape from the heat.
Artist, designer, and builder Randy Polumbo typically works in recycled materials, glass and polished metal to create monumental works of installation. For Coachella 2018, Polumbo created a floral composition from a salvaged Lockheed Martin Lodestar jet: flower power on a monumental scale, adding a crash-landed on Mars vibe to the festival’s skyline.
R&R Studios, otherwise known as Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, created Supernova, a polychromatic and monumental star—a tactile mirage. It’s exuberant, and evocative of the joyful spirit of music. Plus, it provides much-needed shade during the day, and transforms into a shining star at night.
Edoardo Tresoldi created three semi-architectural works of monumental sculpture made of wire-mesh that suggest the Baroque or neoclassical, a post-digital church of music, that changes depending on how you look at it. The gesture is towards contemplating space, time, and its passage. The semi-permanence of these nearly familiar silhouettes fits perfectly within the temporary magnitude of a music festival and art festival Coachella.