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For Connelly, who is helping curate the event, HDTS’s appeal was more about the enduring allure of the desert’s open spaces than any civic-mindedness. “I was immediately taken by the terrain, it was so different from anything I was used to back East. Just beautiful,” Connelly says about his initial excursion from his own gallery, John Connelly Presents, in Chelsea, to Zittel’s desert headquarters. “I was interested in what was happening on the West Coast, and I’m always excited about being involved in projects outside of the white cube, so the High Desert project was really a big draw for me as a curator.”
Since the initial HDTS last fall, the number of event sites has expanded from four to seven, while artist-participants have ballooned to more than 30. The first time around, Zittel chose a date for HDTS that coincided with her Los Angeles show at Regen Projects, thinking it would be a good way to cultivate a little synergy for the event. Gallerist Shaun Caley Regen agreed to print invites and do a mailing to help out. “This time I’m more involved in a kind of official capacity,” Regen says during a visit to her gallery on Almont Drive. “I think what Andrea’s doing as an artist and her enthusiasm for the desert is so great that I just wanted to be involved.” Regen’s involvement has undoubtedly helped raise the profile of this spring’s HDTS and has brought contributions from Regen-affiliated artists Elizabeth Peyton, Raymond Pettibon and Jack Pierson.
Despite the growing interest in HDTS, there remains little to no funding for the gathering. Talking to Zittel, Connelly and Regen, one senses that the event is pushing maximum capacity. The “loosely knit governing body,” which also includes Andy Stillpass as well as artists Lisa Anne Auerbach (who has also done a publication for both events) and Till Lux, seems likely to soon be confronting paradoxical questions about establishing parameters in the future for the wide-open HDTS events. Whether the answer lies in turning HDTS into an invitational, or creating a jury or some other form of participation criterion remains to be seen.
Given her somewhat restless yet extremely productive history, Andrea Zittel, hybrid creator of systems for a better tomorrow, is content to wait and see, although she has an opinion or two on the matter: “I think in seven years it [HDTS] shouldn’t exist anymore. I have this vision that it’s going to be something really, really great that people are going to talk about forever, but it doesn’t have to last forever.”
And then she smiles and adds, “And I think it should always stay kind of small and a little disorganized and that people should always have to hunt for the parcels.”
High Desert Test Sites takes place Saturday and Sunday, May 24 and 25. For more info on locations and schedules, go towww.highdeserttestsites.com.