Over the last couple days I have been entertaining one of our friends visiting from Portland. It was a whirlwind few days hitting up various tourist and not-so-tourist spots. We spent Sunday in the desert including a visit to the Salton Sea. I’ve been several times now, but it’s always worth revisiting as it is ever changing.
Like most of the cities that fell victim to the tragedy of the Salton Sea, Bombay Beach sits on its shores decaying in the sun and wind. Ruins of vintage trailers are scattered amongst ones that are still occupied by the just under 300 residents. Many of the abandoned trailers have experienced some level of vandalism, by either graffiti or pure destruction. But what is so very odd is that Bombay Beach is experiencing…well…a bit of a revival of shorts. The Bombay Beach Biennale, a now yearly art festival (despite its name), that started in 2016 has brought with it hundreds of new visitors. Artists have bought various plots of land scattered throughout the small town and created large scale art installations as “permanent gifts to the town” including a faux drive-in. In an interview with LA Weekly, one of the founders and artists of the festival (and not to mention owner of a hotel in West Hollywood), Stefan Ashkenazy, claimed “The whole idea is to create art that stays and lives here, that enhances the town and embellishes its off-beatedness.” And we saw evidence of these works amongst the long forgotten trailers. However, the long-time residents are mixed on the influx of newbies. Some are glad for the breath of fresh air, others are concerned about the increase in land prices, and are not of a fan of the so-called “art.”
To read more on the Bombay Beach Biennale (which I am seriously considering attending next year) visit their website and you can check out the articles by LA Weekly and The Guardian.