Slab City

A working work of art…

I travelled around California on a road trip a few years ago, and came across some fascinating and strange places on our trip including: Death Valley and the Forestiere Underground Gardens, near Fresno; both left me with the unusual feeling of wondering whether I’d actually physically been there or just imagined it. I recently read about a really interesting place called East Jesus, in Slab City in the hot Californian desert, and had I known about it before our trip I would have definitely made a point of seeing it under the banner of ‘how strange and beautiful and bewitching’.

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It’s a spot where an assortment of artists and others looking for an alternative experience of art, go to observe or get involved in ‘an experimental, habitable, extensible artwork in progress’ to quote their website. Originally founded by the late Charles Russell (“Container Charlie”), it seems to be a spot that allows people a chance to step out of their ordinary lives and into a space of creativity without worrying about the end product ‘standing the test of time’. The artwork, created from recycled materials, is exposed to the elements and is supposed to be there for a finite time only and then degrades in the extreme weather conditions. This means that the installation is always changing and will never be the same, and when it falls apart, the next artist is free to re-use the materials in their creative experiment.

It’s very rare to be able to imagine somewhere that is free of the constraints of having to ‘perform’ and ‘improve’ and be forever ‘indelibly perfect’. And the simple fact that these clever pieces of art are meant to disappear eventually, makes them that much more special. Have a look at Cinnabar Charm – it is utterly charming. Apart from all the arty-farty bits, they also have a number of off-grid/sustainability projects for those that are more scientifically minded and gifted with DIY skills.

So, if any of you other explorers out there are needing a trip to somewhere that looks pretty special, you can find their contact details here or if you would like to help them out have a look at their needs page too.