Desert Research Station Report
From the CLUI Complex in the Mojave Desert

3747 Visitors to the CLUI Desert Research Station Open House in November 2014, looking at and listening to Deborah Stratman’s Desert Resonator on the walking trail. CLUI photoTHE CLUI DESERT RESEARCH STATION, near Barstow, continues its function as a support base for regional projects, and as a destination and exhibition site for the public. Over the last year, we made a few more additions to the walking trail, installed some new exhibits, and made some upgrades to the physical plant.

The DRS also hosts creative landscape projects on and about the region, such as an artist/research team from Chicago composed of Meghan Moe Beitiks, Marissa Lee Benedict, and Lindsey French, who visited in early 2014 then returned in January 2015 to continue their interactions with the desert environs.

The thematic research focus for the DRS is primarily phenomenology related to the relationship of sound, radar, and other waves and electronic emissions, to the physicality of the ground, issues of visibility and invisibility, of evasion, detection, monitoring, and remote sensing.

3748 Specially tuned sonic metal detectors “see” a buried metal sculpture made by LeRoy Stevens, which is another attraction on the Walking Trail. CLUI photoTwo open houses were held at the DRS in 2014, in March and November, where the public was invited to come visit, and CLUI staff was on hand to answer questions and show people around.

As part of the open house this November, Lucy Raven and Steve Rowell showed their work about local radar emissions in the region, in displays inside the DRS Visitor Center. Also on display there is Down to Earth: Experimental Aircraft Crash Sites of the Mojave, the Center’s exhibit about experimental aircraft crash sites in the region. Also on view at the DRS is the CLUI exhibit Solar Boom: Sun-Powered Electrical Plants in the USA, about the current surge in the construction of solar power plants in the desert, including one a few miles away at Harper Lake, which is tripling in size.

3749 Moritz Fehr, an artist from Berlin, installed his film in the isolation chamber, a soundspace cut off from the rest of the grounds and reached by a bridge. His stereoscopic film, entitled Mojave (A Person Was Here), is composed of kinetic images of sites in the area, and the spatially rendered sounds they emit and elicit. CLUI photoMeanwhile, the community of Hinkley continues to disappear. PG&E, the company responsible for groundwater contamination in the region (made famous by the film Erin Brockovich), continues to buy out property owners in the area, even if no hexavalent chromium has been detected in their wells.

The result is that Hinkley becomes, more and more, a modern, post-contamination ghost town. With a lack of students, the school shut down last year, and more than a hundred homesteads bought out over the past few years have been erased. The post office remains open, though they’re not sure for how long.

The property adjacent to the DRS was purchased by PG&E last year, and its two dwellings, nearly a mile away, have been removed. Only a stand of trees remain, and they are dying from lack of irrigation. The well at the DRS is tested regularly, like hundreds of other wells in the region. It is currently free of chromium.  ♦

3750 According to some residents, hexavalent chromium isn’t the only groundwater issue in Hinkley. CLUI photo