The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

Programs at the CLUI Desert Research Station


523The integrated projects of Deena Capparelli, Claude Willey and Kahty Chenoweth under construction at the “Moisture” event at the DRS. CLUI photo

In October, 2002, the Center’s Desert Research Station, near Hinkley, California, hosted a month-long research project involving the work of several artists and researchers exploring issues of water collection, retention, and consumption in arid environments. The project coordinator, Claude Willey, of California State University, invited six researchers to create site and theme-specific landscape projects at the DRS. Though the projects are conceptual in nature, they are, in theory, practical, and represent an application of the tools of the arts to real world issues. Some of these projects will stay in place for the foreseeable future, and are available for viewing by the public.

The Moisture project is evolving into a continuous research program at the DRS and the surrounding region, which is dominated by Harper Dry Lake, a six-mile long lakebed that emptied into the Mojave River almost 15,000 years ago, but is now an isolated basin. The basin has an enriched context that makes for an appropriate setting for CLUI programming: the dry lakebed has been used for aerospace projects, including a doomed Howard Hughes aircraft; it contains the largest (in output) solar power plant in the world; has a history of groundwater depletion due to agricultural overdraft; has an emerging natural area with an “area of critical environmental concern” and associated interpretive structures; and has a number of other intriguing architectural and industrial sites, ringing the lake.

524New interpretive walkways installed at the edge of Harper Dry Lake, help people see the "Area of Critical Environmental Concern." CLUI photo

This initial version of the Moisture project consisted of installations by Deena Capparelli, Bernard Perroud, Susan SeBarnet, Adam Belt, Kahty Chenoweth, and Claude Willey, with help from over 30 students from Pasadena City College. Based out of the Desert Research Station, Peter Fend of Ocean Earth Development Corporation spent several days conducting field research in the Harper Basin, in preparation for the execution of a potential future “Moisture” project.

“This, and future versions of Moisture, could be considered less as an assortment of individual works, but more as components of a larger work: the ongoing event itself,” said project coordinator Claude Willey, who is looking forward to getting his “feet wet” in the next round of Moisture.


Foreign Dirt in Boron: Possible Soil Exchange Program Initiated
A crate one meter square, containing dirt from Transylvania, has joined the other large boxy objects at the CLUI High Desert Storage and Logistics site near Boron, California. The owners of the dirt, the Earth Consignment group, of London, England has contracted the Center to keep the crate on site indefinitely, noting that the region is favored for outdoor storage of large objects, as indicated by the internationally known aircraft storage site in the nearby town of Mojave (whose collection of commercial airliners has swelled dramatically in the last year, as airlines reduce the size of their fleets).

The CLUI storage site is located adjacent to the largest open pit mine in California, the US Borax Company’s borate mine, which is now two miles wide. This mine supplies half the world’s borates, compounds that are used in innumerable products and industries, from nuclear reactors to hand soap. The material is distributed through an elaborate international shipping network managed by the company, using a dedicated terminal in Los Angeles Harbor which ships borates around the globe, including to another company terminal in Rotterdam, Netherlands, from which the bulk material is moved throughout Europe via barge, rail, and truck.

The fact that so much boron is shipped all over the world from this single mine has led the CLUI to consider the notion of using its storage site in Boron to correct this imbalance, by providing space for foreign dirt, starting, perhaps, with this shipment from Transylvania.