Desert Research Station Report

210 William Lamson used the DRS while working on Line Describing the Sun, his project at Harper Lake. William Lamson photo

THE CENTER'S MOJAVE DESERT OUTPOST experienced a year of protracted stagnancy punctuated by abrupt bursts of energy and transition. Evolving observations of disintegration and decay were interrupted by invited and uninvited visitations.

The use of the Desert Research Station as an adjunct to the Wendover Residence Program continued this year, with Wendover program participant William Lamson using the local dry lake bed for his research, after the consistency and composition of the playa at Bonneville proved inadequate. The higher organic content at the DRS and Harper Lake worked well with his rolling Fresnel lens apparatus, enabling the completion of a complete, 366-foot burn arc over the course of a day. The display of the resulting project a few months later in New York prompted the New York Times to declare “Mr. Lamson can’t go back in time, but he can still go to the desert.” Indeed.

The desert regions of Los Angeles exaggerate the economic conditions that prevail in the rest of the state. This meant that last year, places, buildings, and things left alone out there for more than a few months were considered by some to be under-utilized. No doubt, in the minds of many, a higher and better use could be imagined, and found for items at a remote research station. Over the winter, everything that was potentially valuable at the DRS was removed by persons unknown to us, including a vintage travel trailer, garage door opener, stove, refrigerator, and the nonfunctional CLUI van. Even the old hot water heater left the building. Tire tracks and cut barbed wire indicated that they came in or out by the back gate, obscured from the road by the building and tall fence. “It’s likely these back-engineers took their time,” said DRS program manager Erik Knutzen, “looks like they might have stayed a while, fixed the van, loaded it up with all the appliances, hooked up the trailer, and drove out. The deep ruts and wood scattered around by the gate says they got stuck in the sand outside the gate while leaving with all the stuff toothat must have been a bit scary for them!”

It’s the law of the high-impact desert: Use it or Lose it. The value of material was actually pretty minimal, and was replaced with more energy efficient models that will probably save us money in the long run. A new warning system from Hi-Desert Alarm now protects the site.