Hostile Nature: Cacti, thorny shrubs, prickly weeds; burning sand; murderous waves; vicious dogs patrolling miles of desert beach, crazed from loneliness, guarding empty, half-built homes; lightning cracks so loud it stuns, rain falls so hard it fills the room in minutes while you bail and mop in futile resistance. At noon, when the light is blinding and the concrete is hot, snakes slither across your path and coil in dark corners where they wait with one eye open. At dusk, enormous toads station themselves on your doorstep and in the morning have left you a turd fashioned in their own image. At night lizards sing in the rafters and hurl half-digested fruit like little, bloody bombs onto the mosquito netting. All day long, the still swimming pool shimmers, extending like a red carpet of water to the sea, while stray alligators, flooded out of the nearby swamp, lurk in the brambles.
Hostile Construction: Situated 50 feet to the left of the pool and 100 feet from the beach, standing alone in the middle of a field of burning sand and prickly weeds, is a solitary structure, served by no cleared paths. It is a simple terrace with an adjoining back wall and roof, supported by one central column, all made of roughly poured concrete. Illogically sited and functionally misconceived, it is called the beach pavilion. Its baroque blankness is a parody of uselessness; it is, to be precise, a folly. Still, the act of it, the siting and creation of this structure, is irresistible: a hard stop in a harsh spot. Naturally, we are drawn to the inhospitable shelter.
Hostile Conditions: Everything was to be provided and facilitated by a crew that only appeared at lunchtime. Collective lunch was provided, literally served, copious and delicious, at a massive table. The missing crew would suddenly materialize just as generous platters of food were being set out, and just as quickly vanish when the table was cleared. We needed lumber, we needed screws, we needed a drill and we needed power. Marooned on a desert beach, with nothing for miles but cacti and mad dogs, we were dependent on the producers. Our production needs had been detailed over several meetings with the team leader, according to house protocol. Everything was carefully laid out and mutually agreed upon. No lumber, no screws, no drill, no extension cord, no power, no crew, no news. Yes, our own hands and yes, the sun.
The purpose of the organization, as laid out in house mission statement, was to engage the local communities with the work of the resident artist(s). Paradoxically, the extreme isolation of the location ensured that there was never any contact with anyone beyond the compound. When it came time to realize our group activity, the participants were gathered through outreach carried out by representatives of the establishment. Formally invited and confirmed, the guest-participants were bussed to the compound from several surrounding villages. Many people came, young and old, families with children, youth and elders. The artificially engineered introduction of local, working-class people into the great hall of the of the modernist hacienda was weird and wonderful, however awkward. To view this staged juxtaposition of extremes as objectionable, from any angle, would be a mistake, even an abdication of responsibility. The collision is essential. Anyway, always, to varying degrees, discomfort is part of the work. Discomfort is the need for, and expression of, effort. Provoking exchange among individuals in unfamiliar groupings is the starting point to every work, setting in motion a regenerative collective dynamic. And here, because of a series of circumstances beyond our control, we were presented with a meta-performance of fabricated social integration, of which our little enactment at the beach pavilion became the apotheosis.
The sun was low on the horizon when we made the procession through the prickly weeds, circumventing the swimming pool in single file, into the desert field to the beach pavilion fitted with our wooden apparatus. The participants wove themselves into the structure. Twenty-four in total climb into the enclosure, ducking under the wooden barriers and into their respective nooks. D.M. was our charismatic master of ceremonies. The drums, rattles and bells begin as everyone leans in for their first contact.