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2019 Bombay Beach Biennale: Bringing Art to A Toxic Wasteland


Last updated 4/3/2019 at 11:31am

Josephine Wister Faur

The fourth annual Bombay Beach Biennale, a somewhat secret three-day Spring time celebration of art, music, and philosophy, transformed part of Bombay Beach into a fully immersed art experience, March 22 – 24.

The annual event, founded in 2015, transforms abandoned housing, vacant lots, and decaying shoreline into a unique canvas for creative expression. Artists, philosophers, creators and makers across many mediums donate their time and talents to the volunteer-led happening.

Over 150 activations in 72 hours, included an academic conference, live music, performances, opera, ballet, film screenings and multiple museum openings. Many of the art installations will become permanent fixtures within the town, which is being transformed through an ongoing infusion of artwork, creativity, and community engagement.

The Biennale is non-profit event, and is not meant to be a spectator event. Instead it is a celebration for the community and the artists who have created new and mostly permanent artwork that makes the town a more interesting tourist destination year-round.

A few of the permanent art fixtures that Bombay Beach residents can boast of are a Drive-In movie theater filled with junk yard cars, a functioning Opera House designed by British artist James Ostrer decorated with flip flops recovered from the beaches of Logos, in Nigeria.The Hermitage Museum was filled with dinosaurs designed by Gregg Haberny, a dome made of discarded metal, and an aircraft fuselage representing a fish.

Lauren Brand, Bombay Beach Biennale Coordinator explained the reason of no advertising and no notification of the festival date until the week prior is due to large amount of traffic that would be generated for such a small area.

"In fact, the date of this event is kept under wraps, even to the residents of Bombay Beach until just before the weekend celebrations begins," Brand said.

"Many of the local people are employed in the creation of the artwork and they along with artists that have been working and creating the art pieces, volunteers, or somebody who has put in some effort to the town, are the only group of people given tickets to attend the Bombay Beach Biennale. This year, 500 artists, musicians, volunteers and contributors were given tickets to this celebration of the arts and community."

Artists began coming to Bombay Beach five years ago for the purpose of creativity, which is when the event concept came to light and the first celebration of the arts and the community was held in the Spring of 2015.

Over the years, the Bombay Beach Biennale has become less about the event, and more about a place where creative people want to be thus transforming the town from its previous state of despair and tragedy to a fascinating tourist town of renegade art, and music located on the literal edge of Western Civilization at the Salton Sea.

Today, artists and contributors come from as far away as Europe, Northern Africa, and New York to participate and volunteer their time and talents transforming abandoned housing, vacant lots and the decaying Salton Sea shoreline into unique canvases of creative expression for the annual Biennale.

Bombay Beach is looking more like an art movement as diversified talented artists are moving to the community, some full time and others as a weekend retreat to replenish their artistic soul. These artists are purchasing the old, dilapidated, long time abandoned houses and lots to use as creative canvases and turning Bombay Beach into one of the most unique and amazing artistic towns to visit at the Salton

"The Bombay Beach Biennale is not about an event, it is about a place and a community of people. It is very interesting to see what creativity can do to revitalize a place," Brand said.

"The town was dying, the population numbers were going down and the Salton Sea environmental issues were a big concern. This town was not a place where people were excited to go but now, we are making it a more interesting place to live, and a more interesting place to visit that will boost the local economy, bring in more opportunity, and raise awareness for the Salton Sea crisis."

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