January 1, 2012

A Mojave Mirage: Ball-Nogues Studio’s Latest Installation is Disappearing Before Our Eyes

Near Joshua Tree National Park and a Marine Corps base, in the middle of California’s Mojave Desert, the site of  Yucca Crater islight years away, mentally, from Los Angeles, Houston, or New York, all loci of other installations by Ball-Nogues Studio. The Mojave is also the diametric opposite of Edmonton, Alberta, home to a sister installation. Yucca Crater’s frame is the reincarnation of formwork previously used to secure the stainless-steel components of a public artwork commisioned by the Edmonton Arts Council. To give the form work a second life, in the interest of conservation, Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues specifically designed the two projects simultaneously. The plywood was disassembled, trucked to the desert, and reassembled.

Part sculpture, part earthwork-a plywood enclosure surrounding adeep pool of saltwater-Yucca Crater is Ball and Nogues’s take on the idea of decay. For their source of inspiration, they looked back into the history of the American West, when people built the shacks now dotting the landscape, in various stages of ruin. “Those are powerful forms,” Ball says. More recently, Nogues notes, “Tons of houses and developments were built in Southern California. When things tanked, entire neighborhoods were abandoned.” Suburban swimming pools included.

Along similar lines, Yucca Crater was conceived with the briefest of life spans in mind: just one weekend at the invitation of High Desert Test Sites, an organization cofounded by artist Andrea Zittel to create experiments that remainin theircontext. But what aparty that weekend was. “Before we knew it, 30 people were swimming and cannonballing in the middle of the desert,” Nogues recalls. Ball adds, “A week later, locals were still exploring it. It had developed a mystique.” Its current state? On the way to becoming a hole in the ground.


buro happold: structural engineer. pendergrass trenching: excavation contractor. derouchey urethane creations: urethane contractor.

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