The Art of Coachella– "CoachellArt!"

We see them all over Instagram and social media every year, but the art installations at Coachella are truly out of this world– and they deserve a lot more credit than a quick swipe!

Before more than 100,000 people descend on the Empire Polo Fields in Indio for 3 days of music, art, food, and who knows what else, the finishing touches were being applied to the festival’s main art installations. 

Coachella has gained a reputation as a “social media festival” or a big “dress up party,” which sometimes means the work that goes into it is overlooked. The art installations aren’t just designed to look cool on your Instagram feed, they represent a collection of work from artists all over the world, including the Coachella Valley. 

For years now, aside from the ferris wheel, the giant floating astronaut has become a symbol of Coachella. Created by Poetic Kinetics out of Los Angeles, the giant spaceman is meant to evoke the “overview effect” experienced by astronauts as the see the earth from space and are often overcome by a sense of unity and fragility. 

I had no idea the piece also included robotic elements that can control the limbs and fingers. Even the helmet’s visor can display the faces of festival goers and real astronauts at night! That means anyone can be the giant person towering over the crowd!

One of the most bizarre and fantastic installations is from duo “Dedo Vabo”, and features a team of hippos trying to complete a space launch. It’s not quite Space X, but as the artists explained, the performance aspect, with actual actors dressed as hippopotamuses inside the labs and control center makes it a different experience for everyone who sees it. 

And what journey through the California desert would be complete without cactus? The “Colossal Cacti” from Office Kovacs offer a lot of much-needed shade. Instead of spikes and thorns, each cactus is lined with road reflectors. 

And finally, there’s the Spectra (not named after the Kia SUV), created by UK-based design studio NEWSUBTANCE. This one has been around since last year, and in the off season, I’ve seen it just sitting in the field. I was really excited to get a chance to go inside, and even more excited to find out it’s air conditioned. Each glass panel is a slightly different color, which makes a dazzling- and slightly dizzying- effect. I can only imagine how some of the less-than-sober festival goers must feel when they go inside. 

From the top of the 70 foot structure, there’s a 360 degree view of the entire valley, which was a pretty awesome way to end the tour. I’ve never been to the actual Coachella Festival, and for today, it was more fun to imagine the place filled with thousands of people instead of actually having to deal with thousands of people.

But more importantly, it gave me a totally new appreciation for the artists and work that goes on behind the scenes. Maybe it’s worth more than just a quick scroll on a social media feed…