REMOTE TYPE | EAST JESUS, CA
Updated: Jan 23, 2020
The community of East Jesus was named so because, well, it's in the middle of no where. Surrounded by unfriendly terrain, the people living here have figured it out. Organic farming, composting, sustainable building methods, and solar energy keep the site operating for artists and visitors alike. According to their website, "East Jesus encourages visitors to imagine a world without waste in which every action is an opportunity for self-expression."
While I visited to appreciate the Art Garden, there are artists who live there full and part time. A massive collection of 'trash' and other found materials, known as The Boneyard, is open to any artist who sees potential to use it. As a casual guest, there are a few rules. As a creator who plans on staying longer, there is a list of rules one should read on their website before arrival.
East Jesus is managed by The Chasterus Foundation (a 501(c)3 non-profit). While many residents of Slab City are considered squatters, the people of East Jesus are raising money to buy the land they live on in order to protect the community and the art collection.
SOME TRAVEL NOTES:
- Location: East Jesus is a part of Slab City. It may seem like you're driving through an unorganized array of tents and trailers, but your GPS will lead you right to the parking lot if you type in 'East Jesus'.
- Come Prepared: Since it is so remote, I would bring snacks, water, extra camera batteries, enough gas in your tank, and an empty bladder (unless you're cool with outhouses).
- Take a Tour: I believe you can ask for a tour upon arrival, but if you want to request a private tour, contact them ahead of time using the email on their website. I did not realize this was a possibility, and therefore I did not partake.
- Consider Donating: You can donate money online, or in the donation boxes on site. Another useful way you can support this community is by visiting the "Needs" section of their website. The term "Assorted Piles of Crap" is literally on their list. If you're going to go out there to take sweet Instagram photos, you might as well make some friends by donating those old Christmas lights or empty liquor bottles you've been displaying on your kitchen cabinets (college, amiright?).
East Jesus | Entrance Location
E. Jesus Road, Niland, CA 92257
East Jesus was established by Charlie Russell in early 2007. Upon entering the gates, I was greeted by Mopar the Wizard (actually a person) who tells you the rules. I was a little surprised to hear they have Wifi and subsequent social media pages you can follow.
Charles Russell, 2001-2010
There are a lot of decorated cars all around East Jesus (see some pics below). I was so happy and excited to see one covered with letters! It is a mobile bar/altar/temple/office/home, built by East Jesus founder Charles Russell himself. The layers and meticulous detail covering this piece makes you search for hidden meanings and stand in awe of his creative thought process.
"Nothing Ever Happens"
This 1984 Big Brother Dystopian-looking wall greets you at the entrance -- perhaps to remind you that all of this is temporary, or that no one and everyone is watching, or that we're a collection of our memories and our realities are abstract wisps of events that no one can fully understand besides ourselves. It's fine.
Stop Dolphin Violence
Quite a lot to unpack here (because suitcases) but this piece had me thinking, 'what? why?'. At first, 'Stop Dolphin Violence', yes I agree with that stance. Then you read "Cuban Dolphins killed Kennedy and Jesus" and "Dolphin farts are more toxic than car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and coal fired power plants combined". So, we're not actually talking about dolphins right?
Tower of Barbarella
Royce Carlson (and other contributing artists)
This piece of art has everything: intricate patterns, shiny mosaics, BDSM mannequins, outdated musical technology, complete with a dangling nail chair and goose head chandelier. It dominates the area, towering over the smaller pieces and demanding attention from every angle. The kinetic sculpture on top creeks slightly in the breeze. Let its' outrageousness pull you in.
The TV Wall began with 15 TVs and continues to be a work in progress. It makes one think about TV (the media, etc. etc. etc.) and the messages it pushes on you daily. As someone who hasn't had real cable for nine years (re: poor college life + invention of Netflix), when I do watch TV it stresses me out. Like a lot. What's with all this NOISE? Every show has an agenda, every commercial is using collective information to trick me into thinking I need to buy something. Whether or not I agree with those agendas, it's exhausting. No wonder people are mad all the time. We absorb so much information but as a society take no time to collect and identify our thoughts. It's a whole lot of Blah, Blah, Blah.
That was my horrible segue into talking about Ke$ha for a hot second. Her music video for "Praying" was partially filmed in East Jesus (including the TV Wall) and Salvation Mountain (blog post coming). I enjoyed seeing how she interpreted the pieces and used them in her own form of self expression.
In design school, our professor encouraged us to watch as many music videos as possible. They are compact 2-3 minutes of expressive, immersive and emotional, storytelling. This song was obviously very emotional for her and the East Jesus + Salvation Mountain settings provide a raw and beautiful backdrop to the song.
Non-Typography Based Artwork