Friday, June 09, 2017

From the Desert to the Sea: The Desolation Center Experience

LA people interested in underground events and the history of alternative culture should hie over to San Pedro on Saturday June 17th for this exhibition about the legendary Desolation Center desert festivals of the mid-Eighties, followed by live performances later that night from Mike Watt, 100 Flowers (nee Urinals) and Saccharine Trust.

Those LA people ought also hie themselves thither a second time the following Saturday June 24th for a panel discussion on Underground Events from the speakeasy days to Merry Pranksters to early Burning Man. Line-up includes John Law (Cacophony Society, co-founder Burning Man), Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag/SST), Rev. Al (Cacophony Society,) Skylaire Alflevgren (Fortean journalist) and Jack Sargeant (underground historian).

Press release: 

June 17–July 30, 2017
Opening reception Saturday, June 17 from 6–9 p.m.

Before the era of Burning Man, Lollapalooza and Coachella, Desolation Center drew punk and industrial music fans to the far reaches of the Mojave Desert for the first of five events, "Mojave Exodus," in April of 1983. Traveling by rented school bus, hardy devotees journeyed to witness events that the LA Weekly described as being like “some bizarre ritual at the end of the world.” A seafaring music expedition launched from LA Harbor in San Pedro led the LA Reader’s Chris Morris to declare it had “opened a new window in my head.” These surreal guerrilla shows featured site-specific performances by Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Redd Kross, Saccharine Trust, Savage Republic and Swans, and paved the way for the mega-festivals that have become a crucial part of music and alternative culture in the 21st century.

Cornelius Projects pays tribute to Desolation Center’s pioneering vision with an exhibition featuring painting, photography, sculpture, video and ephemera. Participating in the show are Desolation Center alumni Mike Watt, Curt and Cris Kirkwood, Mark Pauline, Raymond Pettibon, Anthony Ausgang, Kristine Kryttre, John Tottenham, Joe Baiza, Ann Summa, Dave Markey, Bruce Licher, Naomi Petersen, SPOT and more. Images from the exhibition will be featured in Stuart Swezey's documentary Desolation Center (, slated for release next year.

is co-curated by Laurie Steelink, Stuart Swezey, Craig Ibarra and Mariska Leyssius. Readings, panel discussions, live music performances and rarely seen underground films and videos will be presented during the run of the exhibition. A schedule is forthcoming.

Cornelius Projects is a space dedicated to promoting culture and art in San Pedro, CA. During the exhibition Cornelius Projects will be open Thursday through Sunday from 12–5 pm or by appointment.

Stuart Swezey (Desolation Center/Amok Books)