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What Did You Do on Summer Vacation? Part Two—Wendover Walk

Part two of our summer vacation: a desert performance.

After leaving St. George (where the used bookstore in town was definitely a locals-only attraction), we headed up to Wendover, right on the Nevada border and west of the Great Salt Lake and the massive salt flats. Wendover is a haunted, decaying place on the Utah side of the border where the mostly abandoned Wendover Air Base has a small museum, and the (amazing) Center for Land Use Interpretation has an artist residency program and a small gallery. From 1940-1943 it was the largest military installation in the world as the training ground for the atomic bombs drops on Japan. Now it’s made up of crumbling barracks filled with birds’ nests, walls pock-marked with bullet holes from military training, and a kind of cemetery of impenetrable concrete bunkers that seem to have not been opened for years. Some of it is being renovated for historical purposes (including the hangar where the Enola Gay was housed), while other parts of the base have been converted for commercial use to ferry “high rollers” (who goes to Wendover to gamble?) to the Nevada side of town—where the casinos are the tallest buildings for at least a couple hundred miles.

We met up with William Wylie, a photographer and a professor at University of Virginia, his colleague Grace Hale (who teaches History and American Studies at UVA), and the group of students they took on a two-week road and camping trip to visit Land Art sites across the Western U.S. They were happily recruited to take part in this temporary art work in the middle of the desert.

“Wendover Walk” is part of Richard Kraft’s ongoing 100 Walkers series of performance and installation works in which walkers wearing sandwich boards and bowler hats move through the city or landscape, creating incongruities with their surrounding environment. The sandwich boards do not advertise a product or an ideology; instead, they use words and images drawn from a large set of taxonomies (land and cityscapes, appropriated images from children’s books, images of taxidermied animals, photographs of sky, clouds, airplanes, and helicoptors, portraits of people at Speaker’s Corner, 17th century London street calls, sound words from comic books, etc., etc.) that disrupt and alter the frame in which to see the everyday world. Performances have previously taken place in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, London, just outside Little Sparta in Scotland, and along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria.

This walk differed from others in that rather than following a linear route, the walkers used the desert as a kind of stage and followed unseen labyrinthine routes within it as if hemmed in by borders in this incredibly vast and empty space. It took place on the southwestern edge of the Wendover Airbase.

The performers were Christina Avalos, Quincy Darbyshire, Luis de Roux, Helena Groves, Grace Hale, Maeve Hoyt, Julia Loman, David Morales, Mitch Oliver, Elise Sokolowski, Courtney Springer, and William Wylie. (I photographed the piece while Richard videotaped it.)

—Lisa Pearson




All images copyright Richard Kraft and Siglio Press, 2012.

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