BFA4s go on a Field Trip!

CalArts Graphic Design BFA4s meet with the students of Art21 from Pomona College at the historic Llano del Rio site

Text by Inform Blog • Photos by Dameon Waggoner

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Early one cloudless and sunshiny, but surprisingly brisk Saturday morning, a group of Pomona College Art21 students and CalArts Graphic Design BFA4s converged at the ruins of Llano del Rio, loosely facilitated by Mark Allen and Gail Swanlund. The Llano site was home to a short-lived socialist utopian cooperative on the Pearblossom Highway in the Mojave Desert.

At this shadeless site, the Llano colony thrived for a time and became self-sufficient—raising crops, establishing a fish hatchery, and supporting a Montessori-like school, printshop, post office and dairy. The colony flourished and expanded, but soon, in-fighting, troubling and intolerant notions, dissent, and lack of access to water (and no doubt, the relentless roasting sun), led to the community’s downfall.

We strolled through the ruins, examining and speculating on the intents and one-time uses of the abandoned rubble: of rock walls, concrete slabs, tanks, chambers and orifices, an aqueduct, and a still-standing chimney. We mused upon more recent indicators of visitors, of flotsam and dregs of partying or just shooting things up, the enigmatic lone shoe, tremendous ant colonies, and wind-blown tracks of curious pilgrims and ghost town enthusiasts. The nearby power lines generated a hum that literally shook our hearts and provided a whirring drone soundtrack to this uncanny setting.

Over a multi-course typographic picnic prepared by Allen, the conversation circled around the topic of utopias, sustainable or completely gaga communities, the nature of collaboration, making serious and/or eloquent work. Seated on a once-interior slab of the former cooperative’s somewhat-haunted gathering-hall, our conversation may have been destined to loop back to the nurturing and cultivation of collaborative relationships. We ruminated on whether common language and proximity are necessary and essential; or if a willingness to allow for things and ideas to run wild; or to consider one’s work and ideas through a novel or unfamiliar filter, or by way of an unexpected and compelling expertise: what might constitute the framework for a magnificent collaboration? We made plans for, and eagerly anticipate, future outings and collaborative experiments. Stay tuned.

And of course, since we were out and about, we did stop for refreshing date shakes en route back to CalArts.