Doug Aitken’s ‘Mirage’: a funhouse mirror for the age of social media

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Doug Aitken's 'Mirage': a funhouse mirror for the age of social media
“Mirage,” an art installation by Doug Aitken that overlooks Palm Springs, takes the form of a mirrored ranch house.

Most visitors to “Mirage,” an installation by the artist Doug Aitken on a hillside overlooking the Coachella Valley, leave wondering about the traction their pictures of the supremely photogenic project are getting on social media — at least if their posture, bending intently over their phones as they trudge back to their cars, is any indication.

I left wondering about the boulders. OK, checking my phone — I’m not superhuman — but also wondering about the boulders.

“Mirage” is one of 16 artworks scattered around the Coachella Valley as part of the inaugural Desert X, a contemporary-art festival organized by curator Neville Wakefield. It takes the form of a single-story ranch house in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains that is wrapped inside and out in mirrored surfaces. From certain angles it disappears almost completely into the landscape it endlessly reflects.

The piece is located in a high-end residential subdivision that is among the last major undeveloped parcels of hillside land in the valley. Though most of the Desert X pieces will come down at the end of April, “Mirage” will remain open through the end of October.

It is the most architectural of the Desert X offerings, though pieces by Gabriel Kuri, Sherin Guirguis and Richard Prince come close. As ever, vernacular and generic architecture remain an irresistibly convenient vessel for contemporary artists.

Aitken describes “Mirage” as a study of the relationship between the architecture of the typical suburban ranch house (and its forebears, including residential designs by Frank Lloyd Wright and others) and the natural landscape that it both relies upon and threatens to destroy. […]