Desert Island is an experimental festival in search of futures worth inhabiting.
Held in Ajo, Arizona, an ex-mining town in the borderlands of the Sonoran Desert, our event includes:
Films, performances, and discussions by day.
Live music and jollification under the stars by night.
Targeted “Moonshot” projects launched by group imagination.
In the tradition of all great castaway tales, Desert Island temporarily removes us from the stream of daily life and invites us to reflect on where we’re going.
We know that powerful tentacles of greed, apathy, oppression, technophilia, narcissism, and other draining forces have been quietly slithering into our future, preparing to distract us from its infinite possibility and code it with proprietary operating systems that turn life into revenue streams. What can a creative community do to mitigate these influences, introduce some utopian optimism into the mix, and help save our souls in the process?
We must declare the future our most precious resource. It must be protected and allowed to flourish, unpolluted, unbranded, uncolonized, open to all - like a national park of time.
Our gathering is loosely framed by four questions:
1) How do we define reality?
2) Who do we want to be in the future?
3) What do we lose in exchange for so-called gains?
4) What can we do to spark new trajectories for our future?
This just in: Looming crises of inequality, ecology, ethics, technology, education, health, and imagination, etc., imperil our future.
Desert Island delves into these issues and looks for innovative ways to undo the anxiety they cast over our perceptions of what’s to come.
Creative people have always played an indispensable role in conjuring moods, visions, and solutions for futures we might actually want to emulate and live in.
Oscar Wilde said that the fog in London did not exist until the painters and poets invented it. When imaginations stir, new realities appear. Life imitates art.
The gathering is a temporary autonomous zone, a shared imaginary space for summoning new myths, metaphors, and meanings for life on earth.
Over time, we will become a seed bank for visionary expressions and trajectories made by people who work from inspiration, awareness, and concern.
Desert Island invites artists and thinkers to play with broad ideas and focused actions. We recognize universalism in a world that covets specialization. We see the forests as we work among the trees and try not to let the mysterious anchors of our existence (time, reality, consciousness, etc.) get normalized in the daily grind.
One of the best uses of art is to break the spell of our hypnosis. To pull us out of our immersion in the veneer of civilization and remind us that we are tiny animals spinning in an endless ocean of subatomic particles. From this humble bird’s-eye perspective, the imagination reels. ‘Reality’ becomes a mad pantomime stuck in a default mode of dutiful repetition. We see clearly how bad actors and well-intended obsessives exploit these illusions and reduce life to petty subserviance.
Have courage, the world is not as we pretend or wish it to be. Imagination and zeitgeist conjuring are the keys to a better future, technology and economies are just tools, not the ends we have confused them for. Let the military-industrial complex plod on, it’s the reality-imagination complex that is calling us to resuscitate the big picture. And that job calls for some wildly creative messaging.
Doing our part, Desert Island appoints micro-NASAs to create visionary “Moonshot” projects. These are playful, provocative awareness campaigns, media, and artworks, designed to boldly exist in public and send strong reminders that our future is, indeed, open wide.
As an older example, take Lennon & Ono’s “War is Over” billboards, which appeared in twelve countries in 1969. It would be foolish to think that these signs actually ended the Vietnam War, but in the cosmos of the public imagination, the right good message exerts its own gravitational pull. That counterforce is enough.
Finding the right good message is the purpose of our event. Join us in Ajo!
Ajo’s ambiance is a surreal collage of real things…
the serene intensity of the surrounding desert
striking architecture and urban planning
an undivided tri-national community
hot days, beautiful balmy nights
closed open-pit copper mine
the stampeding javelinas
the wall, the border
Please check back as we announce dates and guests.
Ticketing & Housing info coming soon...
The town of Ajo is the venue.
Hot days, warm summery nights.
A dot in the desert ocean, Ajo is still bigger than you think.
Most events and lodgings are located in the town's core historic center.
Some events will happen on the outskirts of town. Free shuttles will be provided.
There will be several housing choices - hotels, home rentals, safari tents, camping.
Remember: We are visitors in Ajo, a free-spirited, industrious community that has graciously welcomed us into their home. (Be a good guest!)
Desert Island Playlist
Founder & Creative Director
Desert Island is produced by Sound & Vision
and is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) event, thanks to fiscal sponsorship from
Desert Island Logo: Brian Steely
Desert Island "Cacti by Night"painting: Laura Garcia Serventi
Ajo Plaza photo: Bill Perry