Meet the Desert X 2023 Co-curator Diana Campbell.
Desert X: Diana, you have an incredible international footprint as a curator, but we know you were raised in California. What do you find most compelling (or challenging) about developing an exhibition in the Coachella Valley?
Diana Campbell: I find it exciting, compelling, and also challenging to address the many histories that make up the changing landscape of the Coachella Valley that has inspired so many people, especially artists and architects, for such a long time. The desert is full of mythologies, ones that equip people with a strong will to survive in conditions some might think to be impossible, and this combination of tenacity through storytelling contributes to the important role of “the desert” in many cultures around the world. One of the many challenges of this project is not to over-romanticize this “tenacity” and to work with art, artists, and storytelling to address real problems (that are not just stories) facing humans and non-humans who live in the Coachella Valley today.
DX: Can you share with us some of the big questions or themes you’ve been exploring with artists as you develop the 2023 exhibition?
DC: How do we connect the specificities of the Coachella Valley to the wider biosphere, where resources and energy (as well as the negative externalities that come along with the use of resources and energy) flow across borders and impact parts of the world we may never see. I am inspired by water cycles, how water moves across solid, liquid, and gas states, and I hope that the show will help us imagine how our energy has a transference far beyond what we see just in front of us in our own localities in the here and now. How can art be an instrument of self-awareness, and help us sense our individual impact to understand the power of what that collective impact could be?
DX: What have been your favorite discoveries here in the desert over the last year?
DC: Thinking about flows of resources and tenacity and storytelling, I have been very inspired by the work of Temalpakh Farm in Coachella. In a similar way that I am interested in water cycles, I am interested in how resources flow from the Augustine Tribe’s casino into an organic farm aimed to promote sustainable lifestyles in the Coachella Valley. Healthy eating can be prohibitively expensive, and I am moved by how this initiative has an educational remit to revive and activate indigenous farming technologies and knowledges found in food culture to nourish the community today. This is just one of the many initiatives in the desert that speaks to how creativity can open up new possibilities for more fulfilling ways of living.
Diana Campbell is a Princeton educated American curator who has been working in South and Southeast Asia since 2010, primarily in India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. She is committed to fostering a transnational art world, and her plural and long-range vision addresses the concerns of underrepresented regions and artists alongside the more established in manifold forums. While she was born in Los Angeles, her maternal family being indigenous CHamoru from the island of Guam, her heritage inspires her curatorial practice which seeks to amplify the reach of indigenous voices.
Since 2013, she has served as the Founding Artistic Director of Dhaka-based Samdani Art Foundation, Bangladesh and Chief Curator of the Dhaka Art Summit, leading the critically acclaimed 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 editions and envisioning the upcoming 2023 edition. In addition to her exhibition making practice, Campbell is responsible for developing the Samdani Art Foundation collection and drives its international collaborations ahead of opening the foundation’s permanent home and community-based residency program at Srihatta, the Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park in Sylhet.
Concurrent to her work in Bangladesh from 2016 – 2018, Campbell was also the Founding Artistic Director of Bellas Artes Projects in the Philippines, a non-profit international residency and exhibition program with sites in Manila and Bataan, and curated Frieze Projects in London for the 2018 and 2019 editions of the fair. Her writing has been published by Mousse, Frieze, Art in America, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) among others.
Desert X 2023
March 4 – May 7, 2023
Coachella Valley, CA
Curated by Desert X Artistic Director Neville Wakefield and Co-curator Diana Campbell.
Read more about the exhibition here.