Slab City

California USA, 1 October 2016

With Jeni Bate of Skyscapes for the Soul ..

(Click on any image for a larger view).

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

You may recall from the previous post that Leonard Knight, the creator of Salvation Mountain initially came to the nearby Slab City.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

Currently we are in the desert between Salvation Mountain and Slab City but the sculptures belong more to Slab City than Salvation Mountain.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

The more observant amongst you may notice some artistic differences in the style of the sculptures here as compared to Salvation Mountain.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

The materials used can be somewhat different too.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

It appears that cycling around in the desert may sometimes have been uncomfortable.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

There’s a conundrum here.  Is it a political statement, a sculpture or a theme park?

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

We are now in Slab City and the rows of bottles indicate boundaries for vehicles.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

Before there was Slab City, there was Camp Dunlap.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

This was a World War II military base, chosen for suitability for desert warfare training and proximity to San Diego.  It opened in 1942 and ran for three years.  By 1956 all the buildings had been removed but the concrete slabs they were built on remained.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

It’s reasonable to assume the array of sculptures wasn’t created by the Army in the 1940s to give a sense of normalcy to their soldiers.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

From the 1980s, people came to stay here.  Originally there were “snowbirds”, seasonal refugees from the cold northern winter, taking advantage of the concrete slabs as a place to park a mobile home.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

It has expanded to include artists, squatters, survivalists, people trying to escape and homeless people.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

The population is around 4,000 during winter months and 150 during the summer.  It is a harsh place to spend a summer.  In the hottest four months June to September, maximum monthly temperature is likely to be around 50ºC (122ºF) and maximum daily temperatures are likely to be around 40ºC to 42ºC (103ºF to 107ºF).

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

There is no electricity, running water, sewers or rubbish services provided by government.  There is also an absence of law enforcement, taxation or administration.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

So it might sound like a libertarian paradise and it is self-styled as “the last free place”.  Life must be hard for most of the people here though.  In recent years there has been an increase in drug use (particularly chrystal meth), theft and rubbish build-up.  Currently they are hiding out, closed to outsiders and trying to avoid COVID-19.  Many or most of them will have no health insurance and be unable to afford a doctor or even transport to see one.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

There are times when the light changes and an eerie glow descends over the area.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

This might be the Earth trying to fight back and defend itself from commercial exploitation and Climate Change.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

One might mistake it for the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse.  But it is due to permeation by future ghosts of the wealthy political figures who are currently striving to overwhelm Democracy by propaganda and legal manœuvres and end up here, despised by other residents and bereft of personal resources.

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