A Transparent Cabin of Wood and Mirrors on a Desert Landscape
In Joshua Tree, California, artist Phillip K Smith III revealed his light based project, Lucid Stead. Composed of mirror, LED lighting, custom-built electronic equipment and Arduino programming amalgamated with a preexisting structure, this architectural intervention, at first, seems alien in context to the bleak landscape. Upon further viewing, Lucid Stead imposes a delirious, almost spiritual experience.
Like the enveloping vista that changes hue as time passes, Lucid Stead transforms. In daylight the 70-year-old homesteader shack, that serves as the armature of the piece, reflects and refracts the surrounding terrain like a mirage or a hallucination. As the sun tucks behind the mountains, slowly shifting, geometric color fields emerge until they hover in the desolate darkness. This transformation also adapts personal perception, realigning one’s sensory priorities. A heightened awareness of solitude and the measured pace of the environment is realized.
Q: How did you come up with this idea?
I’ve owned this 5-acre property for about 9 years. I would come up several times a year to visit the shack and to spend time out in the raw of the desert. It was only about 8 months ago or so that I finally decided that it was time to do something on the property. And so, when I sat down to draw what I wanted to create, I drew what you see at Lucid Stead almost immediately. The idea had been slowly brewing for 9 years unconsciously. When it was time to conceptualize the project, I knew exactly what it wanted to be.
Q: How is the project powered?
Hot Purple Energy in Palm Springs donated a 6-panel solar array. This was a really important aspect of the overall project. I worked hard to ensure that there were no visible connections, no screws, nothing that explained clearly how the project actually existed. This allowed the experience to be very pure. The energy source of the lighting was part of this. I didn’t want the hum of a generator to pull you away from the purity of the experience. Solar not only ensured efficient, clean energy, but, most importantly for this project, quiet energy.
Q: What is on the inside of the shack?
Lucid Stead is an exterior experience. At the interior of the shack are the custom built electronic boards and Arduino with custom programming that sets the pace of the color change and the particular movement from specific color to specific color.
Q: Was the shack existing?
Yes. When I purchased the 5-acre property, it came with the existing shack. It is believed to have been built in the 1940’s as a homesteader shack. The project has really been a collaboration with the 70 year-old structure. The splitting wood, the bent nails, the dimensions of the openings are all untouched.
Q: What do you intend to do with the shack?
Building a project of this scale, as the artist, you have particular expectations. You hope this or that experience will happen as planned…or that a particular effect will be revealed as intended. With “Lucid Stead,” I can say that all of my expectations were met and they were also far surpassed. Entire projects and new concepts have been revealed to me. So, to answer the question…my intent is to study what I have made. It is my goal to spend time with the project and to document it fully through photography, drawing, writing, and other methods. This is much of the reason why I have decided to rent a property just a ˝ mile from Lucid Stead, which will be my Joshua Tree studio outpost for the next year.
Q: Will there be more Lucid Steads?
While inquiries from various institutions might warrant the purchase, moving or reconstruction of “Lucid Stead,” I am not interested in creating duplicates of this project due to its site specific nature in the desert of Joshua Tree. With this said, there are “Lucid Stead”-based concepts that could be carried to new sites that could inform new, site specific installations. Whether that next project is a 20’ high x 8’ wide mirrored surface that becomes a hovering plane of light or a converted shack on Martha’s Vineyard that employs corten and plate glass, that is yet to be defined. Ultimately, I am interested in furthering the concepts of “Lucid Stead” via the specifics of new locations across the globe.