The wind is fierce in the San Gorgonio Pass, the narrow strip between the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains where there’s a field of 1,224 wind turbines. On Interstate 10, a gust knocked over a truck and its container blocked the westbound lanes. C. and I thought about the wind a lot as we toured Desert X, an exhibition of large-scale installations scattered around the margins of Palm Springs. We bowed our heads into 40-mile-per-hour gusts while we visited a chain-link maze and a headless, armless woman on a bucking horse.

Why does the wind leave us feeling so exhausted and harassed? I pondered this while we trudged into another howling gust to view an eerie ballet of mechanical bulls replaced by steel plates. C. said the wind tires us out because we use our muscles to brace against it. But I think the effects are more profound than struggling to remain upright, almost metaphysical, as if my life force is being blown away. C. stopped and looked at me, her hair whipping around her face. “So you think the wind is blowing away your ch’i?” Yes. It’s all over the Coachella Valley now.

No. 1225 Chainlink by Rana Begum
Searching for the Sky (While Maintaining Equilibrium) by Mario García Torres
Namak Nazar by Hylozoic/Desires

Just off 29 Palms Highway, a loudspeaker broadcasted a frantic chant followed by ritualistic drums. As we approached, a soothing voice unfurled a theory about a grain of salt that can heal our climate. It’s a fine rare thing to encounter a conspiracy aimed in a positive direction rather than the usual apocalyptic doom.

But the most compelling piece was an incidental moment rather than any piece of art, which is often the case. As we walked alongside the eastbound lanes of Interstate 10 to see a sculptural arrangement of shipping containers, we passed a billboard for Tattoo Mark’s Estate Sales. A 20-foot-tall man in a ball cap grimaced above the speeding traffic as if struggling to arrange his face to meet the chipper demands of advertising while maintaining the solemnity his trade requires.

Sleeping Figure by Matt Johnson

The tangled formation of shipping containers was a beautiful feat of scale and balance, although I wish it wasn’t arranged like a reclining person. The artist even drew a face. I’d rather see a mystery and imagine the kind of force that could produce such an uneasy arrangement. Perhaps a terrible wind. As I stood beneath the shadow of a cantilevered Chinese shipping container, I thought about the truck flipped over on the interstate. But mostly, I thought about Tattoo Mark moving through the homes of the dead.