I’ve visited Djerassi Resident Artists colony before – and described it here and here. This year, however, I had an out-of-town engagement and couldn’t make it to the open house last weekend, so I had to read about it instead in the San Jose Mercury:
When he arrived at the Djerassi Resident Artists colony from Portugal, composer José Pereira Valente – whose home is in a bustling European city center – became enchanted with the fevered courting song of the male crickets outside his studio. “I got into this cricket stuff!” he says, his voice rising with excitement. “So I recorded the crickets. And then I started composing etudes around the crickets.”
Andrew Demirjian, who seeks to upend the linear quality of time in his video installations, settled into the media lab on the 582-acre Djerassi compound, and soon decided that summering in the Santa Cruz Mountains was for the birds. No, really. Since June, when he came to the former cattle ranch from New Jersey, he’s been recording the birds. In keeping with the time-shifting theme of his work, he plans to play back the songs of birds recorded at 5 p.m. one day to the 5 p.m. birds at the same spot the next.
“So they can have a conversation with their former selves,” Demirjian explains.
I didn’t know that the colony, modeled on such famous predecessors as Yaddo, is the oldest and largest one of its kind in the West. It was founded in 1979 by the renowned chemist, novelist, and playwright Carl Djerassi, the so-called “father of the pill” (I know… I know… it’s a contradiction), and its most recent residences have been dedicated to the memory of his wife, the biographer extraordinaire, Diane Middlebrook.
Worth a visit – but at your peril. Bruce Newman writes about it accurately in the Mercury:
To get to the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, you must drive to a point likely to make the usually soothing voice of a GPS device nervously warn that you have reached the middle of nowhere. If you come to rocker Neil Young’s gate, you’ve gone too far. As many as 10 artists make this journey for each of seven rotations that begin in spring and end in the fall. No children or spouses are permitted, and there is no TV. The artists who arrive for the next session will miss most of the 2012 London Olympics.