On the eastern edge of the dying Salton Sea and an hour north of the Mexican border lies Bombay Beach, a trailer park of a town that died decades ago but who’s eclectic collection of residents somehow keep the lights on. The beach is pulverized bone, baked to a crust in the California sun. It smells of rotting fish and gasoline. Think botulism. Think Book of Eli. It’s hard to believe a place like this actually exists.
What’s most fascinating about Bombay Beach is that it has become home to an art festival called the Bombay Beach Biennale. In the spring of 2018, over a hundred artists descended on this 10-by-10 block town and transformed it into a cultural destination, complete with a drive-in, opera house (dilapidated house), and Institute of Particle Physics, Metaphysics & International Relations. What they left behind is a suspiciously fitting collection of installations that complete the town’s image. In Bombay Beach, the line between art and toxic decay has become completely blurred.
Bombay Beach is a nostalgic place where art imitates life.
Unfortunately, the ecological disaster called the Salton Sea continues to shrink, ever concentrating in salinity and tilapia. Make the trip if you can. One day, the town might cease to be and that would be a shame because Bombay Beach is also a place where art enhances life.
By: Scott Acker