Bombay Beach Biennale shakes up town at toxic Salton Sea

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You’ve probably heard of the Venice Biennale. How about the Bombay Beach Biennale?

This is offbeat art festival that just took place on the banks of the Salton Sea, the polluted artificial lake south of Palm Springs.

It is in its third year and it brings a mix of established artists and art world dabblers and partiers for a long weekend of all-night parties in abandoned houses.

The art consists mostly of installations in the spirit of Bombay Beach itself: lots of found materials, otherworldly creations that evoke the desert or even outer space, and what some might call "junk art." Some of the artists are also buying up property in Bombay Beach, sending up the prices.

So is all this a blessing or a curse for the local residents, whose median household income is less than $15,000?

Reporter Jennifer Swann visited the Biennale and talked with artists and Bombay Beach residents.

She found that some, like Louise Jones, felt “we have enough freaks in this town. We don't need any more.”

But Bombay Beach Biennale co-founder Stefan Ashkenazi says that “eight years ago you couldn't give a building away here.” He adds that the artists “are breathing life into a town that was was and still is literally dying.”

Acrobats posing near the shore of the Salton Sea. Photo credit: Jennifer Swann.