Andrea Zittel’s A-Z West: An artist’s commune for the 21st Century

Kylie Banyard


Andrea Zittel’s multi-disciplinary art practice has consistently revolved around designing and building prototypes answering to her longstanding fascination with the social construction of human needs and personal liberties. Her aesthetic and functional investigations have resulted in the production and exhibition of portable homesteads, campers, clothing, modular home furniture, human waste disposal units, carpets, weavings, animal breeding units, paintings on paper and wooden panels and drawings.


Zittel has established an ecologically sensitive and technologically innovative site responsive place to live and work. Like the actions of the back-to-the-land communards of the 1970s, she has chosen to inhabit the margins, in this instance, the area where the garden (high-desert wilderness) sits at the edge of the machine (the extremely large-scale suburban sprawl of Los Angeles). Despite her apparent longing for the romantic solitude of the desert, Zittel has set-up her desert outpost as a busy social configuration built around her internationally acclaimed artistic practice. Her unique conflation of art and life pulls other artists out of their urban environments inviting them to collaborate and learn about her experimental ways of living. This paper will discuss Zittel’s unique new century artists’ commune and examine why it might be perceived as neo-countercultural, and a social contract particularly attuned to contemporary times. The paper will illuminate how for contemporary artists across the globe Zittel represents a new breed of pioneer and the opportunity to spend time at her A-Z West property is a lived utopian art and architectural experiment for the world-weary arts worker.

Palabras clave

Contemporary art; Utopian imaginary; Artist commune; Contemporary commune; Utopian imagination based on the visual; Andrea Zittel; Felix Guattari.

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