Has the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, long a bastion of high-priced fun-in-the-sun escapism, finally sharpened its political teeth? A few of this year's art installations would say yes, as Coachella during this election year doesn't seem to be going quietly into the cultural void.
Check "Besame Mucho" from R&R Studios in Argentina. The piece is a literal wall with its titular phrase spelled out in flowers, separating Coachella's food and drink fare from its concert stages, but also very much a symbolic one. The piece takes its name from Consuelo Velazquez's early 1940s pop standard, a song that captured the panic and passion of love during wartime. "Kiss me as if this night were for the last time," she sings in the track, a song that has been covered by the Beatles and Frank Sinatra, among others.
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Here at Coachella, the South American work stands in stark contrast to the current political climate, in which some of our presidential candidates discuss building a very real wall between the United States and Mexico. The song's message and title -- "Kiss me many times" -- makes it clear the Goldenvoice-produced Coachella is extending a hand to our Latin neighbors rather than locking them out.
That's not the only artwork on the grounds with a political bent.
"Katrina Chairs" from Cuba's Alexandre Arrechea looks functional from afar -- perhaps even like a giant statue of IKEA furniture. But get up close and it's unnerving, as the chairs are propping up cramped living quarters. They're above the ground, safe from Coachella's denizens, but it's hard not to think of the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, in which tens of thousands were left homeless as the area lacked such elevated infrastructure.
But will Coachella-goers take the time amid the revelry for a deep reading? That may be up to the musicians, and whether or not they'll aim to challenge an audience during an election year or placate it.