Desert Automation is a series of projects, completed works, and concepts. The work is manifested through various mediums and relates to performance and sound as it does to visual art and critical engagement. The project started in 2007 with a couple of interventions at the Sunrise Mountain recreational area.

Desert Automation a Project by David Sanchez Burr


Desert automations are a combination of interactive, kinetic, transformative and generative sculptural works that exist in pre-determined geolocations scattered on the interstitial boundaries of wild and urban ecologies. Sites are visited by chance encounter or through GPS coordinates. Each site is an incursion on the landscape and a modification of the intended terms of abandonment. The duration, condition, and activity of the the sculptures vary and transform according to predetermined processes. The project is a study of urban and social impacts on ecologies and draws new potential terms that can define usefulness and meaning to our interruptions in the landscape.


While working on several different projects in the desert southwest near the vicinity of area 51 and the Nuclear Test Sites. I habitually came across domestic appliances left abandoned in the scrub and creosote. This type of refuse in the desert is not unusual, it is analogous to the abandoned satellite and spaceships parts moving uncontrollably about our near space, they are also like asteroids in the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune, elements casted out of  organized systems. The discarded elements are superfluous and interject themselves within a prehistoric and ancient ecology that persists despite the damaging effects such intrusions create. The primary intent behind things left behind in the desert, to remove inoperable, damaged, or obsolete objects and place them in “nonintrusive” situations where they may disappear. The intent is where I draw my focus for Desert Automation projects. While the abandonment and subsequent decay of objects left to the wild is an alluring social and environmental subject to be studied and researched thoroughly, I wanted to start a project in which the intent could be shifted to change the pretext, impact, articulation and deterioration of objects left behind. The intent of abandonment can be changed to a purposeful realization of alternate systems of human interventions on landscape. A set of criteria was designed to highlight the purpose these new intrusions on the landscape. 


Must transform over time using controlled methods beyond environmental decay.
This can be accomplished through wind power, solar power, gravitational pull, material decomposition and corrosion.

The work must not only be transformative but also be actively doing so independently and without service or repair. 

The work should serve as a declared and intentional interruption of the landscape, while simultaneously serving as a contemplative and reflective moment for the viewer upon an encounter.

The location of the work can only be made available to the public by way of GPS coordinates, providing the possibility for both accidental encounter and purposeful expedition to remote sites.

The artist provides no documentation of the automation sites. Visitors will be the only source of video, sound, and still image documentation made available. 

Desert Automation Sites

So far only one desert automation site has been published in a location near Sunrise Mountain east of Las Vegas. The project is still undergoing meticulous study and sites will be published methodologically, considering variables: site expected life-cycles, materials decay studies, potential accidental destruction, vandalism or removal, meteorological effects and local, state and federal law ordinances.

Desert Automation Tests

Project documentation of desert automation has been made available through images and testing carried out over the course of several years, in some instances the documentation has created off shoots of work that has been exhibited.

Future Plans

Plans for further heightened research in regions outside of Nevada is important to the development of the project. Proposing these concepts and ideas in areas where both climatological and urban parameters differ from those in the southwest is important. The research could be continued through artist residencies, fellowships, visiting artist positions, and/or exhibitions that explore areas outside the traditional exhibition space.  

Links of Interest


Automation Test Documentation

The work of David Sanchez Burr can also be found here:

||   Projects  ||   About   ||   Contact Info   ||