If you could create your own world, what would it look like? Would you build an artistic commune, ecological experiment or spiritual society?
For generations, people have journeyed to the West with their own visions of an idyllic society, ranging from the artistic communes of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Drop City, Colorado, to current architectural experiments like Arcosanti in central Arizona.
Imagine a World, a new, original exhibit now open at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, explores different takes on community attempted over the last half century in the West—and how some of these ideas have become part of society at large today.
First, explore the psychedelic communities of the late 1960s and early 1970s that sought to offer an alternative to capitalism, individualism and societal expectations. Delve into Biosphere 2, where in 1991 eight people sealed themselves into domes of glass for more than two years to create their own atmosphere, grow their own food and sustain life. While their experiment failed, Biosphere 2 remains a site of scientific inquiry and learning.
Oregon’s most famous, or infamous, intentional community–Rajneeshpuram, the subject of the Netflix series “Wild, Wild Country”—is also featured. In 1981, spiritual teacher Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his lieutenant, Ma Anand Sheela, selected a site in Wasco County, Oregon, for a planned community, embracing well-trodden narratives about an “empty” American West. Five years later, the community collapsed. Through objects and imagery, visitors will get a closer look at the Rajneeshees and the community they sought to create.
Imagine a World also shares the work of Native artists who envision alternative worlds and highlight Indigenous cultures thriving throughout space and time, known as Indigenous futurisms.
As the culmination of the exhibit, visitors may contribute what they believe should be included in an ideal society through an interactive, immersive experience.
Imagine a World will be open through September 25, 2022.