When a friend let it slip to me a few months ago that Desert Hearts would be bringing their City Hearts Tour to Salt Lake in collaboration with New World, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’ve been to almost every New World show since their beginnings in the Photo Collective back in 2014. I’ve seen them grow from an ambitious group of artists to a thriving garden of collaboration, responsible for culminating an entire culture within our underground. I had not, however, been to any Desert Hearts event—their legacy was something I held high on a pedestal as an event I wanted to go to some day. Their parties are legendary, their artists are legendary and their style is, well—legendary. Never would I have thought that my humble friends at New World would be the reason I end up playing the slapping game (ask me what that is) at 3:30 in the morning in an old church with one of the founders of Desert Hearts, Mikey Lion. As a resident Salt Lake party girl, trust me when I say that party was one of the best.
Walking into Church & State on Friday, the original New World art was set up dead center of the room, with the City Hearts Tour stage directly under the massive stained-glass window that remains the only sign that the venue used to be a church. Still a place of worship but now for different reason, the room was filled with passion exuding from every member of the crowd. The dancing crowd would make room for a hoop performer while a painter stood to the side with an easel set up, passionately slapping acrylic on a fresh canvas as a group of people behind him experimented with the VR technology that was hooked up to various flat screens around the venue. The intersection between art and technology isn’t something new to New World, as their art installments have featured cutting edge technology with lasers, video-mapping and even a heartbeat monitor attached to “The Auric Heart,” a piece that was created for Lunar Transit in May. However, the juxtaposition of man and machine was a reminder that, in an age of technology, we’ve taken the opportunity to use it in our own advantage to expand our artistic ability. The event, though much different, was reminiscent of the Manus x Machina collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and provoked a similar thought—that the intersection of the hand and the machine can be a beautiful thing.
As I noticed just how many mediums were being covered in this small room, fire spinners began throwing poi outside of the building to an enthusiastic crowd and the Desert Hearts crew took the stage. What sets groups like Desert Hearts and New World apart from many large-scale productions or collectives is the lack of pretension between their contributors and their guests. What would otherwise be off-limits to the general crowd became all-access as guests were not only permitted to walk on and offstage as they pleased—but they were handed a sign or totem and given a hug as soon as they did so. Within minutes, 20 people were dancing onstage behind Lion as the crowd danced like I rarely see a crowd dance in Salt Lake.