The Power Station - Coachella
The Power Station was commissioned by The Coachella Music and Arts Festival in 2013, the largest of its kind in the world. It marked the first absurdist, performance-based installaion that the festival has comissioned since it began in 1999. The concept involved an elaborate electrical power station that was beng run solely by giant hippopotamuses.
The structure itseld spanned over 360 square feet with multiple smoke stacks that soared over 32 feet high and pumped clean, white steam into the desert sky. The power station was designed from the ground up to be a theatrical shadow box, with 1/4 of the retaining walls being constructed out of transparent materials to allow a voyeurs to gaze at the madness occurring within. The roof of the power station was lined with three, active tesla coiuls, each standing 4 feet tall, that sent actual arcs of lightning into the night sky at regular intervals. Three 7 foot tall Jacob's ladders, housed inside clear, acrylic columns below the awning, created high voltage arcs of electricity that traveled upwards along copper tubes into the awning above. An array of 10 foot satellite dishes panned the night sky along the perimeter of the structure along with the two largest, dueling tesla coils in the world.
On a hot summer night in August 2011, residents at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles began reporting bizarre disturbances on the bottom floor. Metal pipes banging together, glass breaking, electricity arcing through the air, and of course, the sound of horrendous grunting mixed with the gnashing of powerful molars. These sounds breached the concrete walls and floors of The Cecil Hotel and became a staple of the establishment for over a year. Little did the residents know, they were witnessing a scientific discovery that would change everything we know about science, aquatic mammals, and evolution.
"The Hippopotamus Problem" began as an experiment developed by amateur scientists Vanessa Bonet and Derek Doublin. In an attempt to shed their dark past, The Cecil Hotel (located in downtown Los Angeles), donated a store-front space they were using as a display for mock hotel rooms. This room featured a solid glass wall that allowed pedestrians on the street to view the interior of the space. With a team of skilled researchers, the scientists took over the room and installed a large "supercomputer" consisting of monitors, levers, light-up buttons, wires, and circuit boards. Additional computers, laptops, and numerous other vintage and outdated technology were also installed into the room.
The goal of the experiment was to learn more about the modern hippopotamus and whether or not, when released into a room of electronics, they could complete some sort of useful task.
In 2012, the first bloat of pygmy hippopotamuses, dressed in fine tailored business suits, were released into the room. Once released, researchers were astonished to find that the hippos began working furiously on the computers and machines as if operating these devices was second nature.
The Hippopotamus Problem at the Cecil Hotel was a scientific experiment originally created as a single event in August 2011, but became so hugely popular that it was asked to stay indefinitely by the hotel management. Both the LA Weekly and Sunset Magazine wrote articles about the hippopotamus problem and the performances continued every month until February 2012. Crowds grew so dense that they poured into Main Street resulting in the LA Fire Marshall threatening citations if the experiment continued to draw such large crowds.
The hippo hotel
The Corporate Headquarters marks the largest and most successful installation Derek has built to date. Created in collobaration with Vanessa Bonet, this piece received glowing reviews from the press and made the front page of the LA Times where it was claimed to have upstaged the festival's headliner, AC/DC. It was also featured in Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, KCRW's NPR, LA Weekly and on NBC. Some of those glowing reviewes can be found here:
"(All the art out there is) interesting, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had been much more impressed by the installments of past years. That is, until I saw something called "The Corporate Headquarters" by Derek Doublin and Vanessa Bonet." - NBC
"The evening's headliners, AC/DC, had a hard act to follow and would eventually prove tame in comparison." - LA Times
"Best Art Installation at Coachella" - Rolling Stone
Rising over 3 1/2 stories or 38 feet tall, the Corporate HQ is a realistic, mock office building with 3 functioning floors and a full-size Jet Ranger helicopter on the roof. Each floor acts as a stage, displaying rooms one may find in an average, corporate office. The first floor is divided into 3 rooms: The Security Room, Filing Room and The Mail Room. The second floor is made up of a single, large office pool filled with desks, cubicles and a 10' wide stock ticker on the wall which displays the market's current vegetable prices. The third floor makes up the CEO's posh lair where he paces about, smoking his cigar, eating money and relishing his power. The heirarchery of the workforce and the division between social classes is separated by each floor.
Inside the Corporate Headquarters you will find a different type of employee. The building is staffed with over 150 performers dressed in realistic hippopotamus costumes and business suits. Inside the structure these hippos eat and destroy files, burn 1099's, shred money, smash fax machines, stomp on printers and take naps under the water cooler.
The structure itself was built utilizing 20' shipping containers, modified, stacked on top of each other and then skinned with over 2,500 panels of faux boxwood grass panels. A team of 30 crew members contributed their expertise to the success of The Corporate Headquarters including engineers from Boeing and Tech Shop.
The installation was rigged with a variety of high tech gimmicks and gadgetry. Over 75 security cameras were installed to monitor the audience in true NSA fashion. A Xerox machine was installed inside a copy room and rigged to continusouly spew out paper until the room was completely filled up to the brim. A red service phone was placed outside which allowed spectators to contact the hippo employees working inside the structure (after navigating a frustrating automated customer service menu system). A battery powered office chair mounted onto continuous tread allowed the CEO to drive his chair around like a tank. Desks and file cabinets were outfitted with high powered fans so anytime papers were placed inside, they immediatly blew out. Holes cut into the ceilings and floors allowed a single rope and pully to pass a bucket full of vegetables, money and broken dreams between each subsequent floor.
The CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS - Coachella 2015
The Corporate Headquarters was the result of the combined collaboration of a variety of skilled artists and technicians
along with a plethora of volunteers.
Our core crew members are listed below:
Derek Doublin - Creator
Vanessa Bonet - Creator
Chris Stockton - Head Builder
Steven Lassovszky - Electronics & Lead Special FX
Dave Slodki - Lighting Designer
Chris Wagganer - Audio/Video
Teale Hatheway - Exterior Design
Terry Sandin - Visual FX
TJ Lewis - Visual FX
Stosh Machek - Camp Manager
Suzanne Bernell - Stage Manager
Randy Montano - Signage
Antonio Perez - Production Assistant
Stephanie Guerra - Production Assistant