Doug Wheeler’s “PSAD Synthetic Desert III, 1971” at The Guggenheim

PSAD Synthetic Desert III belongs to a yet-to-be-realized series of installations conceived by Doug Wheeler during the late 1960s and ’70s. In each work, the architectural modification of an existing room allows the artist to achieve subtle manipulations of light, space, and sound. These changes create a “semi-anechoic chamber” designed to suppress all but the lowest levels of ambient sound. Secondarily, the room’s lighting and configuration induce an optical impression of infinite space. The Guggenheim installation, produced in close collaboration with the artist, will be the first time Synthetic Desert—or any work in this series—has ever been completed and shown.


Interviews conducted by the Guggenheim with Wheeler have clarified his ambitions forSynthetic Desert, including what kind of sensory experience he hopes to create and how that experience reflects on consciousness—on our subliminal awareness of optical and acoustical properties of space in the natural world. The concept of Synthetic Desert is partly drawn from psychological and neurophysiological experiments in sensory deprivation that date back to midcentury. Yet Wheeler also compares the impact of the work to his own experience of a specific location in the Arizona desert, where near-silent conditions profoundly influence the visual sensation of distance.

Start Date

March 24, 2016

End Date

August 1, 2017


10:00 AM - 05:45 PM


Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Ave, New York, NY

Event Type


More Information

The Guggenheim

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