Charles Russell, or “Container Charlie,” founded East Jesus, a post-apocalyptic-looking place where junk is good because art can come from it.
In 2006 Russell came to Slab City with some cash, said Kat Bastard, the current caretaker of this camp. But exactly what Russell was trying to do by building East Jesus is unknown and there is no way to ask him.
Russell died last May from a heart attack at the age of 46.
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In the East Jesus blog that Russell kept, he described the camp as a “an experimental, habitable, extensible artwork in progress.”
Kat described East Jesus as a place of “responsible anarchism.” Here people have the opportunity to send unwanted art, he said, or take junk and make it into something that is pleasing to the eye. But there is an application process and the art has to fit the motif of the camp, Kat said.
The motif of East Jesus, as Joe A., a member of the crew, put it, is “a post-apocalyptic living in a pre-apocalyptic world.”
Cars decorated with bullets and e-waste, a bottle wall, a buried bus, a tower surrounded by barbed wire and a mammoth sculpture made from tires and other salvaged rubble are just some of the art on display free of charge.
More than nine artists have contributed to the so-called Sculpture Garden adjacent to East Jesus and the number keeps growing.
Anna Angio is one of the newest contributors. She’s using laughing gas bottles, roughly an inch in length, as material for a pyramid. So far she’s found and glued more than 1,400 bottles together, Angio said. “I’m going to keep working until I ran out” of bottles, she said.
The camp runs mainly on donations, Kat said, and team members are economically self- sufficient. About 11 people live in East Jesus, but only about half of them are members of the team, Kat said.
The crew is comprised of teachers, lab technicians and electricians, he said. The rest are hitchhikers or visitors looking to learn about solar energy and other traits, or contribute to the site while they travel, he said.
The camp seems to be reorganizing itself and establishing as an organization. Just last month the movement launched its site, eastjesus.org, and in the upcoming months, projects and collaborations are expected. One of them is an apocalyptic-themed party that may take place in the first part of 2012, said Kat.
The upcoming projects are food-related, at least for Kat, who is already working on growing tomatoes, spinach and other vegetables in bathtubs. “I’ve already done the research,” he said. The bathtub design keeps the drain free-flowing for the plants, he said.
So sustainability has a place in the camp’s dynamics as everything is reused, Kat said, including human waste. But when Joe went as far as saying that East Jesus is mainly about becoming a self-sustainable community, Kat corrected him.
“No we are not. We are trying to be here and do art,” Kat said.
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com