'Telemagica means 'far magic.' We're expanding as far as possible, to other planets, to other beings we can't see," says Kirk Roberts, cofounder of Telemagica, an annual arts-and-music festival in Jacumba. "For example, we needed a shade cover for the audience in front of the bands. But we don't just see this as a shade cover, we see it as a sculpture, so we commissioned a woman from Jacumba to sew the 60-foot by 60-foot shade covering, and [we told her] to be as free as possible [with design and color selection]. So from outer space, [the shade structure] will look like an undulating abstract painting suspended by painted telephone poles." On Friday, June 16, through Sunday, June 18, more than 20 bands and DJs will perform at an abandoned railroad station off Old Highway 80 for the third annual Telemagica festival. "We found this old railroad station out here with a warehouse; it was kind of a waste dump in disrepair for a number of years," says Roberts. "We cleaned it up and started the Institute of Perception."
The Institute of Perception, founded by Roberts and his wife, Noor Bar, offers a workspace for artists, musicians, and writers. Membership to the organization is $25 a year. The band Maxvend from Encinitas recently used the facility for one week to record their new CD. In exchange, members of the band will work the ticketing booth at the Telemagica Festival.
After obtaining an art degree in Pasadena, Roberts worked at the Exploratorium Art Museum in San Francisco. "[The museum] brings together artists and scientists as a vehicle where physicists studying light could be paired with artists [depicting] light," says Roberts. Bar, a graphic designer, owns a business designing websites and product packaging. The couple moved to Jacumba from Northern California to start their institute.
According to americansouthwest.net, "Jacumba is not signposted and has no facilities." The town is located at the southeast edge of San Diego County, along the northern border of Mexico. "Jacumba means 'hut by the water,'" explains Roberts. "In the 1920s Jacumba was where people from the valley came to get out of the heat. We're up at 3000 feet. El Centro is 40 miles away, at sea level, and is very hot."
At the center of town is the Jacumba Hot Springs Spa and Cabana Club, a resort that was popularized by vacationing Hollywood stars like Clark Gable. During the 1920s Jacumba's population was over 5000. In 1967 Interstate 8 was built, bypassing the town by two miles, and the population has steadily dwindled ever since. Roberts estimates that approximately 300 people currently reside in the area.
The only restaurant is the café at the spa, although, adds Roberts, "The Shell station in town has a Subway and sells small personal pizzas." Roberts knows of only one farm, on the east end of town. The farm grows organic spinach.
In a town where small three-bedroom homes often sell for under $250,000, the $12 an hour Roberts pays local teens to help around the old railroad yard goes far. "That's an extraordinary amount of money for Jacumba," he says.
Because of its proximity to the international border, Jacumba is frequented by Border Patrol agents. "They keep a very low profile in the community," Roberts explains. "[Agents are] mostly a rotation of young people in their 20s. We see them driving by from San Diego out to El Centro. I think they're kind of mystified about the location themselves. They're almost shy about their interaction with the [local] population."
Behind the Institute is Jacumba Peak, upon which nearly 30 stones mark a burial ground. "Because it has such a history, Jacumba can be a great tourist destination," Roberts insists. "There are sacred sites out there and artifacts like grinding stones and pottery."
Five hundred people attended Telemagica last year, but Roberts is expecting at least 1500 this year. Campers are asked to arrive self-contained. "It's a high-desert atmosphere, so people should have hats and sunscreen," Roberts suggests. "We'll have vegan food vendors, traditional Mexican food, and everything from sandwiches to desserts to coffee going all night in the lounge inside the warehouse." No alcohol will be sold, and campers are discouraged from bringing their own.
On Friday and Saturday nights, when the last live band packs up for the evening at around 1 a.m., a DJ will take over and continue until the first live band performs the following day.
Spoken word, acoustic music, performance art, and open mikes will be featured in the Institute Lounge Café. A "Perceptual Meditation Gallery" will contain the work of ten artists.
On a tribe.net message board, one camper who attended Telemagica last year wrote, "Be prepared for lots of heat and no sleep as they march at night chanting in search of space ships." -- Barbarella
Friday, June 16, through Sunday,
Institute of Perception
Railroad Street off of Old Highway 80
Cost: $10 per day (children 13 and under free)
Info: 619-766-9146 or www.telemagica.com