×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Inside Coachella’s Weirdest Art Installation: H.i.P.O.

I’m inside a circular facade with three people pulling hard on a flight suit and rubber mask to set me up to enter a makeshift control room on the Coachella field, where I’ll play a very frustrating version of Simon Says while fest-goers gawk from the field. It’s one of the oddest (and most confounding) gigs on the Coachella field: I’m a hippo in an eight-story art sculpture known as H.i.P.O., which looks like a space shuttle strapped together with tape and not much else.

(Photos: Marshall Vanderhoof) 

The massive installation stands apart from the rest of Coachella’s huge art structures in one major way: It’s the only project staffed with humans (dressed as hippos, natch), which makes it sort of a massive, interactive performance space masquerading as a static art piece.

On the inside, however, it’s clear that this is no haphazard operation. The structure is built to code — no worries about it capsizing — and each of the eight performance spaces (decked out to look like everything from experiment centers to mission control areas) has a stage manager to ensure both absurdity (in one room, plastic fruit flows through a hose at random intervals) and safety (there’s tons of safety protocol in place, including cool-air intake and emergency glass).

The art collective Dedo Vabo is behind the piece, and the hippo motif is familiar to longtime Coachella goers: One of the fest’s most iconic installations was a faux office building helmed by the river-faring creatures a few years ago. But the shuttle is their most ambitious project yet, with over 200 people, from Disney Imagineer designers to Hollywood costume designers responsible for making sure it’s staffed with inanity and insanity throughout the fest. Hippos do everything with abandon, from feasting on receipt paper to attempting to figure out launch sequences. The designers intentionally don’t explain how the stuff works — all the better for ridiculousness from the performers.

Above: Our fearless reporter in action (Photo: Jeff Miller)

But on the inside of the mask, some things become clear: these people are WORKING. It’s hot, it’s uncomfortable, and the little window you’ve got through the mouth makes it hard to see much of anything. Eventually, I give up, exiting the decked-out room into the all-business interior, opting to return into the scene in civilian clothes as a man on “safari.” But as my mask is being lifted off, the stage manager asks, “Did you have fun?”

“Of course,” I reply honestly. After all, I’m reminded of what the costumer told me as he was fitting me for my flight suit. “Once you become a hippo, nothing looks the same again.”

More Music

  • Fiddlin'

    Film Review: 'Fiddlin''

    Not many forms of music have “old-” actually built into their name as a prefix. So it’s a given that the practitioners of the 200-year-old genre known as “old-time music” will wear their antiquity proudly in “Fiddlin’,” a documentary set in and around the 80th annual Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va. What may not [...]

  • Beatles white album

    The Beatles to Release Limited Edition ‘Singles Collection’ Vinyl Boxed Set

    The Beatles’ last three years as an active band were their most prolific, with a whopping six albums of material and several singles released during that period (not including their solo and outside projects). Each album since 1967 has been met with a lavish boxed set, and next month the singles will get the same [...]

  • Despacito Luis Fonsi Daddy Yankee

    'Despacito' Tops Vevo's Most-Watched Videos of the Past Decade Chart

    In celebration of its 10-year anniversary, Vevo today announced its Top 10 lists of the decade’s most-watched music videos. Not surprisingly, the Most-Watched Music Video accolade goes to Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” (featuring Daddy Yankee), with 6.4 billion views since its release in early 2017. The second most-viewed video is Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” (featuring Bruno [...]

  • Bebe Rexha Drops Music Video From

    Bebe Rexha Drops Empowering Music Video From 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' (Watch)

    Bebe Rexha has dropped a video for her song “You Can’t Stop the Girl,” the female empowerment theme from Disney’s forthcoming “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” Directed by Sophie Muller, the music video features scenes of Rexha reimagined as Maleficent and wandering through the film’s fantasy landscape, leading a marathon of women and snippets of the [...]

  • Sir Elton JohnElton John AIDS Foundation

    Recappin' Fantastic: The Most Fascinating Reveals From Elton John's Memoir

    How charming, and jaw-droppingly candid, is Elton John’s memoir, “Me”? Consider this: It’s a 350-page book that’s not so overly caught up in sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — which, to be sure, it supplies in roughly equal, copious amounts  — that it won’t take a time-out to recount the party where Elton made [...]

  • Billie eilish

    Live From Hollywood: SiriusXM Unveils New West Coast Complex, Domination Plan

    It’s early on a Monday morning in Hollywood, and Howard Stern is sitting behind a desk sipping hot water in the airy revamped performance space of SiriusXM’s glistening new West Coast digs. The 26,000-square-foot studio on Sycamore Avenue is appropriately located for the self-proclaimed King of All Media — in the heart of the Media [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content