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Niklas Goldbach (Germany)

Land of the Sun

Land of the Sun was filmed in California City, California in November 2014. California City, which is the third largest city by area in the state of California, is located in the Mojave Desert. It was created in 1965 when real estate developer and sociology professor Nat Mendelsohn purchased 80,000 acres (320 km2) of Mojave Desert land with the aim of master-planning California’s next great city. He designed his model city, which he hoped would one day rival Los Angeles in size, around a central park with an artificial lake and a golf course.

Despite expectations, growth did not follow. Today a vast grid of crumbling paved roads covers huge stretches of the Mojave Desert. Intended to delineate residential blocks, the roads extend well beyond the developed area of the city. As of 2008, forty-three years after Mendelsohn bought the land, California City had a total population of around 14,000, clustered in a small town to the southwest of the empty grid. Free of human protagonists, the video focuses on the architectural leftovers of one of the world’s biggest failed urban planning projects.

The failure of the gigantic California City project reads like a prologue to the recent financial, real estate, and ecological crisis. Yet the city manager takes a positive view of future developments, pointing out that his city is located above a gigantic water reservoir. During the end of the video, we hear him say: “Now that California is in a drought, people will want to come where there’s a reliable water base — and California City has that to offer.”

Niklas Goldbach


Niklas Goldbach, born in Witten, Germany, lives and works in Berlin. After studying sociology at Universität Bielefeld and photography and video at the Fachhochschule Bielefeld (University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld), he earned a “Meisterschüler” degree at the Universität der Künste Berlin in 2006. In 2005 he received a Fulbright Grant for his studies in the M.F.A. program of Hunter College, New York. Goldbach has since received several other foundation grants, including the Stiftung Kunstfonds Bonn in 2010, Arbeitsstipendium Bildende Kunst des Berliner Senats in 2013, and Globalstipendiumdes Berliner Senats in 2014.

He has presented his works in numerous solo shows, group exhibitions, and festivals, at venues including the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Neuer Berliner Kunstverein; Cornerhouse, Manchester, England; National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany. His work can be found in several public and private collections, including the Manuel de Santaren Collection and the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation Collection,and those of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’art etd’histoire de Saint-Denis, Paris; Neuer Berliner Kunstverein; and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. Recently he was awarded with the Paula Modersohn-Becker Jubilee Award and the Dresden Award for Photography.

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