Ever since I heard of Slab City — a self-governed community located in the middle of the desert in southern California — I’d been curious as to what living here was really like. It’s been described as “the last free place in America” because there are no rules and no laws. I’d always heard that it’s a bunch of squatters, hippies, and homeless people. I spent a night here and learned that, although this is partially true, many Slabbers are also just your average, everyday people, simply wanting to get away from it all.

All photos by Jessica Devnani.


As I drove in I saw this in the distance, on the outskirts of the city. A closer look revealed that they were made from bent up vehicles. This was only the start of the randomness that would follow.



I'd heard about a place called East Jesus, a sculpture garden made entirely of recycled materials. I found signs pointing towards it, which led me to the entrance seen here. Some of the artists live on site, and thus it is always changing and growing. Exploring all the art in here was definitely the highlight of my visit.


This piece – TV Wall by Flip Kassidy – is probably one of the most well known installations in East Jesus. The piece started as just a couple rows of TVs and has now grown to this over the years. He even has 5 chairs with remotes attached to them set up right in front, which I thought was a nice touch.


The extreme detail in all the art was absolutely surreal. Seeing all these random objects reconstructed really made me think about how much waste one goes through in their lifetime. We don't really give a second thought to our plastic kid toys, or our old monitor, or anything else we dispose of.


East Jesus is huge and there is so much to explore. If the sun wasn’t beginning to set, I could’ve easily spent another couple hours in there, as each and every piece had an underlying meaning just waiting to be analyzed.


I had originally planned to stay at the Slab City Hostel (yes, there’s a hostel). But when I got there I found out it was closed. After a mild panic and a bit of a wander, I stumbled across the California Ponderosa. George and his friend Jinxy run an Airbnb by renting out a couple trailers to visitors. This is the one I stayed in. During the winter months they are fully booked, which is a great source of income for them both. The camp has a super homey feel to it and I highly recommend staying if you're planning on visiting.


The next morning, Jinxy gave us a grand tour of Slab City. I learned it used to be a World War II Marine base and got its name from the concrete slabs that were left behind. This actually used to be the pool, but as you can see, artists have now claimed every last inch.


One resident set up a home for abandoned teddy bears on their front lawn. Why? The better question was, why not?


The Range is where residents hold a weekly talent show every Saturday night. Unfortunately, I was there a day early, but from what I heard, it’s the highlight of the week. Pretty much everyone in town gathers for a night of live music, socializing, and partying.


The Slab City Library is open 24/7. It’s a pretty extensive library and I was shocked by the number of books out here in the desert. It’s run by Cornelius Vango, who collected all of them by donation over the years. In her spare time, she also runs a YouTube channel on life in the Slabs.


Some camps we passed by were pretty basic, while others were almost luxurious (considering this was the middle of the desert). Jinxy explained that this two-storey house was built in a way that the wind flowing through keeps it cool all the time.


This is one resident's ‘front lawn’. One of the signs reads, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” As we pulled over to admire the rest, Jorge came out and introduced himself. We chatted about loads of things and it was cool to get a sense of what brought him here and why he loves it.


On the outskirts of town there are many more military remnants. These cylinders were once used as water tanks and for waste management. Artists Christina Angelina and Ease One spray painted the murals, and the community does a very good job of protecting them against vandalism.


It's a very odd scene, being out in the middle of the desert and coming across these giant abandoned military water tanks. Jinxy told us that there is still an active bomb testing range nearby, and every now and then, a thunderous boom reminds them of it.


Here's another random finding in town. I think it really sums up how you can do just about anything you want out here. It's an amazing place for artist to do art for art's sake. Like any city, it has it's troubles, but for the most part, Slabbers live and let live.