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Preface, Art on Fire: Burning Man by Jennifer Raiser

Preface, Art on Fire: Burning Man by Jennifer Raiser

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Every August, tens of thousands of participants gather to celebrate artistic expression in Nevada's barren Black Rock Desert. This vastly inhospitable location, called the playa, is the site of Burning Man, where, within a 9-mile fence, artists called Burners create a temporary city devoted to art and participation. Braving extreme elements, over two hundred wildly ambitious works of art are created and intended to delight, provoke, involve, or amaze. In 2013, over 68,000 people attended - the highest number ever allowed on the playa. As Burning Man has created new context, new categories of art have emerged since its inception, including Art to Ride, Collaborative Art, and of course, Art to Burn. Burning Man: Art on Fire is an authorized collection of some of the most stunning examples of Burning Man art. Experience the amazing sculptures, art, stories, and interviews from the world's greatest gathering of artists. Get lost in a rich gallery of images showcasing the best examples of playa art with over 200 photos. Interviews with the artists reveal not only their motivation to create art specifically for Burning Man, but they also illuminate the dramatic efforts it took to create their pieces. Featuring the incredible photography of long-time Burning Man photographers, Sidney Erthal and Scott London, an introduction from Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, and a foreword from Will Chase, this stunning gift book allows Burners and enthusiasts alike to have a piece of Burning Man with them all year around.
Every August, tens of thousands of participants gather to celebrate artistic expression in Nevada's barren Black Rock Desert. This vastly inhospitable location, called the playa, is the site of Burning Man, where, within a 9-mile fence, artists called Burners create a temporary city devoted to art and participation. Braving extreme elements, over two hundred wildly ambitious works of art are created and intended to delight, provoke, involve, or amaze. In 2013, over 68,000 people attended - the highest number ever allowed on the playa. As Burning Man has created new context, new categories of art have emerged since its inception, including Art to Ride, Collaborative Art, and of course, Art to Burn. Burning Man: Art on Fire is an authorized collection of some of the most stunning examples of Burning Man art. Experience the amazing sculptures, art, stories, and interviews from the world's greatest gathering of artists. Get lost in a rich gallery of images showcasing the best examples of playa art with over 200 photos. Interviews with the artists reveal not only their motivation to create art specifically for Burning Man, but they also illuminate the dramatic efforts it took to create their pieces. Featuring the incredible photography of long-time Burning Man photographers, Sidney Erthal and Scott London, an introduction from Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, and a foreword from Will Chase, this stunning gift book allows Burners and enthusiasts alike to have a piece of Burning Man with them all year around.

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Categories:Types, Graphic Art
Published by: Race Point Publishing on Jul 13, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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14 BURNING MA
Founder Larry Harvey wrote the Ten Principles as a refection
of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically
developed.
RADICAL INCLUSION
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect
the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our
community.
GIFTING
Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. Te value of a gift
is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an
exchange for something of equal value.
DECOMMODIFICATION
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to
create social environments that are unmediated by commercial
sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready
to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the
substitution of consumption for participatory experience.
RADICAL SELF-RELIANCE
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and
rely on his or her inner resources.
RADICAL SELF-EXPRESSION
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the
individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating
group can determine its content. It is ofered as a gift to others.
In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of
the recipient.
COMMUNAL EFFORT
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration.
We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks,
public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that
support such interaction.
CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY
We value civil society. Community members who organize events
should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to
communicate civic responsibilities to participants. Tey must also
assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with
local, state and federal laws.
LEAVING NO TRACE
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to
leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We
clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave
such places in a better state than when we found them.
PARTICIPATION
Our community is committed to a radically participatory
ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the
individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of
deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing.
Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We
make the world real through actions that open the heart.
IMMEDIACY
Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important
touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers
that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the
reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact
with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can
substitute for this experience
ten principles
oF burning ma
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prefaCe
Art on fire:
seen dys alze
W
hat motivates a builder to spend six months designing
and constructing an elaborate fve story wooden temple
in the middle of a barren desert … only to deliberately burn it
down a week after it is completed?
What drives a disparate collection of doctors, baristas,
musicians, schoolteachers, and plumbers to spend sweltering
summer nights building a giant tree stump in a run-down
warehouse welding shop, and then use up their vacation to weld
it from sundown to sunup?
Burning Man.
Tis is the world’s largest outdoor art show. A seven day
adventure of self-expression and self-reliance, where creativity
replaces money as the currency of signifcance. An impromptu
tent city of 70,000 strangers who agree to foster inclusion,
participation, and enthusiastic expression as one tribe. For
one short week, a desolate prehistoric lakebed becomes one of
the largest cities in Nevada and then vanishes. Tis phantasm,
this folly, this force feld, this vortex, becomes at once a
glorious accident, a bacchanal, a biennale, a destination and a
phenomenon.
In Black Rock City, the practice of art unleashes individual
creativity, gathers collective endeavor, and galvanizes a
community. It temporarily dominates a landscape that ofers
equal measures of exquisite beauty and punishing brutality. It
defes an economic art market that equates price with quality,
and narrowly identifes the artist as an isolated individual. It
repudiates the notion that art should be curated, protected,
and observed at a distance. Tis art is valued according to the
perception of each observer, not by a critic, gallerist, or collector.
Te creators come from all corners, all backgrounds and
infuences. Tey are unifed by a set of values, by the harsh
physical realities of the desert, and by the invitation to express.
Some have formal training; many do not. Some make a living
creating ideas or objects, most spend their days as line cooks,
therapists, welders, civil servants, nannies, paramedics. Some
present their work as individuals, others as collectives. Some work
on a monumental scale, others in miniature. Some construct their
art to last years, others build and then deliberately set their pieces
ablaze as a form of completion.
Te caliber of art at Burning Man is widely varied; quality
often defers to expression. Te imperative here is to mark a
moment in this punishing, exquisite, evanescent gathering. It
is not an easy place to exhibit. Te location is remote and the
resources are few. Te resulting art can be beautiful, astonishing,
brutal, or absurd. Much is naïve and derivative. All of it is there
to manifest the artists’ vision.
Regardless, art in Black Rock City shares certain
characteristics. It is voluntary, unencumbered by the hurdle of
critic or jury. It is participatory. It is above commerce, and cannot
be bought or sold in this place. Much of the art is formed by
collaboration. Art galvanizes a community to share resources and
provoke ideas. Te best of it dazzles with sheer audacity.
Outdoors in the high desert, art must be able to withstand a
week of baking sun, freezing cold, dust, wind, rain, even lightning,
and intense interaction with participants who are invited to leap
the velvet rope and experience it with all of their senses. Te
combination of engagement and punishing conditions demands
a certain accessibility and heft, although the piece only needs to
last a short time. Tis is the opposite of museum art, which can be
fragile but should remain intact for years. Burning Man art uses
its temporal urgency to invite participation. Explore it now, or it
will be gone. Touch it. Photograph it. Appreciate it. Don’t miss it.
Art cannot be bought or sold at Burning Man. Tis is
powerful purity. Te work does not succeed or fail by the opinion
prefAce
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16 BURNING Ma
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of curator or critic, but by the individual response of each
participant, whose opinion is just as valid. Freed from constraints,
ofered unlimited scale and brief tenure, artists are challenged to
do their most meaningful work, not their most marketable. Tey
cannot gauge their ability by the hammer price, or which dealer
has agreed to represent them, or economically driven forms of
hierarchy and success.
Te vast desert playa ofers an unlimited size canvas which
encourages escalation of dimension. Across the playa, a ten-
story building looks like it was made from Lego blocks. Marco
Cochrane, who produces dramatic 60-foot-tall sculptures says,
“You have no idea of the scale. It changes the way you think
about everything.”
Te availability of enthusiastic volunteers also provides
signifcant incentive to expand. Zoetrope artist Peter Hudson
marvels, “You’ve got people falling all over you trying to give
you their best efort and all kinds of time, just to be a part of
something great. Most artists could only dream of this kind of
resource, but here it’s normal.” Fire artist Charlie Gadeken says,
“All you need is a good idea. Tey don’t care who you are, if you
have a portfolio or an art degree.”
Artists can also consider the role of fre in their design.
Amsterdam artist Dadara says, “It’s so tempting to think of
things to burn up! Even if you end up fabricating out of steel or
deciding not to burn it, you have to make that a conscious choice.
And that key decision changes how you think about the art.”
Dave X, who handles fre safety for the Art Department, adds,
“If you want to burn it as part of what you are trying to say, we’ll
help you learn how to do that. But there has to be a clear artistic
reason to burn, not just because you like bonfres.”
Te span of the event is also compelling. Kate Raudenbush
says, “One of the most beautiful things about Burning Man is
its ephemeral nature. Everyone lives with an acute awareness
that the entire city must disappear in one week. And that is what
makes so many of our interactions so precious and so fraught, so
intense and so appreciated, and ultimately it is what makes it so
freeing and so life-changing. We bring this existence into being,
and we also destroy it at the end.”
A view of the Promenade
to the Man in 2013.
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prefaCe
INFLUENCER AND INFLUENCED
Burning Man art weaves threads from many traditions. Many of
its inspirations are postmodern, or metamodern, altermodern, or
even post-apocalyptic.
Founder Larry Harvey is clear that art holds the shared ethos
of Black Rock City together. “In a world where people gather
at shopping malls while they ignore city hall, and the public
square is disappearing, anything that can take values and interject
them into the realm of civics is terribly needed; by putting art at
the center of our city, we are doing that. We are saying that art
infuences and elevates our civic enterprise into meaning.”
He believes that keeping this art outside the realm of
commerce is crucial. “Look at how artists are rewarded these
days. Tere used to be an artisanal culture more widely spread,
where artful things were far more common in the lives of
ordinary people. Now art is available to very few, in a star system
held in place by galleries and art dealers who stand to proft from
its sale. We have disintermediated the gatekeepers by taking the
proft motive away. So our whole line of thinking is radical. It is
not deliberately subversive in its intention, but it is subversive in
how it afects these art institutions. We say everybody is an artist,
and art is free. Tat’s a radical move.”
He continues to believe that upending the established artistic
economic structure is part of its signifcance. “Ironically, we have
economic infuence, in that we make careers possible for artists.
We started featuring interactive art, and the other festivals came
and discovered how much enthusiasm it generated, so they pay
artists bring our art to their festivals. We don’t make money on
that, but it does disseminate our culture, which is powerful. We
want the artist to be as compensated as possible.”
“Tere is always a place for a piece of art that is simply
beautiful, made as an object for contemplation. But we tend to
favor art that is more than that, and in some ways has a social
agenda.” Harvey believes the values of Burning Man directly
infuence its creation. “Tis art requires a shared culture for its
production, exhibition, and indeed for its funding. We only
provide grants for a portion of the piece, the artist has to fnd
support for the rest. Look at crowdsourcing, the way our artists
raise money to fnish their pieces through the Internet and
fundraisers. Tat’s galvanizing.”
MOVEMENT OR MOMENT?
Does that indicate a school or movement of Burning Man
art? Tat notion provokes strong reactions. Charles Gadeken
dismisses it as “Just art critic stuf. At its best, Burning Man art
makes you go, ‘WOW.’ Tat’s true of ALL good art.”
Elizabeth Scarborough, who directs Burning Man’s art
program disagrees.“Tis meets the defnition of an art movement:
it exists at a particular point in time, and is a catalyst which helps
redefne how art is made. It is the nexus point of art, philosophy
and community.” She continues, “We see everybody as an artist
without the need for credentials or even training. At the beginning,
much of the art of Burning Man was not world class, but that
wasn’t the focus. It was a place for artistic experimentation, without
feeing classifed or judged. Tat attracted more artists and turned
more people into artists; the things they make have become
more sophisticated. Burning Man has helped to start a lot of
artists’ careers.” She believes the space plays an enormous role. “In
museums, there is a defned separation between art and the viewer,
physically, mentally, emotionally. Here there is no wall around it,
we want you to get in there and experience it. Only through that
interaction is the piece fully realized.”
Ian Baker of the Syzygryd crew believes Burning Man art
is distinguished by its collective formation. “It is possible for a
work of art to be created by a group. In music, it’s like a band.
‘Hey, Jude’ is by Te Beatles, not by Paul McCartney. Tat group
is a valid and reasonable creative entity.” He adds, “When I see
a single artist’s name of the piece, a lot of time that is fction.
It is very important that all of the people involved get credit
and recognition, along with the privilege of getting to work on
the thing. Few of us are trying to support ourselves by doing
the work we are doing together, so having our name on it has
less economic importance.” How does he know the thing they
collectively make is art? “I have a very permissive defnition: Is it
expensive and time consuming? Yes, and yes.”
Baker continues, “Te whole point of Burning Man is radical
self-expression. Your kid’s drawing on the refrigerator and the
Mona Lisa in a museum are both art from the point of view of
the artist. From the beholder… that’s up to you to decide. Do you
want some stufy critic to tell you what is real art?”
What is art, what is craft, what is performance, what
is decoration, what is derivative and what is original? Are
photographs of art considered art? Are dances atop a
“ You can discover more about a
person in an hour of play than
in a year of conversation.”
Plato
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16 BURNING Ma
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of curator or critic, but by the individual response of each
participant, whose opinion is just as valid. Freed from constraints,
ofered unlimited scale and brief tenure, artists are challenged to
do their most meaningful work, not their most marketable. Tey
cannot gauge their ability by the hammer price, or which dealer
has agreed to represent them, or economically driven forms of
hierarchy and success.
Te vast desert playa ofers an unlimited size canvas which
encourages escalation of dimension. Across the playa, a ten-
story building looks like it was made from Lego blocks. Marco
Cochrane, who produces dramatic 60-foot-tall sculptures says,
“You have no idea of the scale. It changes the way you think
about everything.”
Te availability of enthusiastic volunteers also provides
signifcant incentive to expand. Zoetrope artist Peter Hudson
marvels, “You’ve got people falling all over you trying to give
you their best efort and all kinds of time, just to be a part of
something great. Most artists could only dream of this kind of
resource, but here it’s normal.” Fire artist Charlie Gadeken says,
“All you need is a good idea. Tey don’t care who you are, if you
have a portfolio or an art degree.”
Artists can also consider the role of fre in their design.
Amsterdam artist Dadara says, “It’s so tempting to think of
things to burn up! Even if you end up fabricating out of steel or
deciding not to burn it, you have to make that a conscious choice.
And that key decision changes how you think about the art.”
Dave X, who handles fre safety for the Art Department, adds,
“If you want to burn it as part of what you are trying to say, we’ll
help you learn how to do that. But there has to be a clear artistic
reason to burn, not just because you like bonfres.”
Te span of the event is also compelling. Kate Raudenbush
says, “One of the most beautiful things about Burning Man is
its ephemeral nature. Everyone lives with an acute awareness
that the entire city must disappear in one week. And that is what
makes so many of our interactions so precious and so fraught, so
intense and so appreciated, and ultimately it is what makes it so
freeing and so life-changing. We bring this existence into being,
and we also destroy it at the end.”
A view of the Promenade
to the Man in 2013.
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prefaCe
INFLUENCER AND INFLUENCED
Burning Man art weaves threads from many traditions. Many of
its inspirations are postmodern, or metamodern, altermodern, or
even post-apocalyptic.
Founder Larry Harvey is clear that art holds the shared ethos
of Black Rock City together. “In a world where people gather
at shopping malls while they ignore city hall, and the public
square is disappearing, anything that can take values and interject
them into the realm of civics is terribly needed; by putting art at
the center of our city, we are doing that. We are saying that art
infuences and elevates our civic enterprise into meaning.”
He believes that keeping this art outside the realm of
commerce is crucial. “Look at how artists are rewarded these
days. Tere used to be an artisanal culture more widely spread,
where artful things were far more common in the lives of
ordinary people. Now art is available to very few, in a star system
held in place by galleries and art dealers who stand to proft from
its sale. We have disintermediated the gatekeepers by taking the
proft motive away. So our whole line of thinking is radical. It is
not deliberately subversive in its intention, but it is subversive in
how it afects these art institutions. We say everybody is an artist,
and art is free. Tat’s a radical move.”
He continues to believe that upending the established artistic
economic structure is part of its signifcance. “Ironically, we have
economic infuence, in that we make careers possible for artists.
We started featuring interactive art, and the other festivals came
and discovered how much enthusiasm it generated, so they pay
artists bring our art to their festivals. We don’t make money on
that, but it does disseminate our culture, which is powerful. We
want the artist to be as compensated as possible.”
“Tere is always a place for a piece of art that is simply
beautiful, made as an object for contemplation. But we tend to
favor art that is more than that, and in some ways has a social
agenda.” Harvey believes the values of Burning Man directly
infuence its creation. “Tis art requires a shared culture for its
production, exhibition, and indeed for its funding. We only
provide grants for a portion of the piece, the artist has to fnd
support for the rest. Look at crowdsourcing, the way our artists
raise money to fnish their pieces through the Internet and
fundraisers. Tat’s galvanizing.”
MOVEMENT OR MOMENT?
Does that indicate a school or movement of Burning Man
art? Tat notion provokes strong reactions. Charles Gadeken
dismisses it as “Just art critic stuf. At its best, Burning Man art
makes you go, ‘WOW.’ Tat’s true of ALL good art.”
Elizabeth Scarborough, who directs Burning Man’s art
program disagrees.“Tis meets the defnition of an art movement:
it exists at a particular point in time, and is a catalyst which helps
redefne how art is made. It is the nexus point of art, philosophy
and community.” She continues, “We see everybody as an artist
without the need for credentials or even training. At the beginning,
much of the art of Burning Man was not world class, but that
wasn’t the focus. It was a place for artistic experimentation, without
feeing classifed or judged. Tat attracted more artists and turned
more people into artists; the things they make have become
more sophisticated. Burning Man has helped to start a lot of
artists’ careers.” She believes the space plays an enormous role. “In
museums, there is a defned separation between art and the viewer,
physically, mentally, emotionally. Here there is no wall around it,
we want you to get in there and experience it. Only through that
interaction is the piece fully realized.”
Ian Baker of the Syzygryd crew believes Burning Man art
is distinguished by its collective formation. “It is possible for a
work of art to be created by a group. In music, it’s like a band.
‘Hey, Jude’ is by Te Beatles, not by Paul McCartney. Tat group
is a valid and reasonable creative entity.” He adds, “When I see
a single artist’s name of the piece, a lot of time that is fction.
It is very important that all of the people involved get credit
and recognition, along with the privilege of getting to work on
the thing. Few of us are trying to support ourselves by doing
the work we are doing together, so having our name on it has
less economic importance.” How does he know the thing they
collectively make is art? “I have a very permissive defnition: Is it
expensive and time consuming? Yes, and yes.”
Baker continues, “Te whole point of Burning Man is radical
self-expression. Your kid’s drawing on the refrigerator and the
Mona Lisa in a museum are both art from the point of view of
the artist. From the beholder… that’s up to you to decide. Do you
want some stufy critic to tell you what is real art?”
What is art, what is craft, what is performance, what
is decoration, what is derivative and what is original? Are
photographs of art considered art? Are dances atop a
“ You can discover more about a
person in an hour of play than
in a year of conversation.”
Plato
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18 BURNING Ma
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sculpture considered art? Is a carefully considered costume
or a beautifully painted body also art? Because there is no
established arbiter, the criteria and boundaries are deliberately
blurred. And that validates—and expands—each participant’s
determination.
Baker continues, “Bringing art here confers social capital and
status. People think you are cool, and they learn to appreciate
it with new eyes when they leave. If you set up art on Seventh
and Market Streets in San Francisco, people would think it was
weird, but they are getting more comfortable with it. Burning
Man has done a lot to make people open to the idea of art
popping up everywhere.”
Larry Harvey asserts Burning Man is expanding into a
worldwide movement conveyed by its art. “Tere is no reason the
art from our event should have taken hold. Some of the artists
produced mediocre work. But people learned from it, emerged
out of it, and found careers in the great world. But they come
back to Burning Man to work for very little. Tey have absorbed
the whole pattern of values, the ethos, and it meant a lot to them,
so they give back to us. And that attracts more participants and
more artists who want to understand why this is such a powerful
set of ideas.”
New York-based artist Kate Raudenbush was inspired to
take up sculpture after her frst visit to Burning Man. Her work
combines distinctively delicate metal laden with provocative
symbolism and imagery, and is exhibited and collected worldwide.
“I am not formally trained to be a large-scale artist at all. I started
as a dare to myself, as a way of contributing to the community I
loved so much, and learned from the act of doing, and from the
skilled people on my creative team. No one fgures this stuf out
alone. But do not let the fear of the unknown stop you from the
act of creating. Keep your mind set on maximum curiosity and
minimum wasting of time. Creativity loves courage.”
Raudenbush agrees the culture is the defning feature of
Burning Man art. “Every artist has their own style, but the
process and environment in which it is created is similar. It is an
art movement based on the shared experience and ritual, both
on and of the playa. I call it a beloved struggle, because if you
don’t fall in love with doing this, you won’t last; this experience is
pretty self-selecting. It weeds out the wimps, the closed-minded,
the high-maintenance very quickly. It is a crucible of character-
building. Sometimes you’ll hear it called ‘Learning Man.’ ”
“Te artists out there are like a huge family. Tey are bound
by mutual support and respect. It’s not competitive like in the
default art world. You really don’t have the energy to waste on
competition, you are busy surviving. Tere is plenty of space
to share.”
Jess Hobbs, who founded the Flux Foundation, agrees there is
a school of Burning Man art. “We are developing a language and
coalescing around it: engagement, participatory, process-oriented,
a platform of permission. Sometimes I think it’s grown slowly
because of the stigma around the crazier aspects of the event.
But when I describe these projects, people who haven’t been say,
“WOW!…Really? I had no idea that it was about the art.”
THEME AND VARIATIONS
Te process artists undertake begins when the art theme is
announced in the winter, and artists apply to the organization
for grants, although art does not need a grant to be welcome in
Black Rock City. When the awards are announced in the spring,
the process of building begins. “In 2013 we funded 46 honoraria
plus, 24 in the Circle of Regional Efgies. We had almost
400 pieces on playa, and another 30 paintings and sculptures
around the kiosks in the Center Camp Cafe. Without vetting
or judgment, we work with any artist who wants to share their
piece.” Artists have to be mindful of lighting, stabilization, and
weather. Harsh playa winds routinely transmit forces of
90 mph. Tey must stabilize their pieces to handle participants’
enthusiasm, too.
Artists can receive placement on the open playa and access to
resources for installation, but they can also just put up a piece of
art near their camp. Discovering pieces scattered throughout the
encampments is one of the surprising delights of the city.
When an artist arrives on playa, the ARTery is ready to assist
with a 60-member team of staf and volunteers. Te Art Support
Services team coordinates heavy equipment trenching and
hoisting. A special squad called “Eyes on Art” notifes the artist
of damage or hazards arise, such as an anchor uprooted by wind
or an overzealous enthusiast. Te ARTery also trains docents to
lead dozens of art tours on mutant vehicles and bicycles.
Te challenges facing artists during Burning Man are many.
After months of planning and constructing, many are exhausted
just as fully energized participants are arriving for a week of
celebration. Te desert and alkaline dust wreaks unpredictable
havoc on machine parts, electronics, and materials. Damage
occurs in transit, or reinforcements don’t arrive in time, or
something goes awry. Te ARTery team stands ready with
resources, adaptations, volunteers, or consolation. Sculptor
Michael Christian admits, “Tere’s no worse feeling than
knowing your playa art has somehow failed. But it’s freeing, too.
My failures taught me how to anticipate what can go wrong and
to let go of my ego out there, too.”
Not everyone goes to Burning Man to see art. At any moment
one can encounter roving tribes in gorilla and banana costumes,
or a theme camp ofering Mexican wrestling and Ashtanga yoga.
Tere are tiki bars, hairwash salons, and secret hangout spaces
for tight-knit cadres who devote themselves to recycling or
lamplighting or reuniting lost items with grateful owners. Tere
are Jedi training camps for children and afternoon tea dances for
elders, with over one thousand separate activities listed in the events
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001-021_41015.indd 18 4/19/14 1:33 PM
19
(Text)
prefaCe
guide. Jess Hobbs acknowledges that Burning Man’s more prurient
reputation as a free-for-all festival has mufed its identity as a
venue for expressive art. “With all of the hype about the craziness
and costumes, what gets missed is that there is this whole gallery, a
whole museum happens out there,” she says. “Te level of artwork
will blow your mind. All the other stuf that goes on will just
distract you from the art. And that’s a shame, because it’s the best
example of the essence of art you are likely to see in one place. ”
Tis book ofers an introduction to the sculptural, physical
art of Burning Man, and the process that brings these pieces to
life. It shares the philosophy behind the creativity, and the values
which inform this experiment. Trough representative pieces, this
book attempts to convey the shared passions and the disparate
aesthetic sensibilities of the artists who create here. It is intended
for readers who will never go to Black Rock City, and for those
who wait expectantly to buy their ticket each year.
Like each day spent on the playa, impossible choices were
required to meet the parameters of this volume. Tis volume is
by no means catalogue raissonne, or even a survey. It is not a juried
selection of the “best” hundred pieces of Burning Man art, which
would be truly antithetical. It does not purport to represent all
of the major artists or collectives. It is a view of some of the
memorable works of Burning Man art captured by two separate
photographers over the course of many visits to the playa. Tese
photographers captured particular moments of light, weather,
location, and experience. Tere is much great playa art that they
did not have the occasion to record. Exclusion from this book is
not a judgement on the caliber of art, or the artist.
Tis book merely ofers the author’s and photographers’
perspective, albeit broad, as an introduction to the astounding art
of Black Rock City, Nevada.
A RADICALLY ABBREVIATED HISTORY
Burning Man began on San Francisco’s ocean-facing Baker
Beach, in 1986. Larry Harvey was a single father seeking to
create a project to undertake with his young son, Tristan. A
landscaper by trade, he hit upon the idea of fabricating something
in a borrowed wood shop, and then burning it on the beach. He
Black Rock City from
the air.
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18 BURNING Ma
(Text)
sculpture considered art? Is a carefully considered costume
or a beautifully painted body also art? Because there is no
established arbiter, the criteria and boundaries are deliberately
blurred. And that validates—and expands—each participant’s
determination.
Baker continues, “Bringing art here confers social capital and
status. People think you are cool, and they learn to appreciate
it with new eyes when they leave. If you set up art on Seventh
and Market Streets in San Francisco, people would think it was
weird, but they are getting more comfortable with it. Burning
Man has done a lot to make people open to the idea of art
popping up everywhere.”
Larry Harvey asserts Burning Man is expanding into a
worldwide movement conveyed by its art. “Tere is no reason the
art from our event should have taken hold. Some of the artists
produced mediocre work. But people learned from it, emerged
out of it, and found careers in the great world. But they come
back to Burning Man to work for very little. Tey have absorbed
the whole pattern of values, the ethos, and it meant a lot to them,
so they give back to us. And that attracts more participants and
more artists who want to understand why this is such a powerful
set of ideas.”
New York-based artist Kate Raudenbush was inspired to
take up sculpture after her frst visit to Burning Man. Her work
combines distinctively delicate metal laden with provocative
symbolism and imagery, and is exhibited and collected worldwide.
“I am not formally trained to be a large-scale artist at all. I started
as a dare to myself, as a way of contributing to the community I
loved so much, and learned from the act of doing, and from the
skilled people on my creative team. No one fgures this stuf out
alone. But do not let the fear of the unknown stop you from the
act of creating. Keep your mind set on maximum curiosity and
minimum wasting of time. Creativity loves courage.”
Raudenbush agrees the culture is the defning feature of
Burning Man art. “Every artist has their own style, but the
process and environment in which it is created is similar. It is an
art movement based on the shared experience and ritual, both
on and of the playa. I call it a beloved struggle, because if you
don’t fall in love with doing this, you won’t last; this experience is
pretty self-selecting. It weeds out the wimps, the closed-minded,
the high-maintenance very quickly. It is a crucible of character-
building. Sometimes you’ll hear it called ‘Learning Man.’ ”
“Te artists out there are like a huge family. Tey are bound
by mutual support and respect. It’s not competitive like in the
default art world. You really don’t have the energy to waste on
competition, you are busy surviving. Tere is plenty of space
to share.”
Jess Hobbs, who founded the Flux Foundation, agrees there is
a school of Burning Man art. “We are developing a language and
coalescing around it: engagement, participatory, process-oriented,
a platform of permission. Sometimes I think it’s grown slowly
because of the stigma around the crazier aspects of the event.
But when I describe these projects, people who haven’t been say,
“WOW!…Really? I had no idea that it was about the art.”
THEME AND VARIATIONS
Te process artists undertake begins when the art theme is
announced in the winter, and artists apply to the organization
for grants, although art does not need a grant to be welcome in
Black Rock City. When the awards are announced in the spring,
the process of building begins. “In 2013 we funded 46 honoraria
plus, 24 in the Circle of Regional Efgies. We had almost
400 pieces on playa, and another 30 paintings and sculptures
around the kiosks in the Center Camp Cafe. Without vetting
or judgment, we work with any artist who wants to share their
piece.” Artists have to be mindful of lighting, stabilization, and
weather. Harsh playa winds routinely transmit forces of
90 mph. Tey must stabilize their pieces to handle participants’
enthusiasm, too.
Artists can receive placement on the open playa and access to
resources for installation, but they can also just put up a piece of
art near their camp. Discovering pieces scattered throughout the
encampments is one of the surprising delights of the city.
When an artist arrives on playa, the ARTery is ready to assist
with a 60-member team of staf and volunteers. Te Art Support
Services team coordinates heavy equipment trenching and
hoisting. A special squad called “Eyes on Art” notifes the artist
of damage or hazards arise, such as an anchor uprooted by wind
or an overzealous enthusiast. Te ARTery also trains docents to
lead dozens of art tours on mutant vehicles and bicycles.
Te challenges facing artists during Burning Man are many.
After months of planning and constructing, many are exhausted
just as fully energized participants are arriving for a week of
celebration. Te desert and alkaline dust wreaks unpredictable
havoc on machine parts, electronics, and materials. Damage
occurs in transit, or reinforcements don’t arrive in time, or
something goes awry. Te ARTery team stands ready with
resources, adaptations, volunteers, or consolation. Sculptor
Michael Christian admits, “Tere’s no worse feeling than
knowing your playa art has somehow failed. But it’s freeing, too.
My failures taught me how to anticipate what can go wrong and
to let go of my ego out there, too.”
Not everyone goes to Burning Man to see art. At any moment
one can encounter roving tribes in gorilla and banana costumes,
or a theme camp ofering Mexican wrestling and Ashtanga yoga.
Tere are tiki bars, hairwash salons, and secret hangout spaces
for tight-knit cadres who devote themselves to recycling or
lamplighting or reuniting lost items with grateful owners. Tere
are Jedi training camps for children and afternoon tea dances for
elders, with over one thousand separate activities listed in the events
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001-021_41015.indd 18 4/19/14 1:33 PM
19
(Text)
prefaCe
guide. Jess Hobbs acknowledges that Burning Man’s more prurient
reputation as a free-for-all festival has mufed its identity as a
venue for expressive art. “With all of the hype about the craziness
and costumes, what gets missed is that there is this whole gallery, a
whole museum happens out there,” she says. “Te level of artwork
will blow your mind. All the other stuf that goes on will just
distract you from the art. And that’s a shame, because it’s the best
example of the essence of art you are likely to see in one place. ”
Tis book ofers an introduction to the sculptural, physical
art of Burning Man, and the process that brings these pieces to
life. It shares the philosophy behind the creativity, and the values
which inform this experiment. Trough representative pieces, this
book attempts to convey the shared passions and the disparate
aesthetic sensibilities of the artists who create here. It is intended
for readers who will never go to Black Rock City, and for those
who wait expectantly to buy their ticket each year.
Like each day spent on the playa, impossible choices were
required to meet the parameters of this volume. Tis volume is
by no means catalogue raissonne, or even a survey. It is not a juried
selection of the “best” hundred pieces of Burning Man art, which
would be truly antithetical. It does not purport to represent all
of the major artists or collectives. It is a view of some of the
memorable works of Burning Man art captured by two separate
photographers over the course of many visits to the playa. Tese
photographers captured particular moments of light, weather,
location, and experience. Tere is much great playa art that they
did not have the occasion to record. Exclusion from this book is
not a judgement on the caliber of art, or the artist.
Tis book merely ofers the author’s and photographers’
perspective, albeit broad, as an introduction to the astounding art
of Black Rock City, Nevada.
A RADICALLY ABBREVIATED HISTORY
Burning Man began on San Francisco’s ocean-facing Baker
Beach, in 1986. Larry Harvey was a single father seeking to
create a project to undertake with his young son, Tristan. A
landscaper by trade, he hit upon the idea of fabricating something
in a borrowed wood shop, and then burning it on the beach. He
Black Rock City from
the air.
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20 BURNING Ma
(Text)
gathered friends to build a stylized fgure of a man, transport it
to nearby beach, douse it with gasoline, and lit it on fre. People
gathered on the beach to watch, and began to connect and
interact. Te project was considered a modest success.
Te next year Harvey’s friends encouraged him do it again.
By the third year, the endeavor was starting to become a ritual,
and several hundred gathered to participate. Te following year
they were interrupted by police. Harvey negotiated a compromise
to erect the man on the beach, but not burn him. Te man was
disassembled and put into a box for safekeeping.
Te nascent Cacophony Society of “disrupters, anarchists, and
pranksters,” convinced Harvey to bring the man to a gathering
in the Black Rock Desert. Harvey recalls his frst time there
with vivid clarity. “We took the man out of the box, assembled
him fat on the ground and raised him up with ropes and wires.
Te minute people felt the vibration of that wire running from
his solar plexus through our collective hands, we felt something
powerful. Some togetherness, some sense of purpose, some
THING that meant more than just a wooden man in the desert.
And that THING is what we have fought so hard to preserve.”
Bohemians, renegades, outliers, and visionaries from the
nascent Silicon Valley technology industry were naturally
attracted to the wide-open ethos. People living on the fringes of
society, were attracted to the free-for-all aspect where limited
resources were shared by necessity. Word spread about “that thing
in the desert,” encouraging ever more outlandish activities and
attracting more adherents. Selling and bartering were replaced
with gifting, and most driving was banned. As the city grew, a
city plan was established and certain rules were imposed, but the
emphasis on expression and inclusion remained.
By 2000, Harvey had established an annual art theme. Te
Man sculpture appeared in the same form every year, but the
man base shape changed according to theme. Art grants helped
ofset costs. “Te frst art grant was just enough to help Michael
Christian bring his art piece,” recalls Elizabeth Scarborough.
“Now the art grant program is approaching a million dollars.”
Te fve who emerged to help Harvey became known as
Founders. Even though it was technically a for-proft event to
protect their substantial liability, the six ran the rapidly growing
enterprise by consensus with a dedication to “proft enough.”
Each took responsibility for certain aspects of management:
Larry Harvey for the strategic and artistic direction. Harley K.
DuBois became City Manager. Marian Goodell handled the
business side. Crimson Rose worked with fre and art. Will
Roger Peterson worked with government entities including the
Bureau of Land Management. Michael Mikel preserved the early
history as a raconteur and “Director of Genetic Programming.”
Over time they were joined by a year-round staf in their San
Francisco headquarters, with more flling crucial functions
leading up to the event, joined by 3000+ trained volunteers
on playa.
Te event continued to evolve, spawning smaller regional
events as participants brought the spirit back where they lived.
Te Nevada event became known as Black Rock City, and the
term “Burning Man” came to mean a social movement, and a
way of life that is replicable and sustainable. Burning Man has
spawned events in 26 countries, from Burning Seed, Australia, to
AfrikaBurn to Lakes of Fire in Michigan. To ensure the survival
of Burning Man past their lifetimes, the Founders formed
Burning Man Project, a nonproft organization. Harvey says,
“We’ve grown too large to ft everybody who wants to follow us
to the Nevada desert. So we’re bringing Burning Man to
the world.”
Te proliferation was a notable development. As worldwide
gatherings grew, Larry Harvey was asked to identify the
characteristics they shared with the original event. He codifed
the Ten Principles as descriptive, not prescriptive behaviors.
Harvey is adamant that they be seen as part of a whole, insisting,
“Nothing less than all of these Ten Principles taken together will
really do.”
Burning Man art is transforming itself. A decade ago, the
nonproft Black Rock Arts Foundation began to put playa
art in the world, “the other ffty-one weeks a year.” Now the
organization helps with funding, building, transportation and
exhibition plans for playa and subsequent venues. According to
Crimson Rose, “ We want to help artists navigate the complex
fnancial, logistical, and operational challenges inherent in their
work, to make Burning Man even more artist-centric.”
“Participants often tell me, ‘Burning Man changed my life,’ ”
says Goodell. “We know that transformation happens when
people leave their comfort zone.” Immersed inside an unfamiliar
environment, confronted with the forces of nature, participants
often question their own assumptions and abilities. Tey have
“Every artist
was frst an amateur.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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prefaCe
to summon ingenuity, adjust ingrained routines, form new
afliations and trust. And in the midst of this upheaval, they
discover inclusion, whimsy, generosity, and their own creativity.
Goodell says,“Burning Man doesn’t actually change their lives,
they do. But it opens them up to the possibility.”
A TRIP TO MARS, OR AT LEAST A TRIP
Describing the experience of Black Rock City can be difcult.
Participants must bring everything they need to survive: water,
food, shelter. Basic infrastructure of portable toilets and emergency
medical services are provided. A phalanx of volunteers provides
an array of organized services. Participants—because there is an
explicit prohibition against “spectators”—share gifts of time and
resources. Aside from the sale of cooler ice and cofee, commerce
and barter are prohibited. Tere are no trash cans: a strict Leave No
Trace ethos is peer enforced, so that every individual is responsible
for removing every sequin and taking it home.
Variously described as a “summer camp for adults,” an annual
“restart button for a complicated life,” and “the cheapest trip to
Mars you’ll ever take,” the experience is almost entirely self-
directed. Participants choose their diversions, pleasures, even
their waking hours, although at Burning Man the greatest
delights are often those which opportunistically choose you.
Enormous sound camps with suspended DJ booths spin
electronic music in a trance of dance. Bars ofer every possible
permutation of mojitos or absinthe or bacon bloody marys.
Satiation can be found at the midnight popcorn stand, a roving
grilled cheese diner, a ramen noodle pagoda, and pancake palaces
galore. If you want your chakras tuned, your spine aligned, your
dusty hair washed, you will fnd what you seek with some efort
and a bit of luck. Te “What, Where, When” guide lists lectures,
classes, craft workshops and dance lessons, family-friendly
and adult-only establishments ofering everything you can
imagine, and much that you have not. All of it is gifted without
expectation of return.
Tere is never time nor energy to see or do it all. Tere is
too much dust, distance, distraction. Participants discover their
favorite pieces of art, and return to them over the course of the
week, visiting at diferent times of the day and night, in diferent
light, in a diferent mood. Often a particular piece becomes an
individual talisman, one that marks a state of mind or stage of
life. Art in Black Rock City ofers bittersweet delight, because it
will never be in this place in the same way again. But the brevity
compels the desire to memorize the contours of it, and freeze an
image of what it looks like at the magic hour when the sun just
dips beneath the mountains in the High Rock desert of Nevada
on the last day of August.
Te efect is transformative. Te unbridled physical and
societal freedom is both unnerving and exhilarating. Te
elimination of money is unsettling and liberating. Te lack of
water is disturbing and enlightening. Te experience confronts
the senses and the mind in hundreds of ways. It is impossible
not to be deeply afected. Some participants come back from the
desert with a new perspective that infltrates their thoughts and
actions, making changes in their life both subtle and dramatic.
Others leave early, fnding the conditions too harsh or the ethos
too unsettling. Some return year after year; others never return.
Te art of Black Rock City is the messenger that announces
to the world, “Come for the party, discover the art, stay for the
meaning.” Tere is no doubt that Burning Man ofers one of
the most remarkable celebrations imaginable. Tere is festivity,
and libation, and all manner of bacchanal. But Burning Man
without art would not be Burning Man. It would be a party or
a festival, but it would not resonate with the same deep human
desire for expression. Burning Man art is like the cave paintings
of Lascaux, reminding us that man has always had a need to
elevate our surroundings into depiction, both abstract and literal,
as a way of making sense of our world. In this prehistoric lakebed
setting populated by meandering tribes of dusty, body-painted
hominids, the glorious role of expression is made abundantly
clear. Art is what sets hearts, minds, and seven short days ablaze.
JENNIFER RAISER
Passport to new worlds.
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20 BURNING Ma
(Text)
gathered friends to build a stylized fgure of a man, transport it
to nearby beach, douse it with gasoline, and lit it on fre. People
gathered on the beach to watch, and began to connect and
interact. Te project was considered a modest success.
Te next year Harvey’s friends encouraged him do it again.
By the third year, the endeavor was starting to become a ritual,
and several hundred gathered to participate. Te following year
they were interrupted by police. Harvey negotiated a compromise
to erect the man on the beach, but not burn him. Te man was
disassembled and put into a box for safekeeping.
Te nascent Cacophony Society of “disrupters, anarchists, and
pranksters,” convinced Harvey to bring the man to a gathering
in the Black Rock Desert. Harvey recalls his frst time there
with vivid clarity. “We took the man out of the box, assembled
him fat on the ground and raised him up with ropes and wires.
Te minute people felt the vibration of that wire running from
his solar plexus through our collective hands, we felt something
powerful. Some togetherness, some sense of purpose, some
THING that meant more than just a wooden man in the desert.
And that THING is what we have fought so hard to preserve.”
Bohemians, renegades, outliers, and visionaries from the
nascent Silicon Valley technology industry were naturally
attracted to the wide-open ethos. People living on the fringes of
society, were attracted to the free-for-all aspect where limited
resources were shared by necessity. Word spread about “that thing
in the desert,” encouraging ever more outlandish activities and
attracting more adherents. Selling and bartering were replaced
with gifting, and most driving was banned. As the city grew, a
city plan was established and certain rules were imposed, but the
emphasis on expression and inclusion remained.
By 2000, Harvey had established an annual art theme. Te
Man sculpture appeared in the same form every year, but the
man base shape changed according to theme. Art grants helped
ofset costs. “Te frst art grant was just enough to help Michael
Christian bring his art piece,” recalls Elizabeth Scarborough.
“Now the art grant program is approaching a million dollars.”
Te fve who emerged to help Harvey became known as
Founders. Even though it was technically a for-proft event to
protect their substantial liability, the six ran the rapidly growing
enterprise by consensus with a dedication to “proft enough.”
Each took responsibility for certain aspects of management:
Larry Harvey for the strategic and artistic direction. Harley K.
DuBois became City Manager. Marian Goodell handled the
business side. Crimson Rose worked with fre and art. Will
Roger Peterson worked with government entities including the
Bureau of Land Management. Michael Mikel preserved the early
history as a raconteur and “Director of Genetic Programming.”
Over time they were joined by a year-round staf in their San
Francisco headquarters, with more flling crucial functions
leading up to the event, joined by 3000+ trained volunteers
on playa.
Te event continued to evolve, spawning smaller regional
events as participants brought the spirit back where they lived.
Te Nevada event became known as Black Rock City, and the
term “Burning Man” came to mean a social movement, and a
way of life that is replicable and sustainable. Burning Man has
spawned events in 26 countries, from Burning Seed, Australia, to
AfrikaBurn to Lakes of Fire in Michigan. To ensure the survival
of Burning Man past their lifetimes, the Founders formed
Burning Man Project, a nonproft organization. Harvey says,
“We’ve grown too large to ft everybody who wants to follow us
to the Nevada desert. So we’re bringing Burning Man to
the world.”
Te proliferation was a notable development. As worldwide
gatherings grew, Larry Harvey was asked to identify the
characteristics they shared with the original event. He codifed
the Ten Principles as descriptive, not prescriptive behaviors.
Harvey is adamant that they be seen as part of a whole, insisting,
“Nothing less than all of these Ten Principles taken together will
really do.”
Burning Man art is transforming itself. A decade ago, the
nonproft Black Rock Arts Foundation began to put playa
art in the world, “the other ffty-one weeks a year.” Now the
organization helps with funding, building, transportation and
exhibition plans for playa and subsequent venues. According to
Crimson Rose, “ We want to help artists navigate the complex
fnancial, logistical, and operational challenges inherent in their
work, to make Burning Man even more artist-centric.”
“Participants often tell me, ‘Burning Man changed my life,’ ”
says Goodell. “We know that transformation happens when
people leave their comfort zone.” Immersed inside an unfamiliar
environment, confronted with the forces of nature, participants
often question their own assumptions and abilities. Tey have
“Every artist
was frst an amateur.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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001-021_41015.indd 20 4/19/14 1:33 PM
21
(Text)
prefaCe
to summon ingenuity, adjust ingrained routines, form new
afliations and trust. And in the midst of this upheaval, they
discover inclusion, whimsy, generosity, and their own creativity.
Goodell says,“Burning Man doesn’t actually change their lives,
they do. But it opens them up to the possibility.”
A TRIP TO MARS, OR AT LEAST A TRIP
Describing the experience of Black Rock City can be difcult.
Participants must bring everything they need to survive: water,
food, shelter. Basic infrastructure of portable toilets and emergency
medical services are provided. A phalanx of volunteers provides
an array of organized services. Participants—because there is an
explicit prohibition against “spectators”—share gifts of time and
resources. Aside from the sale of cooler ice and cofee, commerce
and barter are prohibited. Tere are no trash cans: a strict Leave No
Trace ethos is peer enforced, so that every individual is responsible
for removing every sequin and taking it home.
Variously described as a “summer camp for adults,” an annual
“restart button for a complicated life,” and “the cheapest trip to
Mars you’ll ever take,” the experience is almost entirely self-
directed. Participants choose their diversions, pleasures, even
their waking hours, although at Burning Man the greatest
delights are often those which opportunistically choose you.
Enormous sound camps with suspended DJ booths spin
electronic music in a trance of dance. Bars ofer every possible
permutation of mojitos or absinthe or bacon bloody marys.
Satiation can be found at the midnight popcorn stand, a roving
grilled cheese diner, a ramen noodle pagoda, and pancake palaces
galore. If you want your chakras tuned, your spine aligned, your
dusty hair washed, you will fnd what you seek with some efort
and a bit of luck. Te “What, Where, When” guide lists lectures,
classes, craft workshops and dance lessons, family-friendly
and adult-only establishments ofering everything you can
imagine, and much that you have not. All of it is gifted without
expectation of return.
Tere is never time nor energy to see or do it all. Tere is
too much dust, distance, distraction. Participants discover their
favorite pieces of art, and return to them over the course of the
week, visiting at diferent times of the day and night, in diferent
light, in a diferent mood. Often a particular piece becomes an
individual talisman, one that marks a state of mind or stage of
life. Art in Black Rock City ofers bittersweet delight, because it
will never be in this place in the same way again. But the brevity
compels the desire to memorize the contours of it, and freeze an
image of what it looks like at the magic hour when the sun just
dips beneath the mountains in the High Rock desert of Nevada
on the last day of August.
Te efect is transformative. Te unbridled physical and
societal freedom is both unnerving and exhilarating. Te
elimination of money is unsettling and liberating. Te lack of
water is disturbing and enlightening. Te experience confronts
the senses and the mind in hundreds of ways. It is impossible
not to be deeply afected. Some participants come back from the
desert with a new perspective that infltrates their thoughts and
actions, making changes in their life both subtle and dramatic.
Others leave early, fnding the conditions too harsh or the ethos
too unsettling. Some return year after year; others never return.
Te art of Black Rock City is the messenger that announces
to the world, “Come for the party, discover the art, stay for the
meaning.” Tere is no doubt that Burning Man ofers one of
the most remarkable celebrations imaginable. Tere is festivity,
and libation, and all manner of bacchanal. But Burning Man
without art would not be Burning Man. It would be a party or
a festival, but it would not resonate with the same deep human
desire for expression. Burning Man art is like the cave paintings
of Lascaux, reminding us that man has always had a need to
elevate our surroundings into depiction, both abstract and literal,
as a way of making sense of our world. In this prehistoric lakebed
setting populated by meandering tribes of dusty, body-painted
hominids, the glorious role of expression is made abundantly
clear. Art is what sets hearts, minds, and seven short days ablaze.
JENNIFER RAISER
Passport to new worlds.
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(Text)
Rob Buckhholz, Wish,
2010. Steel, metal,
nylon mesh.
ChapTer 1
Defing imaination
art to aaze
O
ne of the greatest thrills at Burning Man is the frst sight of art that should not exist.
Art that is too big, too absurd, too breathtaking, too defant to follow the laws of
reason, or gravity, or expectation.
Tis is the art that is expected of Burning Man but would be remarkable anywhere else;
art that thumbs its nose at the hushed museum with its textured walls and security guards.
Tese are huge, dazzling pieces meant to evoke wonder—pieces that invite you in, on,
around, above, and below. Tese are pieces of presence that dare you to appreciate them in
the present. Tey amaze you by their sheer audacity, originality, or absurdity. Tey take your
breath away. And then they invite you to come and play.
“I do this because it’s incredibly fun,” says Zachary Cofn, the artist who dangled a
granite boulder over a giant ball-bearing carousel wheel and invited participants to play on,
swing under, and spin around it. Mike Ross, the artist responsible for Big Rig Jig (see page
25), bent two semi-trucks into one another just to prove to himself and others that he could.
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