Art in Waiting

It is that time of year again when many individuals and groups are taking concepts and ideas turning them into to Art Proposals. It is a beautiful time for the creative spirit when every wacky concept seems possible to build. That inspired vision you had last year or that long festering idea is being sketched out, budgets are being drawn up, 3D renderings helping to visualize the genius, goofy handmade models painstakingly being hot glued together (tongue depressors, pipe cleaners and all) and all that conceptual blah dee blah is being churned out.

The moments when an idea is being hatched is a magical time in the process of artistic creation.

It is also that time of year when one who has created work for Burning Man in previous years also thinks, if I make another piece, where the hell will I store it? Which artspace, whose back yard, the dump, which kiddie rave or music fest as decoration, some cheap storage facility…..

When it is not burned or destroyed where does it go after the playa? Who’s responsibility is it? Will it ever see the light of day again?

Thanks to organizations like BRAF some of this work does see the light of day again. The City of Reno in Conjunction with BRAF have been working in collaboration displaying work such as Kate Raudenbush’s Dual Nature. The Raygun Gothic Rocketship enjoys its launch pad on the Embarcadero until October 2011. Ecstasy by Karen Cusilito & Dan Das Mann which has been displayed by the Hayes Valley art Coalition is heading home to American Steel this month. More potential display space will also be open up in San Francisco’s Mid Market area (Market Street between 4th & 10th St). And BRAF is currently working with the San Francisco Arts Commission (which received an NEA grant) on new creative ideas.

Now that there is an established track record of displaying of Burning Man artwork outside the boundaries of the Black Rock Desert, how do we lead, participate and frame the discussion around the greater cultural implications of this type of artwork? Participatory art has excelled at Burning Man, but not in a vacuum, the larger international artworld is paying attention to the audiences demand for active engagement with art.  German cultural writer Diedrich Diederichsen in the contemporary art journal Frieze discusses that “We need to look for a new active role for the audience. One constant factor in each development of the culture industry over the past hundred years is an increase in audience participation, or at least of a certain participatory effect.”  Each year the art at Burning Man is pushing this participatory effect, and since we are the experts we should be participating and driving the dialogue about it.

How are we supposed to lead the discussion? I know I don’t have the answers, but I do feel the timing is right.  I’ll leave you with some food for thought. Artist Larnie Fox wrote in 1997 a very significant statement about the art happening at Burning Man he saw it as part of a larger movement to expand the boundaries of the artworld to include site-specific, culturally specific, interactive, temporal, and collaborative art in the contemporary art dialogue.

There is a yet unnamed art movement that may prove to be of some significance, and Burning Man is close to its center. It often manifests itself as circus, ritual, and spectacle. It is a movement away from a dialogue between an individual artist and a sophisticated audience, and towards collaboration amongst a big, wild, free and diverse community. It is a movement away from galleries, schools and other institutions and towards an art produced in and for casual groups of participants, more akin to clans and tribes, based on aesthetic affinities and bonds of friendship. It is a movement away from static gallery art and formal theater and towards site-specific, time-specific installation and performance. It is a rejection of spoon-fed corporate culture and an affirmation of the homemade, the idiosyncratic, the personal. It is profoundly democratic. It is radically inclusive, it is a difficult challenge, and it is beckoning.

Artist Larnie Fox

About the author: Jess Hobbs

Jess Hobbs

People have often described Jessica Hobbs as someone trying to lead a compulsively artistic life, which is more or less true. She started off her adventure in a small Sierra Foothill town and eventually meandered her way to the San Francisco Bay Area. Along the way Jess has worn many hats; running and creating community art programs, counseling teenagers, curating, exhibiting, designing, photographing and creating monumental interactive art experiences. She is an MFA graduate from the San Francisco Art Institute and has been wandering and creating in the dust fest for well over a decade. Collaboration is her magic ingredient for success in work, community, art and life. This can be seen through her founding and directing work with the Flux Foundation and All Power Labs.

2 Comments on “Art in Waiting

  • Dennis says:

    I hate to say it, but you missed a very publicly visible example of Burner art that's well displayed in the opening title sequence of the TV series, "Brew Masters" on Discovery Channel. 
    The Steampunk Tree House, permanently at home at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton Delaware ( ).

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  • Jess Hobbs says:

    Dennis, I missed far more than that in my completely subjective list of BRAF supported work. Kate Raudenbush's "Guardian of Eden" is also installed at the Nevada Museum of Art.  Or how about Flaming Lotus Girls' "Serpent Mother" which has travelled to the Robodock Festival in Amsterdam.  What other significant pieces do you see missing from the list?

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