Returning to Black Rock City for my 22nd consecutive burn, I was deeply impressed by the art; this year there seemed to be more of it than ever, and the scale and ambition of many installations was remarkable. It was the year of Herculean art; The Catacomb of Veils, the Black Rock Lighthouse Service, Helios, and the Temple were shining examples of large, complex, beautifully crafted structures which offered an in-depth experience within and without.
Watching the build of the Catacomb of Veils, by Dan Sullivan and crew, was like being in ancient Egypt watching people building the pyramids, although in this case, with tons of lumber instead of stones. Although not quite complete, the basic forms were there, and climbing the steps to the top of the main pyramid was exhilarating. Being deep inside of they pyramid was a lyrical experience, with the long colorful veils blowing in the wind, and various memorials tweaking one’s heartstrings. The sheer mass and scale of this installation was duly impressive.
I can’t say enough about the Black Rock Lighthouse Project by Jonny and Max Poynton and crew – spectacular inside and out. The incredibly dense layering of collages, drawings, seashells and other objects carefully placed in the interior of one of them was remarkable, a labor of love. The texture of the exterior was carefully created by adding bits of wood to the surfaces; the hanging walkways were fun to negotiate, and took one into each of the three lighthouses, each with a different interior. I must say I was really sorry to see these burn….
Kate Raudenbush outdid herself with Helios, a truly community-oriented sculpture made of her signature laser-cut steel, and activated when participants stood in the center of each of its six platforms, releasing a laser beam. When all six were activated, they crossed above the central reflective column; this action depended on the cooperation of those who climbed into the platforms. Such a lovely combination of art and technology! I think this is Kate’s best piece yet. She says, ” Activating the lights of Helios at Burning Man was a combined act of personal intention, community collaboration and encouragement, just like activating the light inside of all of us, and just like the massive communal effort it took to make this project come to life.”
Speaking of figurative work, the Muses of DaVinci, by Elizabeth Mallory and Mikell Haynes, was haunting and eerie. Its figures seemed to have risen up out of the dusty playa surface.
Charlie Gadekan’s Roshanai was a beautiful tribute to Islamic architecture, comprised of a long tunnel of laser-cut steel with dramatic changing lighting and an interesting sound element. One could enter from either side, and quite spontaneously, a hugging line formed, where one hugged every single person one passed in the line.
A gigantic fallen robot, Mecha9 by Tyler Fuqua, sprawled across the playa and dwarfed participants. One couldn’t help but love this creature, charmingly modelled and utterly delightful. I hope he’ll come back next year and bring some of his friends.
Out in the deep playa was an enormous Victrola- well, most of it anyway, providing a nice contrast to the large sound camps and EDM that so dominates our city. Live acoustic music was performed here, and next year La Victrola will be mobile, functioning as a stage for live performance. Big heartfelt thanks to La Victrola Society for bringing us this old-fashioned gem.
An unprecedented experience was to be had at Shrumen Lumen by the Foldhaus Artists Collective, a cluster of gigantic glowing mushrooms that stretched and grew periodically, shrinking back to their original size only to sprout up again, with a wonderful creaking sound.
Several pieces from past years reappeared on the playa this year, including Celestial Mecanica by Jessica Welz, a remarkable kinetic arrangement of several glowing and spinning planets, some of which also flamed.
Chris Schardt’s Firmament returned, attracting participants who laid underneath its beautiful changing light patterns and listened to classical music. Yes, it’s true – unlikely as it seems; classical music still engages us. Another sound and light piece, the Sonic Runway by Rob Jensen and team, returned after its appearances as the Sol System in 2003 and 2004, this time more complex than ever.
Kevin Clark brought his Medusa Madness back this year, with its lighting improved and expanded. It created a natural social space, where its light and fire beckoned all to get with the snakes and like it. Goddesses can do that…We also saw the return of the Lost Tea Party, and this time there were five teapots.
Did you notice that the playa had turned into Animal Planet? The Space Whale and her baby in the Keyhole, by Matt Schultz, Android Jones, and the Pier Crew seemed to set the tone for all the animals out there -the Guardino Leone by Kevin Clark, Octavius the Octopus by Peter Hazel, Jack Champion’s Murder (the five enormous crows), Lord Snort by Bryan Tedrick, OID by Michael Christian, Ursa Major by Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson, the Koi Pond by Joe Joe Martin, and Seeing Humanity for What it Really Is (the gorillas) by Laurence Vallieres. Even Abraxas the dragon seems to have reproduced, with its offspring following it closely.
The proliferation of gigantic insects was very pleasing, from Therm’s fire moths to the giant Weta from New Zealand, Kirsten Bergs butterfly wings (Imago), and the gigantic spider in the Cafe.
I want to give a nod to the clever person who affiixed vintage album covers to the trash fence stakes – the ride along the trash fence was most amusing.
All in all, it was a banner year for art; I find it amazing that members of our community are willing to work so hard, for so long, to create the art we all enjoy so much. The art is the heart and soul of our event, reflecting the creativity, collaborative spirit, inventiveness, craftsmanship, generosity and sheer will power of our community. Endless thanks and gratitude to all of the artists and makers who are inspired to create such grand, elaborate installations in such challenging conditions. It’s unprecedented and remarkable, and we are all better for it.