Burning Man season is once again upon us and I’m fortunate enough to be hanging out at the ARTery with Artist Support Services (ASS) this year as projects are arriving for build week leading up to the event. All manner of excitement and anticipation fills the air as your dedicated ARTery crew check in, place and support artists and their art. The Temple is steadily rising every day as is the “Tree of Ténéré”. Zachary Coffin’s fully placed and ready, 180,000 pound sculpture, “Temple of Gravity” has already become an open meeting place of sorts and the Keyhole piece this year, “Bloom” has completed their infrastructure. On Monday, waves of artists will begin arriving to erect their structures and things will become very busy very quickly at the ARTery.
If you’re home packing or sneaking a peek here from work and getting excited about making your freaky way out to the playa, Black Rock City promises to have a cornucopia of inspired art for you to interact with and be amazed by this year. I’ve been reading all about it and checking out Jim Tierney, Evonne Heyning, and Candace Stevens’ Art Audio Guide that I highly recommend downloading and listening to on your journey to Black Rock City.
In addition to the large scale projects building now, there are 320 pieces registered thus far and on their way and we’re ready for them all. Today is just the warm up for the week to come.
There will be so much ART this year, it’s hard to know where to start. Black Rock City will be home to huge light and fire installations and with the theme being Radical Ritual, we have more than our share of shrines and altars. It should be interesting to walkabout in the presence of so many entities, energies and spaces for your own rituals. You’ll also encounter dandelions, shrimp, large automata and a couple Chinese food takeout boxes as you journey about. Art lovers who want to possibly recall the names of Art in Black Rock City next week, I offer you here a small sampling of what’s in store for you.
The “Tree of Ténéré” by Alexander Green, Mark Slee, Zachary Smith, and Patrick Deegan promises to be something to behold. At 32 ft tall with 25,000 leaves containing over 170,000 LEDs that are affected by biorhythmic and sound interaction from Participants, this three story tall climbable tree will serve as “a place of refuge and ritual for desert wanderers”. You will know it when you encounter it. Peter Hazel’s “Bloom” graces the Keyhole and “from a distance, this piece will look like a single large creature, but upon arriving one will realize it is comprised of thousands of smaller jellyfish, swimming in a sea of tentacles and lights.” It is 30 ft tall and climbable (Burners do love to climb things) to the top where Participants can enter the “Belly of the Jelly”.
Other light experiences to delight and amaze you include “Aqueous” by Jen Lewin, based on Jen Lewin’s work “The Pool” and “Super Pool”, “Celestial Field” by Eleanor Cranke that will use mirrors to reflect sunlight by day and by night will morph, “bursting into a sea of light reacting to movement and mimicking the fluid almost pulsing nature of the sun’s corona” and “Pulsefield” by Brent Townshend that promises to be a giant light pool of interaction.
“Firmament” by Christopher Schardt is a 21,600 full-color LED canopy suspended from at 40 ft tower. “Ascension” by Crimson Collective is a 150 ft wide and 45 ft tall giant white origami crane.
The Blazin’ Lily Gals from Canada bring “Efflorescence”, a garden of otherworldly metal flowers that are interactive with leaves as buttons that shoot 15 foot flames. It will be an ambient environment featuring a fire fountain, with burning water pouring into a large cistern. Blazin’ Lily Gals were inspired by the Flaming Lotus Girls who are constructing “NOETICA”, a 20 ft tall, fully interactive sculpture that Participants manipulate to create cube forms complete with fire effects and to hopefully gain an understanding of their own thoughts and processes and those of others, and to realize the interconnectedness of all of us regardless of our individual reality.
“Flower Tower” by Kevin Clark is s 70 ft tall metal structure covered with thousands of flaming metal flowers.
Other fire sculptures include “Fire Spinner” by Anton Viditz-Ward, “Fire Ancestor” by Trey Watkins, Mara Greenberg, an crew. Kahai Tate who brought her “Pa’hao’aho – The Volcano” to the playa in 2014 returns with “Kino Pālua – Dual natured”, a large scale piece that consists of two Phoenixes, one Fire and the other Water.
One of my favorite Art pieces ever to grace the Playa, “Charon” by Peter Hudson, returns this year. If you’ve never encountered this amazing work of Art, you’ll be able to interact with and see it up close and in person. “Charon” is impressive and immersive. You discover it in phases, from when you first see the structure and admire the sculptures within it until that moment when you are drawn in and suddenly it reveals its cleverest and sublime reality. Make sure to find “Charon” on the playa this year. Seriously.
“La Victrola” by La Victrola Society also returns this year as does “The Pier” by Matt Schultz who, fresh off the installation of “Space Whale” in Reno, stopped by Black Rock City to start work on the Pier because you never have enough time or art to share.
Dana Albany who always creates amazing sculptures, brings “Tara mechani”, that “is a figurative sculptural installation that fuses representational aspects of the female Buddha, Tara, with future characteristics of the female robot in a contemporary way.” Edward Crell’s “Free Range Animal Automata Menagerie” is a “menagerie of large animal automata to the Playa. Powered by humans, these colorful animals represent over 2,000 years of human fascination with animated mechanisms.”
There are also some memorial pieces this year. “The Crane of Remembrance” by Jennie Eckardt is “a memorial to celebrate those whose lives were lost during the Oakland Fire at the Ghost Ship in 2016. The Oakland Crane symbolizes Oakland city where this event took place. The memorial plaque gives thanks to those who gave their spirit of person, their skill in art, and their movement in dance.”
LaynaJoy Rivas and Eva Reiska bring “Sysimetsä”, a memorial for those affected by the fires that destroyed Lake County, as well as for a beloved art space by the name of Ravens Landing back in 2015.
We have effigies, shrines and altars aplenty this year. “MÚCARO” by El NiNO is a 30 ft tall installation of Múcaro a wise and woody owl who is mascot of Puerto Rico. Participants will climb up into his head via spiral stairways that are adorned about with images of childhood memories. Once at the head, Participants will behold “a sweeping view of the playa through Múcaro’s giant eyes that move with its head as it rotates.”
“The Shrine of La Santisima Muerte” by El Vaquero Muerto and his Comrades of Questionable Morals celebrates “the Lady of Shadows, the Sacred Death, the Skinny Lady. Looking out from her Shrine, she rejects none, for all will come to her in the end.” South Bay Burners Art Collective brings us “Deus ex Machina”, the Gods of Industry, a dilapidated factory wherein you may find “an offering to the gods of industry, along with the handle to a mysterious crank that could have something to do with a kinetic automaton.”
Lance Larkin’s “The Gloaming” speaks to the sidhe who “revel in the endless cycle of light and dark… When our world is closer to the Otherworld, spirits travel the thin spaces, and it is at dusk when the aes sidhe welcome the coming night.” And “House of doG” by Daniel Garcia celebrates the “animal companions who have become an integral part of our lives, both past and present.” A dog headed St. Francis of Assisi beckons you to partake in a celebration of our furried, scaled or feathered loved ones. Dicapria’s “Gummy Bear Pyramid” is a 12ft tall pyramid that consists of 100,000 hand cast gummy bears that switches the narrative from sacred worship to one of basking in the glow of an undefined religion. It is a meditative “sacred holy place” where Participants can interact with the structure and transform their own colors through the refraction of a thousand gunny bears.
Devoid of religious imagery or icons, Douglas Ruuska, brings the “House of Enlightenment”, an obvious “place of worship”. Participants will learn how to control the lighting and environment inside in order to master the sacred texts therein and can create their own sense of ritual.
And of course, there is this year’s Temple by Steven Brummond, Marisha Farnsworth, and Mark Sinclair. It is a beautiful, sublime structure taking shape as it reaches further up into the sky every day.
We also have shrimp, dandelions, dragonflies and a couple boxes of Chinese food takeout.
A couple months ago the playa was teeming with shrimp fresh from years of hibernation. “Of a Temporary Nature” by P. Michael Quinn is a field of fairy shrimp and the Man Pavilion hosts “Gilded Brine Shrimp” by Vaugh Perkin.
“Electric Dandelions” are three giant dandelions (27 ft tall) that double as fireworks at night built by Liquid PXL/Abram Santa Cruz and Oleksiy Maryasov’s “The Dandelion Garden” is a tech-art installation of specific plants with a dandelion at its core.
“The Dragonfly Mating Ritual” by The Rocky Mountain High Flyers is thirty mating dragonflies, in their ritualistic heart shape, swirling around in the air from rotating mobile arms. “Flight of Illumination” by Iron Monkey Arts features a jar with dragonflies escaping swooping up to a large dragonfly on a tall reed.
Serendipitously we have both “Giant Takeout Box” by Jackleg Jackpot, a giant Chinese food takeout box where one may or may not find fortune cookies and “Catmandu: Deep Playa Dumplings” by George Law where you may find Chinese food being served if you arrive at the right time.
This is just a small sample of what awaits you and I’m notorious for missing the grandest Art in the past, but these projects caught my eye and if you made it through to the end, you’ll have an idea of what you’re interacting with out here in Black Rock City.
Be that person in your group who says, “Hey I read about this,” and impress your friends, win Burning Man, respect the Art and have fun. All these artists have been working really hard to build the amazing world you’re stepping into and what a world it is shaping up to be.
.. and that big pink flamingo you’ll see is called “Phoenicopterus Rex” by Josh Zubkoff.