Burning Man Project to Develop Public Art for Google’s Charleston East Plaza Campus

Here’s some breaking Burning Man news: Burning Man Project is going to work on the creation and installation of five significant artworks on Google’s new Charleston East Plaza Campus. It’s a new kind of relationship we’re very excited about, and in accordance with our mission, it’ll be all about the art and community. The experience we’re helping build will be non-commercial and fully open to the public.

The Burning Man Civic Arts team works with partners to create environments and opportunities focused on high quality, values-based interactions that enhance common bonds and generate human connections. We extend the art and process of Burning Man artists beyond Black Rock City into other contexts, both urban and transitory, creating new opportunities for artists to do their work in the world. We prioritize process over product and collaboration is central.

How do we do that? We circulate, communicate, and connect with many potential partners and ask questions like: How will the community be involved? Will this project be participatory? Is the work going to be open and accessible to the public at large? If we like what we hear, and we see unique opportunities that are deeply collaborative, broadly inclusive, and reflect an approach based on the 10 Principles, there’s a potential for partnership.

Our recent partnerships with the City of San Jose, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Washoe County’s NEA-funded art trail all include elements of participation, community engagement, and creative process.

The Charleston East Plaza is a unique chance to partner with Google to make a welcoming public place that reflects the spirit of Google in concert with the energy of Burning Man. The Charleston East Plaza design attributes developed by Google include the desire that the experience in the plaza is:

  • Dynamic
  • Interactive
  • Offers delight and surprise
  • Inspires curiosity; experience may change based on vantage point
  • Fun and Googley
  • More like Burning Man and less like formal “don’t touch” experiences
  • Interesting lighting at night
  • Memorable and iconic
  • Doesn’t conflict with or overshadow the building architecture

Here’s where you come in. Burning Man’s Civic Arts team is creating a series of community engagement sessions (coming in April and May) for the public to participate in identifying what creates a memorable and meaningful place. We will issue calls for artists for permanent artworks that will be specially commissioned for the plaza (keep an eye out for these  April through June), and we’ll support the fabrication and installation process, all in time for the plaza’s planned opening in March, 2020.

We’re especially excited for this project because Googlers have been present in Black Rock City in many ways for many years, and always in respectfully decommodified ways. We’re proud of our historical association with the first Google Doodle (even though Burning Man and corporate logos don’t mix). We love that Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This is the spirit of Radical Inclusion, Participation, Gifting, and more. Google enables so much of our everyday culture and makes so much more possible through its tools. Burning Man is equally committed to providing tools and opening access for people to be engaged citizens, and we are happy for the opportunity to learn, grow, and collaborate on this project.

Top photo: EARTH #HOME: #, Tree and @ by Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg (Photo by Playaman)

About the author: Kim Cook

Kim Cook

Kim Cook is Director, Art & Civic Engagement, managing the teams that deliver Civic Arts initiatives, Burners Without Borders, and Art to the playa, including Honoraria and Global Arts Grants programs.

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