In 2019, we had another record year of art on the open playa in Black Rock City, with over 400 registered art pieces. As this quantity grows, we want to continue to ensure the best possible outcome for artists. This means streamlining some of our procedures, re-writing some of our policies, revamping our spreadsheets, and getting our flowchart on. (That’s what you imagine when you think about art, right? Spreadsheets? We sure do.)
Some things are not changing. We’re still asking you to Register Your Art Early — this post from last year goes over some changes to the Late Registration and Walk-In Art policies that are still in place for 2020. It also holds the secrets to helping us help you as much as possible. For the love of all that is Larry, please register your art early.
This year, the Art Installation Questionnaire is open now (already!) through May 27, 2020 at 12 noon Pacific Time. However, if you wait until the last day, or the last week, you’ll be among the flood of last-minuters and our ability to assist is greatly reduced.
So what is changing? We now have a handy flowchart that helps you decide if your art should be on the open playa, potentially in the Center Camp Café, considered a mutant vehicle, in your camp, or not registered at all and just being generally participatory. Please take a look before registering.
We are also clarifying our language and policies around a few significant areas that traditionally overlapped with mutant vehicles, theme camps, and art projects. If you feel your project may fall into one of these grey areas, please contact us with questions before registering.
Art installations on the open playa may contain ambient sound elements that are integral to the installation, but we do not allow DJs, sound systems, DJ booths, or any kind of amplified dance music in the art area, aside from mutant vehicles.
Why not? Electronic music permeates our city, and the open playa is one place where we hope to have different experiences. Some installations require a quiet area, and amplified music makes that impossible. With the nature of the open desert, sound carries far and wide very easily.
As the open playa is host to more and more art every year, we want to ensure that it remains a place for interactive discovery, rampant creativity, and radically inclusive participation. Providing a stage narrows those participation opportunities down to the more limited dichotomy of performer and spectator.
If you wish to create a stage or performance venue, theme camps often offer these as part of their interactivity and we welcome you to read more about creating or joining a camp. We also have information on performance opportunities.
The last few years have made a clearer delineation between mutant vehicles and mobile art, and we are continuing that process in 2020. If your art piece is mobile, does not carry passengers, and will be parked/stored at a designated spot on the open playa when not in use, you’re welcome to discuss registering it with the Art Department as mobile art.
Conversely, if it does carry passengers, or if you’d be storing it in your camp when not in use, we’d suggest registering as a mutant vehicle. Art bikes do not need to register with the Art Department and are considered another part of being an amazing and creative participant in Black Rock City.
Temporary Art/Performance, Food Offerings, Etc.
Wanna juggle rubber duckies? Set up a chair and paint portraits of your fellow citizens? Hand out hard-boiled eggs from your bike? Drag out a portable advice booth for a couple hours? No need to register as an art installation!
For temporary offerings such as these, just ensure that you aren’t set up close to an existing art piece, that you don’t leave any structures or objects behind when you depart, and that you Leave No Trace. This can be a nebulous category of interactivity, so again please contact us if you have questions.
A Word on Prefabricated Structures
We love a good dome, shipping container, sturdy tent, or box truck. They’re great in the camping area of Black Rock City. Domes and shipping containers and tents don’t belong out on the open playa.
If you’re intending to place your art inside a structure on the open playa, please either build a custom structure, or alter your prefab structure in such an incredibly cool way that we won’t even know there’s a prefab structure under there. (In other words, painting a mural on it won’t fool us, unless maybe it says FREE SNACKS and we might get fooled but still probably won’t allow it.)
Hopefully, this helps clarify what we’re looking to register for the open playa, so you can get busy registering your art early! Thank you for helping to keep the open playa a visually interesting, interactive, fun and adventuresome place to explore. The Art Department is a small, dedicated team of friendly Burners, and we are always trying our best for artists, in the always-shifting landscape of Black Rock City. Thanks for experimenting with us.
Project Managers are standing by for you to register your art, making that “NPR pledge drive with three minutes remaining on the dollar-for-dollar challenge and the phones are not ringing” face. Help us stop making that face. Our moms said it’ll get stuck that way.
Top photo: “Awful’s Gas & Snack” by Matthew Gerring and Crank Factory, 2019 (Photo by Dan Adams)