Introducing the 2020 Black Rock City Honoraria

Burning Man Arts is thrilled to announce the art installations selected for Black Rock City Honoraria Grants.

Some Insights into The Selection Process

In the Art Department, we celebrate ALL artists, we fund some artists, and we give as much as we can across the board.

The artworks we fund reflect an experience we would like to create, rather than a value judgment. We don’t select the 70 “best” artworks; we look to build a collection that will offer a full range of experiences for participants.

When we review proposals, our goal is to select a wide variety of artworks, from big to small, vertical to horizontal, and everything in between. We include outlandish, flaming things; whimsical, playful projects; and serene, contemplative works. We like interesting connections to the annual theme, and artworks that aren’t related to the theme at all; artworks of striking beauty; and conceptual projects that make you ponder. We’re always keeping in mind interactivity, visual impact, and sheer creativity. And we consider artists’ history with Burning Man, wanting to recognize long-standing artists while also giving first timers a chance, plus plenty of folks in between.

This year we received almost 750 Letters of Intent, by far the most we’ve ever received. We’re able to fund approximately 70 projects per year. I hope there is an alternate universe where we selected 70 completely different projects to fund. I’m sure it would be fantastic, given how many exceptional proposals were submitted this year! 

Click on photos to see details

Our Dedication to Support

At least 75% of the incredible artworks that come to playa each year come without financial support from Burning Man Project. We are serious about our commitment to support ALL artists, so there are many other ways that we help artists to ensure they are successful.

The Art Department builds relationships with each artist, pre-event and on playa. Pre-event, we review every project for safety, materials, lighting, fire, anchoring, Leave No Trace, etc.; we communicate individually with artists; we respond to thousands of questions; and we connect artists with resources to find solutions and generally help their projects. On playa, the 200+ dedicated volunteers in the ARTery check in regularly with artists during their build to see what resources they might need, offer art discovery and appreciation experiences, and support projects that have fire.

In many cases, projects receive additional support such as tickets, heavy equipment, and promotion via the Jackrabbit Speaks, which encourages others to give time and resources to the artists.

We truly put our heart into this; it’s why we’re here!

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2020 Highlights and Themes

This year, the artworks will reflect our love of PLAY (Play with Your Food, Chilopod, Loop, M- Theory Mechanica, The Möbius Harp, Small Hadron Collider); our sense of PLACE (from planes to trains to the Cosmos); and our love of the WEIRD (Though the Mind’s Eye, Mebuyan, The Autumn Spire, The Anomaly).

The Multiverse theme inspired a fun range of creative interpretations. Among the most original, the Ukrainian artwork Merman will be an 80’-long human figure, swimming and emerging from the playa surface, startling us into realizing that other realities may be coexisting and layered upon our own. Schrödinger’s Rat turns the classic thought experiment on its head, Unbound deconstructs a library, and the Multi-Verse pokes fun by having Burners compose multiple verses of songs and poems (ha, get it?). 

This year we’ll experience several projects that explore the wide umbrella of diversity, including The Solar Shrine by Antwane Lee, an Afrofuturist artwork inspired by the magical realism of Ancient Egypt and Nubia. South African artist Usha Seejarim will share the Resurrection of the Clothes Peg, a metaphor for the rise of the female voice and an expression of the desire to be heard by the marginalised, excluded and neglected. While we don’t inquire about demographics on the grant application, we are funding artists of color from around the world including Oakland, Chicago, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Sustainability has been top of mind for many of us lately (have you read Burning Man Project’s 2030 Environmental Sustainability Roadmap?), which is reflected in artists’ choice of creative expression this year. Post-Apokalipsa Domo, created by a PhD climate change scientist/artist, explores a universe of potential climate futures.

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The project FIRE represents the element of fire as a devastating effect of climate change, while The Buddha at the Trash Fence makes use of repurposed materials such as recycled bottles and bike frames. The Lost Troll from Denmark is a modern-day fairy tale, which aims to teach about recycling, sustainability, and the importance of protecting Mother Nature.

You will discover a menagerie of animals placed throughout the desert, including cats (from outer space!), a dog park (but please don’t bring your dog), and wacky water creatures like toads and swans and hatchetfish. There will be a jackalope in addition to a trio of mirrored jackrabbits (we’re partial to those); a 40’-tall dancing musical stonefly nymph; a Council of Animals where the creatures judge us; and two — yes two! — snakes. Could there be a snake fight in our future?

Many of your favorite Black Rock City artists are returning with new work, including Michael Christian, the Iron Monkeys, and David Oliver who is bringing the evolution of his gorgeous mosaic portal. Steve Brummond, co-lead artist of the 2017 Temple, is creating a beautiful bell tower fittingly called Carillon that we can all ring to our hearts’ content.

The big stunner this year will be Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti’s Chapel of Babel, a sensational tower emerging from an illusory cityscape, covered with their signature archetypal photography. “Welcome to the horror and the wonder,” they say. That sounds about right.

Click on photos to see details

And there’s so much more we can’t even describe here; we hope you’ll come experience it for yourself.

We’re pleased to report that 12 international projects received Honoraria grants this year: two from Canada, two from Mexico, two from Russia, and one each from Denmark, the Philippines, Spain, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. There are several artists that have just started making art in the last few years, and four Honoraria recipients that will be coming to Black Rock City for the first time.

And no report on Burning Man art would be complete without mentioning that 14 of the 72 Honoraria projects will play with fire, including a giant propane jet-powered pendulum of fire — only in Black Rock City, right? Plus we are supporting some intriguingly experimental sound art and video work.

There’s so much to be excited about, and we can’t wait to share it all with you.

A Note About the Temple

In January, we announced the 21st incarnation of the Temple: EMPYREAN, designed by Renzo Verbeck and Sylvia Lisse. We are thrilled that the crew has already been engaged for several months on this beautiful star-shaped structure.

How to Get Involved

Of course, most of the more than 400 art installations in Black Rock City are projects that people do on their own, with or without outside funding. So peruse the 2020 BRC Honoraria projects, and if you have some vision that is missing from the list, you are warmly invited to make it happen. If you have skills to contribute and want to help an existing art project, please check out our collaboration tool Spark.

And so without further ado, we’d like to introduce this year’s Honoraria recipients. Drum roll please…

The 2020 Black Rock City Honoraria Recipients

1:44 Inter-dimensional Space Time Portal — Harlan Emil Gruber and TransPortals with Maraya — Taos, NM

Airfield 2.0 Tower — Alexandra Weld Queen  — Moscow, Russia
Black Rock Station — Wes Modes and the Black Rock Transportation Company — Felton, CA
Carillon — Steven Brummond  — Oakland, CA
Chapel of Babel — Mike Garlington with Natalia Bertotti and Dave Keane — Petaluma, CA
Chilopod — Lawrence Grown and Embrio LLC — Berkeley, CA
Citipati — Ryan Mathern and the Charnel Lords Crew  — Atlanta, GA
Coalescence — William Nemitoff and Curious Form — New Orleans, LA
Cosmos — Jen Lewin Studio LLC — New York, NY
Council of Animals (What to do about the monkeys) — Quill Hyde and Acavallo — Tonasket, WA
Crotalus AKA “Freddie” the Mojave Green Rattlesnake — Peter Hazel  — Reno, NV
DIPTOWN — Stanislav Shminke  — Ekaterinburg, Russia
Drishti — Kirsten Berg  — Berkeley, CA
Emerging Grace — Debi von Huene and South Bay Art Collective — Santa Clara, CA
Evolution Field (EVF) — Matt McConnell  — Raleigh, NC
FIRE — Zoe Fry and The Introverts Collective — Mill Valley, CA
Fractal Droid — Jenna Finney and Fractal Droid Collective — Austin, TX
Gilded — Mr and Mrs Ferguson with David Moreno Teron — Alameda, CA and Valencia, Spain
Harmonia — Roy Trammell  — Beaverton, OR
Heave — working title — Michael Christian — Oakhurst, CA
I Heart Mom — Ryan Stevens — San Francisco, CA
Illumina Radiata — Eric Zann  — Kirkland, WA
Kukulkan’s Portal — Abram Santa Cruz and Liquid PXL — Long Beach, CA
Loop — Dan Rabinovitch and Aromatic Designs Unit — Brooklyn, NY
Lost Frequencies — Shelby Dukeminier  — Las Vegas, NV
Lux Lepus — Jennifer Law and House of Lepus — Renton, WA
ManiCrank the Jackalope — Sandra Bérubé  — Vancouver, BC, Canada
Mebuyan — Leeroy New and Pinto International — Manila, Philippines
Merman — Andrei Krapivchenko and UA: Universe Achievers — Kyiv, Ukraine
M- Theory Mechanica — Matt Parkhurst  — Truckee, CA
Multi-Verse — Roger Carr and Bumpety Bump Art Machines — Berkeley, CA
NO DOGS ALLOWED — Ron Rodrigues  — Mill Valley, CA
Now We Are Five — Kim Rask and uckiood — Burien, WA
Orbit — Hayden Harrison  — Oakland, CA
Parallel Self Embraced — Matthew Pagoaga  — Los Angeles, CA
PeepShow: Land of Lost Encounters — Ashley Stracke  — Los Angeles, CA
Pendulum of Fire — Joseph Bard and Pyrokinetics — Portland, OR
PETALED PORTAL — David Oliver and Art City — Ventura, CA
PILGRIM GAIATA — Francisco Cárdenas and CONECTIKADJ — Castellón de la Plana, Spain
Play With Your Food — Bryan Saunders and P Canadensis — Alberta, Canada
Post-Apokalipsa Domo (P.A.D.) — Emily Nicolosi and The Pink Spot — Cottonwood Heights, UT
Quadrupod 2.0 — Scott Parenteau  — Sacramento, CA
Quantum Multiverse Bifurcator — William Stedden — Daly City, CA
Ratchetfish — Barry Crawford — Elko, NV
Schrödinger’s Rat — Philipp Blume and The Department of Precision and Soul (DPS) — San Francisco, CA and Vienna, Austria
Secretly Abandoned Spaces — Valerie Elizabeth Mallory and the They Collective — Oakland, CA
Small Hadron Collider (SHC) — Jack Kalish and Everything Good Studio — San Francisco, CA
Spacecats2020: Mothership Landing — Ayda Keshtkar and Adenium — Chicago, IL
Square Root of Growth — Shane Evans  — Denver, CO
Stare — Kelly Smith Cassidy  — South Lake Tahoe, CA
Taos Toad — Frank Seckler — Taos, NM
Tremolo — Nick Geurts and Ryan Elmendorf — Candler, NC
Temple of Masks — Jason Gronlund  — Guadalajara, Mexico
The Autumn Spire — Eric Coolidge  — Brooklyn, NY
The Buddha at the Trash Fence — Ali Agus Ardie and Digital Dalang — San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
The Dreaming Goddess — David Bell and Camp Luminos — Phoenix, AZ
The Importance of Small Things — Ela Lamblin and Lelavision — Vashon, WA
The Lost Troll — Thomas Winther  — Copenhagen, Denmark
The Midnight Museum of That One Time at Burning Man — Jerry Snyder  — Reno, NV
The Möbius Harp — Adam Ericksen — San Francisco, CA
The Restaurant at the End of the Multiverse — Tabasco Mills and the Iron Monkeys — Seattle, WA
The Resurrection of the Clothes Peg — Usha Seejarim and Oriaikhi-Sao Foundation — London, United Kingdom and Johannesburg, South Africa
The Self Help Yourself Library — Brie’Ana Breeze  — Alameda, CA
The Solar Shrine — Antwane Lee  — Chicago, IL
The Traveling Sound Museum Presents: The Anomaly — Chris Cerrito and Mike Rosenthal — Brooklyn, NY
Through The Mind’s Eye — Launa Eddy  — New York, NY
Tubular — Doug Taphouse  — Silver Spring, MD
Unbound: A Library in the Multiverse — Julia and David Nelson-Gal — Palo Alto, CA
Unpopular Music (or UNPOP) — Stephan Moore and Evidence — Chicago, IL
VIMOKSHA — Michael Emery  — Santa Cruz, CA
What to Expect When Expecting — Julia Bonnheim and Future Problems — Portland, OR

Full project descriptions with images and links will be available later in the spring.

The BRC Honoraria Program relies on the generosity of our community. You can help support this program and an array of on and off-playa artist services and our nonprofit mission by making a gift here.


Top photo: Mebuyan by Leeroy New

About the author: Katie Hazard

Katie Hazard

Katie Hazard (yes that’s her real last name) is the Associate Director of Burning Man Arts. She oversees the selection, placement, and installation of over 400 artworks annually in Black Rock City and beyond. She’s been passionate about arts administration and grants management for many years; she has a degree in Art History from the University of Notre Dame, worked at the Art Institute of Chicago, and spent 10 years at Harvard University as a Senior Grants Manager. Katie’s first year on playa was 2000, and she volunteered for 10 years (DMV, Man Base Lighting, art build crews, theme camp organization, Fire Conclave) before joining the staff in 2013. Katie is also a certified yoga teacher and has been a practitioner of Buddhist meditation for more than a decade.

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