Art of Black Rock City

While threat of dust storms and the ticket situation may have caused many seasoned Burners to question whether or not to return to the barren desert we call home, hundreds of artists made sure to put their stamp of the 2012 event. This year saw a huge influx in art. With 360 art installations placed on the open playa, the Art team was incredibly busy helping to support them all.

This year saw a healthy split between some of the proven playa artists of yore with new artists looking to get their proverbial feet “wet” in the desert. After several years, David Best and his crew returned to create the Temple of Juno. Created in David’s trademark look and feel, the seemingly-delicate laser cut wood scraps were fabricated to create incredibly detailed elements. From a highly ornate fence encircling the structure to the benches surrounding the outside shrines, to the latticed ceiling, the Temple of Juno created an intimate space for folks to celebrate and mourn their loved ones, while allowing thousands to congregate. The fence surrounding the Temple was an innovative way to help safeguard the space from mutant vehicles and large scale sound – giving participants a chance to embrace the sounds generated by other participants within the Temple grounds.

Another returning artist was Kate Raudenbush. Kate created Star Seed, an elegant 40-foot structure that reached to the skies. Climbing the metal structure on steps that narrowed as one approached the top, Star Seed housed a small lounge where participants were able to take in the vastness of the playa expanse.

Returning after a stellar year in 2011, the Pier 2 team decided to up the ante, and built a Spanish galleon wrecked alongside the original Pier. The Pier structure remained mostly intact, and was utilized once again as a congregation spot, where participants enjoyed making the space their own – a place of reflection, of meeting, of celebration, etc. The ship was beyond impressive – the incredible amount of detail used within the ship was truly awe-inspiring. Participants could learn about the crew that perished on board the ship – peruse through the captain’s quarters, look into cubbies, etc., learning about those who sailed the seas of Black Rock City.

Reacting to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Otto Von Danger and ExactLee developed “Burn Wall Street”. BWS was a homage to those who felt disempowered by the powers that be. Having built Megatropolis in 2010, Otto and ExactLee felt confident in developing five buildings that clearly illustrated both the actual structures on Wall Street, as well as their interpretation of the evils that surround them. The five buildings included the Bank of UnAmerica, Chaos Manhattan, Merrill Lynched, and the New York Stock Exchange. Originally scheduled to burn on Friday, BWS’s burn was postponed until after the Man on Saturday night.

Burning Man’s Walk-In Camping area was once again graced by the Otic Oasis project. Conceived as offering a respite from the noise and movement of our bustling city, the second iteration of this beautiful meditative spot grew in size, scope, and impact on Burning Man participants’ experience.Politics were also the focus of the Transformoney Tree by Dadara. A prolific artist from Amsterdam, Dadara questions the relationship between money and art – one that can shift the meaning and importance of art, seen only through the lens of currency.

Circle Of Regional Effigies

Some other returning artists created new work for Burning Man in 2012, including Laura Kimpton and Michael Garlington’s “EGO”, Christopher Schardt’s “Char Wash”, Zach Coffin’s “The Universe Revolves Around YOU”, Danny Macchiarini’s “Dragon Smelter”, and David Boyer’s “Mooving Sculptures”, and many more. Some new (to Burning Man) artists joined our fold to create fantastic pieces, including Tom Woodall’s “Pins”, Kevin Christman’s “Tree of Transmutation”, Troy Stanley and Team RX/TX’s “Singularity Transmissions”, Benjamin Carpenter and Daniel Yasmin’s “Sub-Sonarium”, and many more.

CORE returned in 2012, growing from 22 projects in 2011 to 34 this year. Regional groups from around the world felt the call to participate in CORE – artists from New Orleans to Victoria, Saskatchewan to Sweden, and Idaho to South Africa all participated.

Since the goal was to have the effigies encircling the Man and being the first art outside of L3K, (the ring of lights around the Man Pavilion), we designed CORE into three groups. 24 effigies were directly around the Man. Closely nestled by the ring off of the 6:00 Promenade were two smaller circles of five effigies each. This configuration gave Burning Man the opportunity to extend CORE’s focus and function within the event, and celebrate its effect worldwide. We expect that in 2013 we will only have the main circle around the Man.

Self-Funded Art

The CORE teams did a phenomenal job. Given specifications that the effigy could not be higher than 20 feet nor wider than 20 feet, each group created an installation that echoed the spirit and style of their region. From Sweden we saw a Viking ship, from South Africa a fertility doll, from New Orleans a King cake a la Mardi Gras – each group did a wonderful job developing an interactive, playful structure. The effigies were so beautiful some were sad to see them burn simultaneously on Thursday night. But they did burn, and burned well.

While we saw an increase in CORE projects and honoraria, almost 300 artist groups funded their own creations for the playa. Bringing fantasy, science fiction, humor and drama to the dusty expanse of our beloved desert, the art of Black Rock City was rife with creativity. We saw everything from an Alien Nativity to a remote movie theatre, a copy of San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art set on fire (MOMA Fire), a gazebo made of bottle caps, and so much more, and we loved seeing so many people engaging in the unique and – challenging – experience of the elements and distance to construct constructing something amazing on the Black Rock Desertas intriguing as a gazebo made of bottle caps. It’s these artists that really define what we believe – we are all artists and living art in Black Rock City.

Submitted by,
Beth Scarborough