2000 Art Theme: The Body

Nothing is so immediate as your experience of your body. Indeed, to even claim your body as your own is a kind of misrepresentation, for you are possessed by your body as surely as you possess it. Closer than close, is this mysterious relationship. Being and belonging to a body, feeling we are members of some greater body — this is primal to our sense of who and what we are.

Our art theme in 2000 will explore this mystery of embodied being. This year we will construct a giant pictogram that copies Burning Man’s familiar logo. Straddling the inverted arc of our city, this colossal human body will extend a mile outward from our civic center. We will draw its outspread limbs and great diamond-shaped head upon the surface of the playa. At night, it will be etched by elevated laser beams. Within this sprawling framework, we will feature art that invokes some aspect of our corporeal being. What does it mean to you to be a mortal creature; to inhabit, possess, and be possessed by, biological processes and a living form?

Art installations may be sited near parts of the body they specifically reference, or they may float freely within this great corpus of work. Particular attention will be focused of the spine. It will form a 3/4 mile long gallery of art extending in a straight line from the giant figure’s groin to the top of it’s head. Featured art will be aligned along this central avenue. Additionally, featured performances are scheduled to take place here Thursday and Friday evenings.


The Friday Evening Pageant

Following the pattern of last year’s art theme, THE WHEEL OF TIME, our art pageant in 2000 will feature four principle installation areas. These will center at the genitals, solar plexus, heart and head, and become the focus of performances on Friday night. Participants will enter the body through the ANUS, a grand formal gateway created by David Normal and Max Hunter. Nearby will stand the Yoni, a stylized representation of the female genitalia, such as is familiar to students of sacred Hindu art. An illuminated clitoral ornament will be enniched near its apex. 200 feet further along this axis, perfectly aligned with Burning Man, will stand a LINGAM of suitably Brobdingnagian proportions. Near sundown on Friday evening, as the climax of the massive rite that has come to be known as the BURNING MAN OPERA, hundreds of Lunar Minotaurs and Solar Snake Priestesses will drag the massive flaming Lingam across the playa to ignite the Yoni gateway. Anyone who wishes to join the opera can be initiated into Atlantean society by following the light/sound beacons to the large Central Pyramid of the Village of Atlantis for the dance vortex and initiation ceremonies.

The second station on our tour is the Solar Plexus. Here we will again install the L2K ARRAY, a 300 foot diameter circle of sequenced lights (this year designed to immediately respond to the movements of participants). At the middle of this circle will stand Burning Man, representing the radiant center of this giant human being. On Friday evening, this arena will become a venue for Tesla coil generated lightning and fiery performance art. (Fire artists wishing to participate in this performance, or perform at our Burn on Saturday night, should contact: fireconclave@burningman.org).

Moving further along this grand promenade of the spine, directly behind the Man, participants will encounter a third major installation area, the Heart. Participants, considered in the scale of our prodigious figure, will be as blood cells as they circulate within our giant body. Accordingly, we will make the Heart a highly interactive destination that brings hundreds of people together. Artist’s wishing to make the Heart their home, should conceive it as the source of our emotional and moral life. It harbors sympathies and hopes, enmities and secret desolations. The Heart is where we find, or fail to find, our courage, the place from which we bind our life to things beyond ourselves. It is a seat of boundless love and joy, yet it is subject to breakage.

Lastly, at the terminus of our journey, participants will arrive in the Head. This vast tract will measure approximately 34,000 square feet. It will represent, in the phrase of Robert Louis Stevenson, “the great phantasmagoric chamber of the brain, with its painted windows and its storied walls”. The Head is the theater of our thoughts, our dreams and memories, and all other conscious experience. It is the hall of our ideals, the seat of transcendence, and the home of our senses. In particular, we are encouraging various kinds technological art to locate in the Head as tribute to what human intellect is able to devise.


Thursday Night Performances and other installations

The entire spine of this body can be regarded as a grand harmonic scale. The vertebrae on which the centers of our nervous consciousness are strung, are like the keys of a piano. Ranging from the darkest roots of our awareness to the sublime projections of the mind, each key in its succession strikes a different tone. We will arrange art installations of all kinds along this scale. Many smaller performances, not included at our major centers, will be featured here on Thursday evening. Artists wishing to participate in the Greater Spine should consider a simple exercise. Touch that place along the axis of your body which you wish to occupy, as if sounding a single note, and see what feelings and ideas arise. Remember, the connection of your art to the body must be made intuitively available to participants. Whatever metaphor that you employ must be rendered apparent. We plan to deploy this art in two principal ways. Some works may be sited directly upon the axial line of our spinal pathway. Think of obelisks or other vertical and circumscribed forms that will allow the public to circulate around and past whatever structure you create. These objects should not impede traffic or block the view. Other installations of larger or broader extent can be made to flank this pathway, clustering like knots of nervous fiber at its sides. Finally, other works of art not featured on the spine are also welcome. Would you like to be a virus or an anti-body plying the great oceanic space of this corpus of work? Have you an affinity for the breasts or the hands or the feet? Do you wish to create a work not literally related to a position, function or part of the body that exemplifies some other aspect of corporeal being? All such ideas are welcome.

A map of ‘The Body’ art installations can be found here.