Whether you create a theme-related artwork or a vision you’ve had in your head for some time, anyone making a commitment to creating art at Burning Man must take responsibility for all aspects of that creation. From filling out the art installation registration form, to participating in a dialogue with us, arriving on the playa, protecting your art, and being accountable for cleanup – every aspect of creating art must be taken seriously.
- Artwork must be sufficiently secured against high winds and intense weather conditions that often arise on the playa. If there are guy wires that are necessary to the construction they must be flagged. If you need help securing your artwork, please contact Art Support Services and we can help you with alternative solutions. Please read about building safe structures.
- Artwork must be sufficiently illuminated at night, including rebar, guy wires and any other part of the installation that somebody could crash into. This includes lighting your build materials before you finish creating your art installation. Note that it’s a good idea to use something that cannot be stolen or removed. Read more on lighting your art.
- Camping at your art installation on the open playa during your build is strongly discouraged. It creates MOOP and poses logistical challenges amidst the crunch of build week. We encourage you to think instead about how to take care of your crew while camping at your art support camp in the city.
- Domes and tents are not placed as art on the open playa. The open playa is for hand-built and personally-designed artwork rather than prefabricated structures.
- Live plants are not allowed at Burning Man. Please ensure your installation does not include live plants, or any potentially MOOPy plant matter.
Building Limitations on Playa
Our land use agreement with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) puts certain limitations on what and how we (and you) are allowed to build:
- Limits on Digging Holes – Our agreement with the BLM only allows holes that are 1×1 foot wide and 3 feet deep. The reason: larger holes, when refilled, become either high or low spots after the winter rains, causing a hazard to vehicle traffic and creating dunes. We encourage you to seek out options NOT to dig into the playa surface whenever possible. If you do need to dig a hole up to the allowed size, you will need to pack the playa dust back into the hole when dismantling your installation.
- No Burying Bases – Our agreement with the BLM does not allow any excavation for the covering of artwork footings and bases. Some artists build platforms to cover their base. Others use guy wires attached to ground anchors instead of a base. Still others buy or rent steel trench plates, lay them on the surface of the playa and attach their artwork to that. You can use accumulated playa dust to cover plates, but you cannot trench or excavate to cover them.
- Minimize Trenching – Please limit trenching to instances where wires on the surface will create a hazard, or be aesthetically displeasing to an art installation. For electrical lines or short fuel lines we encourage artists to trench by hand, as this causes less disruption to the playa (electrical lines only require a shallow trench…a few inches deep; a trenching machine leaves a gash 8 inches wide and 6 to 12 inches deep).
Challenges of Building in BRC
Creating art on the playa of Black Rock City is like no canvas or gallery that you may have ever experienced before. The challenges are many. You must consider the extreme physical conditions of the desert, the logistics of transporting building materials and equipment to this remote desert site, and the difficulty of maintaining tools and equipment in a place that has no service grid or ready market of resources. You must also consider the inherently chaotic nature of Black Rock City itself.
All of these challenges are aspects of the medium in which you are working, so plan carefully and be patient. Your creation may not happen in precisely the way you envision it, and that’s okay. The struggle to adapt and to survive is an essential part of this experience and can lead to unexpected discoveries, both about your art as well as yourself.
We challenge you to create something that will inspire, engage, question, puzzle, amuse, seduce and otherwise impact the citizens of Black Rock City. Interactive art is our particular obsession. Interactive work convenes society around itself. It generates roles. It provokes actions. It transforms participants into active contributors to a creative process.
Large-scale sound art is confined to the 10:00 and 2:00 edges of our city. 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. Why not? Electronic music permeates our city, and the open playa is one place that can be free of it. 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. If you are creating an art installation that contains amplified music, it must be located on or in front of the 10:00 or 2:00 edge of our city, and must adhere to our sound policy.
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.
There is a fine but important delineation between mutant vehicles and mobile art. 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
Domes, 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.
You arrive on a clean blank canvas — the playa. And that is the way you will leave it. Everything you bring to live, create and burn MUST BE REMOVED. Nothing, absolutely nothing, may be left at your art site or camp when you leave. Cleaning up and Leaving No Trace are paramount.
Read more about Leave No Trace for Artists and Clean-up Tools
IMPORTANT: There are special requirements if your artwork incorporates FIRE in any of the following ways:
If your artwork incorporates fire in any of those ways, it is mandatory that you read and follow the fire safety guidelines that we have developed. You will also be required to fill out the Fire Safety section of the Art Installation Questionnaire and include your Burn Scar Prevention plan. To be prepared for these questions, please read the following and gather the information you need before you start the questionnaire:
And Finally …
Once you’ve gathered the information you need to describe your artwork, your lighting, your Leave No Trace plan, and fire safety plan if your artwork incorporates Open Fire, Flame Effects, Pyrotechnics or the storage of hazardous or combustible materials, click below to get started. Note that the Art Installation Questionnaire is available from late February to late May.
Art Installation Questionnaire
Get in touch with us!
Please reach out to us via email if you have questions:
- For general inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
- For questions about art that you are bringing to BRC: email@example.com
- For questions regarding engineering of your artwork: firstname.lastname@example.org
- For open fire art: email@example.com
- For flame effects fire art: firstname.lastname@example.org
- For pyrotechnics: email@example.com