Burning Man believes that community-driven, inclusive, and interactive art is vital to a thriving culture. Art installations activate the open playa and plazas in Black Rock City, and for the artists who create them, it is one of the ways they contribute to the culture of the city. As a community, we create Black Rock City every year because we all believe there is value in having an entirely different kind of experience — one grounded in what you contribute, say, make, do, and share.
This is a guide for artists on how to be and stay in good standing. When artists are in good standing, it makes Black Rock City the place we know and love. We support your efforts to be in good standing, and we also honor the community by giving feedback to artists that are not in good standing. We have a great community — the vast, vast, vast majority of Burning Man artists are in good standing after the event!
You can learn more about the art registration process and how to submit an Art Installation Questionnaire here.
Artist Good Standing Criteria
While some BRC citizens choose to install artwork within their camps, the following Artist Good Standing Criteria are for artists who work with the Art Department to seek art placement on the open playa and within plazas in BRC. These criteria connect the 10 Principles of Burning Man to the efforts by artists to build and install art in BRC. Each criterion includes an explanation of what we encourage artists to strive for in order to receive resources and support for their art project, as well as the topics we consider when determining good standing.
As stewards of the process of art placement and support, the volunteer teams at the ARTery uphold these criteria. We practice shared accountability by providing direct feedback to artists that are not meeting the criteria.
1. Artist and Artwork Integrity
(Radical Inclusion, Radical Self-expression, Decommodification, Gifting)
Placing art on the open playa and in city plazas embraces the principles of Radical Inclusion and Radical Self-Expression. The Art Department does not curate or exclude any art project that meets our guidelines. We welcome anyone who wants to contribute to the vibrancy of our city by Gifting their creative expression in this way; no prior art experience is required. We provide the placement location on the open playa or in city plazas for participants to practice Radical Self-Expression. Artists assume responsibility for ensuring the art they bring is their own work and they have the rights to the intellectual property.
During the process of applying for a grant or submitting an Art Installation Questionnaire to register an art project, artists are asked to communicate the concept and scope of their art project. The resources and support assigned to the project are based on this information, and artists should communicate changes so that adjustments can be made, if applicable. Additionally, if an art project is canceled, the artist cannot utilize any of the resources assigned for the art project without explicit approval. These resources are limited and we offer them as support for the execution of the art project, not to replace the principle of Radical Self-Reliance.
We ask all artists to help preserve Black Rock City as a Decommodified zone, free from advertising and transactional relationships, and not beholden to corporate influence. Maintaining a Decommodified playa experience can be quite challenging. Recent years have seen an increase in people using artworks in their photo shoots. The playa and its art are not a backdrop for businesses. It also means that artworks on playa are not permitted to have corporate sponsors or be featured in marketing campaigns, nor can images of art in BRC be used to promote a business.
Here’s What Artist and Artwork Integrity Looks Like:
- Bringing art that is your own.
- Bringing art that matches the scope and scale of the resources and support you receive from the Art Department, including not using those resources if the project is canceled.
- For Honoraria recipients, upholding all contractual agreements.
- Maintaining an appropriate boundary between your work in BRC and any ongoing commercial endeavors outside of BRC.
2. Project Implementation
(Civic Responsibility, Leave No Trace, Participation)
Art installations, especially in the harsh environment of the Black Rock Desert, are a challenge to implement according to plan. After months of planning, fundraising, and building, installing art on playa is the ultimate form of Participation, both by contributing to the physical space of BRC and by motivating Participation through interactions with the art.
Artists receive different types of support from the various volunteer teams in the ARTery. They work with the ARTerians to check in and get their art placement location. Some projects are required to pass inspections from our Fire Art Safety Team (FAST) and many of them rely on Art Support Services (ASS) for heavy equipment and other resource support from installation through de-installation.
Civic Responsibility – doing the right thing for the greater community – is one of Burning Man’s Principles and safety is at its core. Artists are expected to abide by all policies and regulations applied by government entities and Burning Man departments in the interest of caring for one another. Safety regulations create a safer event for everyone, and enable each citizen in Black Rock City to get the most out of the Burn.
With over 400 art projects to coordinate in BRC, we painstakingly assign specific locations for each and every project, even those who register on playa as a Walk-In. Ensuring that you build where you were placed is part of your commitment to Civic Responsibility, along with following all of our guidelines. Artists must be good stewards of the land and respect the privilege we have to build our temporary city in the Black Rock Desert. Art crews should understand best practices to Leave No Trace (LNT), consider their impact on the playa and in surrounding communities, and implement viable MOOP sweeps and a LNT plan. Artists aim for Green on the MOOP Map and are willing to take responsibility if they aren’t.
Here’s What Best Effort at Project Implementation Looks Like:
- Checking in properly at the ARTery (and checking out if you are an Honorarium artist).
- Adhering to all policies and regulations required by government entities on playa.
- Installing your art project at the location assigned to you.
- Following our guidelines for building safe structures.
- Practicing Leave No Trace by conducting proper clean up of MOOP at your installation.
3. Working Relationship
(Communal Effort, Radical Self-Reliance)
All art projects, large and small, rely on Communal Effort to execute from start to finish in BRC. As good citizens of BRC, artists embody Communal Effort in all their interactions, are mindful of the people around them, and are open to learning and compromise in conflict. Burning Man Project staff are here to assist, but cannot substitute for an artist’s own ability to execute on a viable vision. Artists should be prepared to rely on their own resources as much as possible to install their art project and be a good partner with the Art Department and other Burning Man departments when collaboration is necessary.
Here’s What a Good Working Relationship Looks Like:
- Acting in a courteous, patient, and respectful manner during interactions with the Artist Liaison, other Art Department Staff, volunteers in the ARTery, and members of other departments.
- Ensuring there is an adequate crew in place to execute the installation and deinstallation of the project.
- Following the proper procedures for enlisting assistance on playa and refraining from “shopping for answers” or going around and asking different people the same inquiry in an attempt to receive a different response.
4. Culture and Values
(Decommodification, Gifting, Participation, Immediacy)
In order for the Art Department to support art in Black Rock City while following the principle of Decommodification, we allocate the resources necessary to ensure a successful installation and operation of art projects. These resources may include access to tickets, vehicle passes, and Work Access Passes, which are extremely limited and the demand often exceeds availability. When an art project receives resources, it is the artist’s responsibility to ensure they are directing access only to their core crew working on the project.
Here’s What Supporting Our Culture and Values Looks Like:
- Aligning the interactivity of your art with the 10 Principles: it is decommodified, radically inclusive, and it creates experiences that prioritize connection, participation and immediacy.
- Using all tickets and Work Access Passes resources provided by the Art Department only for your core crew needed to complete your art project on playa.
- Allocating your crew’s collective focus, time, and resources primarily toward your public contribution of art, which adds to the vibrancy of Black Rock City, rather than your personal interests.
- Serving and enhancing gifting culture, and avoiding the types of transactional exchanges we experience in the default world.
To Sum Up
By accepting an Honorarium or submitting an Art Installation Questionnaire to register an art project, artists enter into a formal relationship with Burning Man Project and the Art Department. The Art Department collects feedback about art projects from Artist Liaisons, ARTerians, Art Support Services (ASS), Fire Art Safety Team (FAST), Heavy Equipment and Transportation (HEaT), Playa Restoration, and other departments to help determine their standing. For those in good standing, the Art Department offers various resources such as guidance and support from Artist Liaisons, ARTerians, Art Support Services, and the Fire Art Safety Team, and in some cases support with tickets and Work Access Passes.
An artists’ standing with Burning Man isn’t black and white; it’s an evolving relationship and we would like all parties to be committed to being the best partners we can be. The vast majority of Burning Man artists are in good standing after the event each year. This guide was created to increase transparency about our expectations so that artists will have a good idea of what it takes to be in good standing with the Art Department.