Desert Arts Preview: Artists of Waking Dreams
It’s really real. Makers are making. Planners are planning. Crews all over the world are creating installations for Black Rock City. Katie Hazard, Head of Burning Man Arts, speaks with ten of the 400 artists whose work will rise on the playa. Hold onto your headlamp: We’ve got an alien drive-thru, a library for solar power, and architecture that defiles the laws of physics. We’ve got stories from France, South Africa, the Netherlands, and oh so much more.
Ezra Livingston: Shrine of the Macabre
Jared Ficklin: The Solar Library
Madeline Fried & Matthew Gerring: Alien Drive-Thru
Matt McConnell: Evolution Field
Bibi Bliekendaal: The Tinkle Drum
Mo Osunbor: Build A Seat
Wes Modes: Black Rock Station
Kate Greenberg: INCENTER
Arthur Mamou-Mani, Marta Cavallé & Nick Moser: Catharsis
Usha Seejarim: The Resurrection of the Clothes Peg
R.I.D.E. Radical Inclusion, Diversity and Equity
As the head of the Art Department, Katie Hazard manages and serves on the BRC Honoraria Committee, and manages art processes, people, and placement, all toward having the most impactful art possible 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.
ANDIE: Hello to all of our invisible friends out there once again, and welcome back to another episode of Burning Man Live. I’m your host, Andie Grace. The anticipation is hot for Black Rock City 2022 and the Desert Arts Preview held on June 14th had a lot of participants built up to a fevered pitch. If you didn’t get to participate virtually there is a full video online. But we thought you podcast-loving types or those who just like to wait to see the surprises might enjoy some of the highlights and descriptions of the videos the artists shared to get your own fever rising just a little bit.
I will pop in here and there throughout to describe what you might be seeing if you were watching. Let’s jump right into the intro with host, the inimitable Katie Hazard, Associate Director of Art Management for Burning Man Project.
KATIE: Hello everybody and welcome. It’s the 22nd annual Desert Arts Preview. Oh my gosh. I’m so excited to be here. My name is Katie Hazard and I am your host, and I’m also the Associate Director of Art Management for Burning Man Project. That means I’m the head of the Art Department, and I get to oversee the selection, placement, and installation of over 400 artworks annually at Burning Man. It’s such a cool job. I’m super grateful I get to dedicate all my time to something I love so much.
It’s really fun to get a feel for where folks are from everywhere. I’ve seen like, New Zealand, and New Orleans, and Savannah, Georgia, and Mexico. Boston. Cool.
We have 10 artists that we’ve selected to represent today, but that’s just a very small sample because it’s 10 out of more than 400 artists that have registered to bring an artwork to Black Rock City this year. You can see all of the projects actually coming to Burning Man this year on our website. Each of these 10 artists has a call to action: a way that you can get involved if you’d like. Think about: how would you like to get involved this year? And what kind of part you would like to play in the art of 2022?
Oh my gosh, Desert Arts Preview. This must mean that Burning Man is finally happening. Our theme is Waking Dream, and there’s a little sense of like, is it really gonna happen this year after the last couple years of being like, is it gonna happen? No. Is it gonna happen? No. And now, I can’t guarantee anything in the world, and we all know that no one can given how things have gone in the last few years, but this feels very real to me. It’s really kind of hard to believe after these couple years off, but, yes, Burning Man is back in all of its wild and wonderful glory, all its expressiveness and community and hard work and joy, all the learning and the growing and the fun and the art! I get most excited about the art.
You know, where else can you experience firsthand, like literally firsthand, you know, we’re like touching these things, like physically viscerally experiencing this work – it’s such monumental, experimental, silly, thoughtful, mind bending, heart opening artwork; such a full range of stuff.
We get this really special and rare opportunity to hear directly from the artists themselves about their work. So you’re going to get a sneak peek into the minds of these artists and creative teams as they share with us the projects they’re working on for Burning Man 2022. Without further ado, let’s get into it, and hear from this great lineup of artists.
Our first of the 10 artists we have is Ezra Livingston. Ezra, who also goes by Fish Submarine, spends most of his time creating illustrations, designs and sculptures. He’s known for his emphasis on the exquisite style inspired by Art Nouveau, Gothic, and the macabre. This is his first Honoraria project as the lead artist. Welcome, Ezra.
EZRA: Thank you, Katie. Appreciate you all having me as part of a Burning Man. Every year I have loved to be able to be a part of it. So it’s really great to be here. I’m Ezra Livingston, aka Fish Submarine. I have a great crew building this awesome sculpture that’s coming back with legs, and fire, and a stage.
KATIE: Cool. Let’s check it out.
EZRA: Shrine of the Macabre: This 25 foot high edifice has a silhouette of a steeple, with the cutout flame designs along its edges. On each of these facades are openings and art nouveau patterns. The interior of the structure features illustrations and sitting area to view out of. On the ceiling is a diorama of pattern shape. Each corner of the structure is buttressed by additional filigree-like steel, sitting on a platform of four legs with 3D square and layer rigging beneath. It will be lit by a wide pallet of CLO LEDs and calliope fire effects. Built in Emeryville, California, our call action is fire effects, solar backup propane generator, Build Week crew, fire safety crew and de-installation.
KATIE: Thank you so much, Ezra. I remember we first connected when you brought a part of that as a walk-in registration, because some folks may know that if you miss the deadline to register, you can still walk in on playa with a small artwork, and so, Ezra brought a walk-in piece, it was just an element of this current piece, and now he’s coming back and it’s got chicken legs and flame effects and all sorts of fun evolutions and development. So thank you so much.
EZRA: Quite welcome. Thank you so much.
KATIE: Okay, next up, I’m excited to welcome Jared Ficklin, aka Pearl Snaps. Jared is a designer and creative technologist with two decades of experience creating products and visions for major companies. He is always exploring new means for technological interaction, and has a passion for unique interaction models.
Jared is an evangelist and co-creator of the cable car-based mass transport vision known as The Wire, and was the first to bring live fire to the TED stage. I’d like to see that. He speaks internationally as a creative technologist and futurist. Jared and his twin, Joey Ficklin have activated works at the Burn twice, and other events worldwide.
Their work integrates technology in unusual or unexpected places while creating new capabilities or experiences. Their latest works examine augmentation versus emulation, and seek to improve humanity through technophilia. Jared, so happy to have you here. Welcome.
Jared: Thank you. I’ve seen so many of these. It’s so cool to be on this side of it. And, you know, behind every project, including this year’s Solar Library is a community of artists, and so I just want to thank them, my brother, Joey, who’s the other side of The Other Singularity, and then The Last Starfighters art support camp; there’s about 25 of ’em that work so hard in the hot Austin sun.
And then, the new crop of people who we are calling Solarians who are helping to activate The Solar Library. And last but not least the artists who have joined us in this mission to make the playa more sustainable.
KATIE: Cool. Thanks.
JARED: Art is beautiful for the communities that it creates and also for the aesthetics it adds to the playa, but art needs power; and it would be nice if that was solar power and not the generators that are mostly used today. When we brought out the augmented reality porta potties in 2018, we tried to use solar power. But we learned a lot; mostly that it takes a lot more solar power than you think it does. We spent a lot of time running batteries back and forth at camp that year. And we learned a lot about battery swap. In 2019 when we brought The Trailing Sol, we worked really hard to make sure our solar system had the capacity for the load. But that meant it was really big, really heavy, really expensive. And we didn’t like the way it looked next to the art. That’s when we conceived of The Solar Library.
The Solar Library is sculptural infrastructure to help small art convert to solar power. Artists apply for a library card, and they don’t have to worry about building panel infrastructure. They just buy batteries instead of a generator. And then they swap them out on the playa.
Each unit has 1600 Watts of charging power and is dedicated to a single artist. We use these plans to engage a fabricator because, well, we don’t trust our welding skills and we wanted these to last for years. The Solar Library itself is being built in Austin, Texas, at the home of The Other Singularity art collective, and it’s being built by 20 volunteers who are members of the art support camp The Last Starfighters. We have a lot of past equipment that we’re using here from bringing art to the playa.
We decided that the unit should have the colors of the sun, in particular, the sunrise in the sunset on the playa, so we’re painting them all kinds of shades of yellow and orange. Right now, The Last Starfighters have had a couple of work days. We’ve built out the first prototype unit. We’ve test-fit the solar panels, installed the walls and the doors. Right now, it’s going back to the fabricator so they can make adjustments and build five more units. Next month, we’ll be building all those units out fully, and they’ll be on the trailer ready to go to the playa. That trailer is gonna be stored at 360, and that will save tons of CO2. Our hope this year is to support six projects and take six generators off the playa, and all the spilled fuel and fumes associated with those. But more importantly, six trucks and trailers from traveling to and from the playa. And we hope to expand that to 50 artists in the future. See you in the dust.
KATIE: Wow. That’s so cool, Jared. How clever to make it both so practical and so beautiful.
As many of you know, Burning Man Project is really working hard to prioritize environmental sustainability. We released a roadmap a couple years ago, that we have three goals that we’re trying to reach by 2030. So it’s really exciting to see how that’s coming to life through artworks as well.
The first time I met Jared was when he was working on a project to bring augmented reality porta-potties to the playa. It must have been probably five years ago. And he actually rented a porta-potty and had it set up in his backyard, and was doing the project there. And I remember being like:, What a funny thing that people all over the world are doing these things in their own backyard. This guy rented a porta-potty to make his art project and, you know, wonder what the neighbors are wondering.
And it reminds me of my colleague Dave X likes to talk about how, you know, sometimes people will spit out some outlandish idea and everyone will be like, “That’s ridiculous.” But as soon as you put the words “at Burning Man” at the end of that outlandish idea, suddenly it’s like, “Oh, of course. Sure. Yeah. Why not make that happen?” That’s just one of the things that I love about this culture and community.
Thanks again, Jared, for doing this. Although The Solar Library really is not one of those crazy ideas, like we should do that in every city everywhere. That’s a cool idea to expand on after this.
Let’s move on to our next folks. We have one of the most fun projects this year. We have Madeline Fried and Matthew Gerring here to talk to us about their project.
Madeline is an artist, educator, and scientist from San Francisco with a background in fine art and archaeobotany. Her work spans several visual and sculptural mediums, meditating on messages and observations from the natural world. Matthew Gerring, he was the lead artist on the project Awful’s Gas & Snack, that amazing gas station installation at the edge of the playa that amused and inspired so many of us.
Their collective, Swing Shift, is a group of artists, tinkerers, and friends that make immersive art, bridging the realms of activism, science, art, and theater. Their projects explore existential threats and issues facing working people, through live, narrative-based, multi-sensory experiences. Maddie and Matthew, so glad to have you here. Welcome.
MADDIE: Hey, really happy to be here. I’m Maddie.
MADDIE: So as we all know the last couple years have been super hard for all of us, but last year for us was pretty bizarre. Uh, we were contacted by aliens.
MATTHEW: Yeah. Um, so communicating with them was pretty weird at first. They were initially telepathically commanding me to make a model of a mountain out of tater tots in our apartment. And then later they were trying to use those big signs over the top of the freeway, and flashing them at us as we would drive by. So eventually we made contact. They’re actually pretty cool.
MATTHEW: Yeah. And we coached them a little bit on how to talk to humans. So we’re gonna just go ahead and let them take over. I think they’re coming in right now. Cool.
ALIEN 1: Excellent. We seem to be connected. Hello, humans. We are happy to be perceived. We are a collective of beings from many star systems, and we have come here to establish contact via interspecies communication device.
ALIEN 2: May we present to you our endeavor: a magnificent interface to communicate with your species safely.
ALIEN 1: In our research, we have noticed these glowing megaliths installed everywhere on your planet. It appears to be a popular method for establishing contact with other humans. Long lines of your pods form a line just to connect with another human to talk to.
ALIEN 2: We are attempting to build our own “drive thru,” as you call it, and place it in a location in time with high concentrations of human connectivity: the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert.
ALIEN 1: We are collecting human materials and shaping them to build our interface. While we are still adjusting to terrestrial gravity, we have enlisted assistance from a group of human friends familiar with this ritual event. They have experienced creating simulacra of another popular human oasis: The gas station.
ALIEN 2: Our human friends have spoken much of the importance of customer service. So with our , we will create an immersive and fully unique experience for every customer that we serve.
ALIEN 1: We will be using much human technology, which is strange to us: Radio. Lenticular animation. Video. We are running our ship’s computers at full capacity to create appetizing depictions of human food.
ALIEN 2: We are also attempting to familiarize ourselves with human foods. We are full of excitement to make contact and learn all about human culture, through real humans. We hope that some of you humans would like to meet us too. To assist us in our learnings, please send us non-perishable human food via snail mail, or your preferred insect.
ALIEN 1: We look forward to serving you with food. And you.
MADDIE: Um, it’s a little more than expected, but I think they want you guys to send them food.
MATTHEW: Yeah. Any non-perishable food — fruit cakes, tinned fish — is good. Anything you might want to use to help aliens understand the idea of food. We’re not sure that they eat, or even really know what food is. So if you could help us out, that would be really good. And yeah. Thank you all for your time.
KATIE: Man, I am totally gonna line up my questions for these aliens in the next couple months. Yeah, nothing like a visit from creatures from another dimension to keep things appropriately weird, so thank you guys.
Next up, I’m happy to welcome Matt McConnell, who is joining us from Raleigh, North Carolina. Matt is a sculptor and designer who has always been fascinated with capturing and expressing the energy of time and motion. Invisible forces such as wind, gravity, and light, are a constant focus of his work, where the rhythm and flow of the elements intertwine to create truly three dimensional form. A passion for implying motion in still form, and impacting space without overtaking it, is the focus of much of his work.
Matt holds degrees in architecture and industrial design from the North Carolina State College of Design, and his 23 years of professional experience in large scale sculpture, architectural installation, lighting, and furniture design in a huge variety of materials and forms. I’m really happy he’s here with us today. Welcome.
MATT: Thanks, Katie. It’s an honor to be here. I’m excited to finally realize artwork on playa. I want to just define what I think the piece represents. Evolution Field is about the blending of energy and invisible forces, how layers combine to create new intricate forms, using color and light.
I see it as a representation of the spirit of combined communities, and how interaction creates new perspectives. As part of the piece, we’re gonna include motion sensors and key locations that will periodically activate waves of color, so part of the challenge is to figure out what that combination is, so that it will activate and change.
I wanna give you a little bit of a walkthrough, a glimpse into the journey of what it’s taken to get here, which has been years in the making. From the origins of the valley have formed the idea to pass through things, the wave tests, or the division of the lines; models, mockups, proof of concepts. um Projects related through the pandemic pause, where we had an opportunity to, since the burn wasn’t happening, test the ideas and see if things would work or what didn’t didn’t. And then finally, build current day. We were really fortunate to have local support to complete and install a full third of the piece twice already this year. And through that learning, failure, overcoming and redesigning elements of it for durability, and making sure that it’s ready for a trip to the desert.
So with that, we present Evolution Field.
ANDIE: Okay. listener. Andie Grace, here. This piece makes use of not just beautiful wave forms of the light structure itself, but the effect known as moire. It’s a visual perception that’s created by evenly spaced lines, superimposed over other lines, and it creates these shifting, undulating, geometric patterns, depending upon where you’re standing and what the lights are doing. It’s long and wide, about twice as tall as you and me. So we’ll be able to see it from afar, and up close. It looks really psychedelic and gorgeous, and I’m guessing it’s never gonna look the same way twice.
MATT: I’m honored to bring this piece to the playa. We’re really excited to be as far along as we are, and have it all come together the way we need it to. If you wanna get involved, evolutionfield.com, there’s a link for an email address. I am just really excited and honored to be here, and bring this artwork to the playa, so, you know, thank you for everything, and for everybody being here.
KATIE: Oh, thank you, Matt. Wow. I mean, we’re honored to be able to have you and feature you. That’s awesome. Thank you so much.
Next we have a truly international project represented here by conceptual artist and creative director Bibi Bliekendaal. Bibi is “a Kiwi (so from New Zealand), a Dutchie, (living in the Netherlands) and the person to blame for all of this” is how she describes herself. She attended Burning Man in 2018 and helped build the Hijinks Kiwi Burn in 2020. She is a writer, DJ and creative professional with 15 years experience ideating and producing experiences, campaigns, sites, and films for global brands.
Bibi studied art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, and now dedicates time to sustainable art and sculpture. The collective she’s working with, the Tinklers, is a bunch of sustainability nerds, creatives, and engineers from all over, but mostly based in Amsterdam, who want to make cool ideas come to life. They are on a mission to share their first interactive art piece with Black Rock City 2022 and beyond. Hello, Bibi.
BIBI: Hello. Oh, wow. Yeah, I’m so excited and I’m absolutely honored. I can’t really believe that I’ve been given this opportunity to share one of my ideas with you. It’s basically a giant instrument sculpture that people will walk inside together. It’s circular in more ways than one. It creates music, and I just wanted to thank the Renewables for Artists team for your support, and the builders and engineers who have already helped me so much so far. And also the support that I’ve received, and from the Burning Man organization for supporting me and having me too, so.
KATIE: It’s fun to think about all the ways that art can be interactive and this one’s like such a clever and fun and creative way to do it. Thank you so much for being here and sharing with us.
BIBI: Thank you for having me.
KATIE: Okay. Well, next up, I’m excited to introduce Mo, Mo Osunbor. I’m so happy to have you here today. Mo is a Nigerian-born, Texas-raised, New York resident and four time Burner. On playa, he says he basically lives at Mayan Warrior, Bubbles and Bass, and your camp kitchen eating most of your snacks. Currently, he works as a creative at Tik Toc’s Global Creative Lab in New York. And previously he was at Meta’s in-house creative team in San Francisco. So glad to have you here today.
MO: So glad to be here, Katie, thank you very much, and yes, it is so crazy to be on the other side, because I’m a four-time Burner, but this is my first year building. So I’m just building the plane while I’m flying it and trying to make this thing happen. So this project that I’m super excited to share, had just come from an observation of going to Burning Man, a few years now, and for other people who share the same passion as I do: awesome.
So, the project is called Build a Seat. And once again, we want to treat this project as a gateway and a bridge, if you will, for a ton of folks, a ton more folks to look like me, to come in, to bring their creativity, to bring their sauce, to bring their energy, and to build bigger than anything that I could dream of.
ANDIE: Andie here again. It’s a giant topsy-turvy, spiral staircase-based table, and some constructed and deconstructed giant chairs. It’s a place to gather, connect and celebrate. Build a seat at the table. I love it.
MO: Thank you, thank you so much for having me be a part of this.
KATIE: Amazing, thank you so much, Mo. As a lot of you know, Burning Man has also really been focusing a lot on radical inclusion, diversity and equity in these last couple years. And I’m really thrilled to share that of the Honoraria projects this year 20% of the lead artists are people of color. We haven’t been tracking that until now, but I do think it’s definitely an increase in that, and so projects like yours Mo really help us make a big difference in that. So really excited to have you, thank you so much.
I’d like to introduce to you an artist named Wes Modes. Wes is a Santa Cruz artist, focused on social practice, sculpture, performance, and new media work. He holds a Master’s in Fine Arts from the Digital Art and New Media program at UC Santa Cruz, and his sculpture photography and new media works have appeared in group and solo shows since 1996. His performance in social practice work since the mid-nineties has made headlines internationally, and has been chronicled in journals.
His comic work has been published in several noted illustrated histories, and he is deeply involved with community life, collectively organizing and serving on commissions, review boards, and nonprofit boards.
Let me also please introduce the Black Rock Transportation Company. It was formed in 1931 with the consolidation of two smaller railroad companies, the Virginia and Tonopah, and the Trago Antelope and Jungo. The BRTC was the brainchild of promoters Lauren Bens, and her long term business partner, Rico Thunder, both of California. Black Rock Station was built to serve Black Rock City with the help of Black Rock Investment Capital in public bonds, in 1938. Welcome, Wes.
WES: Okay. Thanks Katie, and thanks Matt. I’m Wes, aka Rico Thunder, one of the co-artists that’s creating Black Rock Station out on the playa. We were one of the Honoraria projects selected in 2020, so we’ve had an extra two years to work on it, so, I guess we better make it good. I hope this gives you a flavor of the project.
ANDIE: Me again. Wes’s video shares old-time railroad workers and the blueprints of the Station. All kinds of parts of our nation’s history, about railroads and trains, but also historical clips from the last 150 years of our nation’s sometimes tumultuous history. It features benches, ticket windows, crossing signals – the full rail-stop experience. But since it invites in this historical context and other artists to contribute and evolve it, it’s clearly gonna show up as much more than just some ghostly train station.
“When their backs are turned, follow the railroad riders.”
WES: So we have a team of about 15 artists working on the project, and we want to collaborate with you, as well. So we’ll allow artists to feature their art at Black Rock Station. Thanks, Katie.
KATIE: Oh, man. Thank you so much. Little choo-choos and “All aboard!” I like how it’s not just, of course it’s taking advantage of the environment and the landscape there in a very cool way, but it’s not just a train station. Like this whole subversive history element of it makes it, you know, totally interesting. So. Thank you.
So now I am pleased to introduce Kate Greenberg. Kate is an Associate Principal at Studios Architecture, and as the design lead on complex projects with many-layered teams, Kate empowers all those involved in the process. She takes a hands-on approach to all her work, whether designing new campuses for global technology companies, or creating luminous art installations.
She earned a Master of Architecture from UC Berkeley. Kate began attending Burning Man in 2015 and has brought three art projects to the playa so far: Chronocidra, Trace, and Opus. She was also honored to be the conceptual artist of the 2020 Man Base, when we did the Multiverse, the virtual Man, and while global events prevented it from becoming a reality in our multiverse, she assured it was spectacular in another. Welcome, Kate.
KATE: Thank you so much, Katie. Today I wanna share with you a little bit about the piece that our team is bringing, it’s called INCENTER, and it is a piece that is inspired by the time that we’ve been apart during the pandemic by the many forms of loss that it brought with it: our isolation from our communities, but also the way personal resiliency broke through and really sought human connections on a global scale.
INCENTER celebrates that connection, and it aims to create a space on playa for people to share their journeys, to learn what others have been feeling throughout this time, to recognize the differences and find solidarity and overlap within the safety of being together as a community once again.
We also felt it was important that we start to utilize a perspective of connection as we look forward, and tackle together the similarly global issues, like social equity and climate change. To share a little bit more, our team will show you how INCENTER will take shape.
My life went from being out in the world to, in these four walls, just a real panic.
I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t know what this world is right now.
It was really hard to be isolated from community, physically.
Just really being with myself.
The isolation of the pandemic was challenging, but, it feels like something that brought me closer to different people in my life in new ways.
I know that I felt alone, and had to remind myself that I actually wasn’t, that we were all alone together. And I think maybe even just one person might still need to find that on playa this year.
INCENTER is a house with the Earth inside. If you could stand at the center of our Earth and view it from the inside out, you would be at the one place in our universe from which all human life could be seen simultaneously, a place that brings into focus our connection and oneness.
When you walk into this piece, you will find yourself inside a 20-foot diameter version of our planet. You’ll see the continents from within, and major cities connected by light. These LEDs will be programmed to show data from around the world about the lived experience we’ve shared in the last two and a half years.
And one LED will connect down to an interactive interface, and will light up to represent live data shared by you.
Folks can actually physically engage, modify what happens around them, and situates them within the sort of global community.
I’m hoping that we can tell a story about the last few years and what everyone has been experiencing together, using data, and evocative emotional content.
And on the outside of INCENTER, each corner will have a reflection wall for you to share your written words.
And if you were to walk around that wall and see something written down that coincides with thoughts that you’ve had, to be like, “Oh my God, someone felt that too.”
I want to be there and understand, and see, and feel seen.
I hope people communicate unabashedly and gain some really deep insights into their own process, what’s been happening with them, but then also, what the collective has been experiencing.
And to spark discussions, and community, and joy, and then burn it down at the end of the week to say, “We are letting go, and we are moving beyond this pandemic and into the future, where we’re going now.”
So a lot needs to happen before we get to Burning Man. We are, you know, looking for more people to volunteer and come help us make this, you know, dream a reality.
We’re looking for salvaged wood, fasteners, construction hardware, and also your ideas. Find us on social media, and tell us what data scene you’d like to see at INCENTER as it welcomes you home.
KATIE: Wow. I’m really feeling that. Like it’s such a timely and relevant and necessary installation, you know, it’s like, so beautiful, both in form and conceptually, and I just think something so necessary for all of us, so many thousands of people coming together for the first time after this whole thing, Burning Man’s not gonna be what it was before. We’re not what we were before. So I’m so grateful to you, Kate, for making a space for us to, you know, work on processing some of this stuff. And burning it afterwards, I think is just gonna be very cathartic. So thank you so much.
Speaking of cathartic, the next artist I have up, um, the project is actually called Catharsis. I didn’t even plan that transition, but it works out very perfectly.
I’m thrilled today to welcome Arthur Mamou-Mani. Arthur is a French architect and Director of the architecture and design practice Arthur Mamou-Mani Limited, which specializes in a new kind of pop-up digital fabrication-led architecture.
He is a lecturer at the University of Westminster, responsible for five student projects on playa from 2013 through 2015, and he was the lead designer for Tangential Dreams in 2016. But what most of you probably know him from is Galaxia, the 2018 Temple.
I still have this little model that you gave me Arthur, when we talked about it. It’s such a beautiful and amazing sculpture. You’re such an inspiration and I can’t wait for you to show everyone what you’re up to next.
ARTHUR: Thank you so much, Katie. And it’s such an honor every time to work with you and the community.
Galaxia was such a place for participation, and people shared the most moving messages. And I always thought it would be nice to bring this idea to other pieces of art, to allow more people to express themself, in more places. And Catharsis is a fractal art gallery that will not only serve as a sort of coral at Black Rock, but also will travel around because we will disassemble it, and reassemble it in other cities. I’m very excited to share this with you.
KATIE: Thank you. Yeah.
ARTHUR: Hello everyone. We’re the Catharsis crew. I’m Arthur. I work on the architecture.
MARTA: My name is Martha. I’m from Thermal Arts, and I work on the art integration and program of Catharsis.
NICK: I’m Nick and I run the design build side, working to help Arthur and Martha realize the vision.
ARTHUR: The way I met Nick was on a project called Galaxia. It was a really meaningful project for us, and was the follow up to projects we did with students, where we learned about the city. Catharsis is like the ying to Galaxia’s yang. We’re also very excited not to burn Catharsis and to disassemble it, and have it travel around cities. It’s inspired by the Poincaré disc, where curves are actually shorter path than the straight lines. It’s also inspired by nature. You can find that geometry in lotus roots. You might have seen Catharsis in the Metaverse, in BRCvr.
ANDIE: You can really see what they mean by ying to the yang. Galaxia was all spiraling, curvy lines, whereas Catharsis, when you view it from above especially, it’s all hexagonal shapes and perfect circles. It’s full of pathways and stairways. You can climb up in it and walk around. It’s also shown illuminated at night when it resembles a big flower or pod curved inward like a bowl. Big props to them for a wooden sculpture that won’t be burned.
NICK: We’ve been working hard getting this from the concept design and working through fabrication. And, we’re working in the One Hat One Hand shop in San Francisco, and would love to have people come lend a hand. And we’re starting to build things at scale and ship ’em out to the desert.
MARTA: The curatorial concept of Catharsis is really rooted in exploring through art, the power of the dreaming mind as the creator of reality. It features multi-sensorial exhibits in light sounds, sculpture, virtual reality, and projection mapping. We are working with having a multimedia installation by Yulia Straus.
NICK: These are two among many artists that are displaying their work in this metaversal gallery space.
MARTA: And we also wanted to take this occasion for a call to action, to everyone who has 2D and 3D sculptural work, who wants to exhibit within Catharsis. We really encourage everyone to submit their work that are inspired, or that are a reflection on the number seven or on this team.
NICK: More hands makes lighter work. So come out and help build in San Francisco.
KATIE: Very cool. And then Nick and Marta, I think we have you guys live. You wanna share something?
MARTA: Hi everyone. I’m super excited to be here. So yeah, as we mentioned we really welcome any kind of arts that would like to be exhibited in Catharsis. So if you have any visual or cultural piece that you would like to bring to Catharsis, just feel free to get in contact with us, and we can find a way to bring it there. As Catharsis has seven branches, and seven is such a powerful number, we would love to see some works that are kind of reflecting on the number seven, but of course this is just, you know, a general framework. The call is wide open. Yeah.
NICK: Thanks, Marta. And, yeah, just wanna reiterate on our side, we’re coming live from the build site in San Francisco. So, yeah. Come join us. It’s a lot of fun and yeah, we’ll be here every weekend from here on out, and Wednesday nights. So, the website has a link that you can get in touch with us. Thanks so much.
KATIE: Such an incredible and beautiful piece. I can’t wait to see it come to life. So thank you so much. Arthur, Nick, Marta, everyone that’s involved. This is gonna be beautiful.
Finally, I am pleased to introduce internationally renowned artist Usha Seejarim coming to you live from South Africa where I think it’s quite late at night. Usha is a conceptual and socially engaged artist who uses found objects to communicate complex and simple ideas around the domestic position of women.
She’s best known for her translation of ordinary objects with the distinctly Dadaist influence. She has completed numerous large scale public art installations, including a beaded portrait of Nelson Mandela for his funeral. She’s a prolific artist, having produced nine solo exhibitions, and participated in many group shows in South Africa and abroad. She holds a Master’s degree in fine art, and her work sits in various institutional collections. We selected Usha for an Honorarium in 2020, and it’s just been such a joy and delight to get to know her and work with her over these past couple of years. So welcome, Usha. I’m so excited to have you with us.
USHA: Thank you, Katie. Wow. What a privilege to be part of this group and part of this community. It’s been such a treat to see everybody’s work. And even though I’ve never been to Burning Man before, it feels like I’m already part of a family. Ahhh, so thank you for having me.
Our project has been a very intense project, given the scale and the distance from which we are coming. Currently the work is on a 40-foot container and it’s en route to the US. It’s on a ship, coming all the way from Lagos. I think it’s just passed Amsterdam now, and it’s meant to arrive in the US. So, let’s hope that everything goes well. I’ve been very grateful to have an incredible team behind me. So here’s a preview into our process.
We have an African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This project, which is our baby, has really taken a village to realize it.
It was very important that we, as Africans, are represented globally. And, one of the things that I’d noticed being at Burning Man is that there’s very little African representation, both in terms of participants, but also in terms of art.
And our art is unique, it is vibrant. This resurrection of the clothes peg represents, you know, a lot.
I was inspired by my practice as an artist where I work with a number of domestic objects. And one of the objects I work with is a wooden peg. And a wooden peg is a little object. It’s an unassuming object. We don’t pay much attention to this. And because I work with this, I want to bring attention to it. It is a symbol of female labor, female kind of function of holding together. So what I did is I proposed a work that magnifies this little peg. And then I said, I also wanted to show the power of woman, when she is given so little. And if you look at a wooden peg, it has two parts that holds together. So what if I remove one part? What if I make her less, but still show that she’s powerful.
So mind boggling to see the sheer scale of the project, and the number of people that are working on the different aspects of it. It certainly is an indigenous project, where we are using local labor, local resources, local energy, to put together the resurrection of the clothes peg.
We’ve had fundraisers to supplement the funding required. You can understand the scale of this: that everything is not small. Everything is massive. So there are so many teams involved in bringing this together. And I have to make a point about that. Almost everybody on this project is working voluntarily, and giving, giving, giving, and I am moved all the time by how selflessly everybody has been working, and giving for the love of this project. It’s incredible.
Getting involved, mobilizing resources, making this a truly African project where we have a South African artist; we have engineers from other parts of Africa, we’re using steel from other parts of the world, but we’re also, you know, constructing this here in Nigeria. It doesn’t get better than that.
I think there are two voices that are absent in the world. And I think it’s the African voice and the female voice. And this is what this artwork is bringing. And it’s saying we have a different voice to a Western voice. And the voice is one of the way the nature of this project has been. It’s a collaborative voice as opposed to competitive. It’s about working together, but it’s also about a different kind of value system that I think globally needs to be recognized.
A female voice is a very powerful voice without being aggressive, without being violent. It’s a nurturing voice that is more powerful than a very domineering voice. And I think these are the kind of values that this artwork embodies. And this is the message of the work.
KATIE: I am getting chills and all like, feeling so touched by that. My goodness. Usha, this is incredible.
USHA: Thank you, Katie. Yeah, if anybody would like to support our project, please go to Project Aikido. We are also looking for volunteers to help us build on playa. So if you’d like to help us install, you’re welcome.
KATIE: Thank you really deeply. Thank you for bringing all you’re bringing. We’re not even there in the play again, and they’re already so inspired and so engaged and so touched. So really, so moving. Thank you so much, Usha.
USHA: Thank you, Katie.
KATIE: Yeah. So, wow. Well, that’s our series of artists for today. It’s just been a real treat. In a way I feel like we just got a little taste of what it’s like to be at Burning Man, and experience all these things, but even extra fun because we get to meet the artists and see what it’s like where they’re living and building and such a range of diversity and concepts, it makes me very excited for this year.
One thing to note is that our tour this year wasn’t able to include the temple, but for this exceptionally special work, I wanted to share that the temple this year is the Empyrean Temple that we selected for 2020, and then without being able to have the event the last couple years, they have had some incredible perseverance and patience, and they’ve been working and planning and building all this time, and we can’t wait to see this beautiful eight pointed star structure as our spiritual home on the playa. It’s called the Empyrean Temple if you’d like to check that out.
First I want to say thank you, especially to today’s artists. Thank you for your creative vision, for your willingness to share your stories with us today; I’m just really excited to see your work come to life in Black Rock City this year.
And thank you to the Desert Arts Preview production team here at Burning Man who are such pros and make this such a great experience to put on. I particularly want to thank my colleague Spec Guy for really bringing this event together so beautifully.
And finally, I want to thank all of you. A huge sincere thank you for supporting the artists, for just being a part of this, and for whatever ways you are finding to stay creative. Thank you for joining Burning Man and seeking to make the world a more amazing, expressive, engaging, and wonderful world.
You’ve heard these stories today, remember that Burning Man is all about participation. There are no spectators. If you’d like to bring artwork to Black Rock City yourself. The regular deadline has passed, but as I mentioned, if you have a small project, you can walk in and register at The ARTery, so there’ll be a link for how you go about doing that. Or maybe you’ll be inspired to support some of today’s artists. If any of those calls to action piqued your interest, you can get contact info for all of these artists on our website.
And also with more than 400 art projects coming to Black Rock City this year, you can use our collaboration tool Spark — spark.burningman.org — to find projects that need help. You can connect with your Regional community to see if there’s art being built there. There’s no time like the present to start getting engaged.
And lastly, all of today’s artists are actively fundraising. Material costs and transportation costs have skyrocketed. They all really, truly need any financial support you’re able to provide. The links for all of their crowdfunding sites are on our website.
And also the work that our team does year round to support these artists is part of the larger mission of Burning Man Project, which is a nonprofit. If you feel moved to support us we would truly appreciate that as well. Please consider making a donation today. No gift is too small, and thank you for your generosity. Help us continue our work keeping the art of Burning Man alive, helping us bring back the magic of Black Rock City in all of its glory. That’s donate.burningman.org.
Yes for Burning Man art. Yes for everything today. Thank you all so much. Much love. Bye, bye.
ANDIE: And there you have at listeners, your Desert Arts Preview review. I’ve been your host, Andie Grace. That’s a wrap for our show today. Thanks as always for joining us. And we hope this makes you anticipate as much as we do, returning to Black Rock City. See you soon.