Q: What is the Google Visitor Experience Project?
A: Burning Man Project collaborated on the process of selecting, creating and installing six significant artworks at the Google Visitor Experience in Mountain View, California. This public plaza is where Google’s new Gradient Canopy building is located, which is opening in October 2023. The property is owned by the City of Mountain View was developed by Google for both an office building and for public use.
Situated on the Southeast corner of the campus, the plaza provides an outdoor gathering place where members of the community can come together to host events, performances, and gatherings. Burning Man Project issued calls for artists for permanent artworks that were specially commissioned for the plaza, and support the fabrication and installation process.
Q: Why did Burning Man work with Google on this project?
A: The Google Visitor Experience project was a unique chance for Burning Man Project to participate in the creation of a welcoming public place that celebrates innovation, collaboration, and self-expression. The design attributes developed by Google, with the City of Mountain View, included the desire that the experience of the art in the plaza is:
- Delightful and surprising
- Inspires curiosity
- Fun and approachable
- Offers interesting lighting at night
- Memorable and iconic
Other values that are important to the City, to Google, and to Burning Man include that the plaza be a place of gathering; that it serves a wide public; and that it inspires a sense of place and community. Furthermore, this location is contiguous to and part of an important ecological zone supporting birds, trees, and other wildlife, so all the choices made were congruent with protecting and advancing this place as one of meaning and connection with respect for the larger context.
Q: What about Burning Man’s principle of Decommodification? How is partnering with Google in line with Burning Man’s values?
A: We recognize that the partnership between Burning Man and Google may feel new and different. However, the relationship actually goes way back to when the first Google “doodle” — a Burning Man stick figure — was published by Google’s founders as an out-of-office message. As a nonprofit, our mission is to share Burning Man culture with the world. It’s not possible (or even desirable) to do this simply by replicating Black Rock City or BRC-like experiences. It may take many different shapes: consulting, affiliating, collaborating with organizations and communities outside of ourselves. We expect to experience some growing pains. We don’t expect to do it perfectly. But we do believe that part of our mission is to establish and promote opportunities for artists to create work and share it with the world. This is one of those opportunities. We learn as we go, in keeping with our prototyping culture.
Q: Is it done? How can I see it?
A: The Google Visitor Experience opened to the public on October 12, 2023. It is located at the corner of Charleston Road and North Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View, California. The plaza, public art and surrounding park are publicly accessible year-round.