AFTERBURN REPORT 2006
ART OF BLACK ROCK CITY
In 2006 art on the playa broke all records! This year we had 240 registered installations of which 200 showed up on the playa, plus 100 walk-in installations for a grand total of 300 art installations on the playa. It seems that the desire to create art on the playa is growing and our community continues to be inspired by what they see in Black Rock City.
THE FUTURE: HOPE AND FEAR
This year's theme proved inspiring to participants and generated a range of work, from mailboxes into which one could place letters to themselves to be mailed in five years, to cemeteries representing Iraq war casualties. Some installations emphasized inner reflection, while others satirized political figures of the day. Hope or fear for the future, all possibilities were explored.
PAVILION OF THE FUTURE
The Pavilion of the Future was a structure reminiscent of an Art Deco palace, embracing a sense of order and elegance. Building on the 2006 event theme of Hope and Fear, the Pavilion offered ten interactive installations which intrigued, beguiled and entertained. Upon entry into the Pavilion, participants encountered Al Honig's Hope and Fear Gauge. A feat of engineering, the Gauge acted as a barometer for the general mood pervading Black Rock City, shifting from hope to fear and back. Other highlights within the Pavilion included FutureVision, an interactive 19th century lamppost with LED glass which enabled participants the ability to visualize their hopes and fears.
This Game of Hope and Fear was a remarkably popular installation within the Man base. Constructed from hundreds of images drawn by scores of artists, This Game of Hope and Fear offered participants a chance to share what excites them versus what frightens them, while playing a new take on a 1950's board game.
One entrance to the Pavilion was blessed with original paintings from acclaimed artists Alex and Allyson Grey.Their installation CoSM shared Alex and Allyson's vision of the energy and emotion surrounding the experience of hope and fear, both as an individual and a community.
Descriptions of Pavilion installations can be found here: http://www.burningman.com/whatisburningman/2006/06_art_pavilion.html
Burning Man funded thirty two projects in 2006.
Coming down the walkway from the Man, intense flashes of red light reflecting mirrored surfaces were seen. That was Duel Nature, by Kate Raudenbush, a double helix made of black steel and red mirror standing in the Black Rock City Center Camp keyhole. Mark Lottor's Big Round Cubatron generated a lot of excitement with its complex display of digitally-sequenced LED lights. Among the effects were falling rain, an enormous walking spider, strobe effects and wild, rotating patterns. Another light installation, Field of Sunflower Robots by Stefano Corraza, featured a "field" of interactive sunflowers which stored energy by day and used that energy to power motion-sensitive light in the flower heads . At night they responded to passing lights and the movement of participants. The nearby Conexus Cathedral played with notions of sacred space by deconstructing a Gothic cathedral down to its linear outline, executed in white cylinders. A rosette window and various art installations decorated the cathedral, where weddings and community rituals took place.
Far out on the 12:00 meridian stood a majestic structure made of South American bamboo, Gerard Minakawa's Starry Bamboo Mandala. This installation employed several kinds of sacred geometry and was climbed by many participants. Another climbable sculpture, Michael Christian's I. T., appeared to walk across the playa on its spindly legs, reminiscent of the War of the Worlds. Participants were able to climb up a ladder of metal rings into its central openwork metal pod. By night a red motion-sensor beam illuminated lone walkers and increased its scary effect.
This year's community mausoleum, the Temple of Hope by Mark Grieve and crew, was a lovely arrangement of wooden lattice and paper structures, illuminated from within. Participants left thousands of tributes and memento mori at several stupas, each surrounded by steps and platforms.
Fire art was brought to a new level in 2006 by several funded artists. Vance Cearly and Andrew Sano from the Therm art collective, made ice pillars sputter and flame in Exxothermia. Bill Codding created a dramatic display of flames which raced and chased in a straight line via a series of digitally-activated towers in The Burninator. San Francisco's Flaming Lotus Girls brought us the Serpent Mother, a huge snake, each metal vertebrae a beautiful piece of sculpture that, at the touch of a button, participants flamed. Her enormous articulated head featured flaming teeth and a moving jaw. The Serpent Mother encircled an egg, which also contained flame effects. The Serpent Mother was the setting for a spectacular fireworks display on Friday night.
Regrettably, two honoraria installations cancelled in 2006: Flame Dance by Michael Connor, and Gary Stadler's Inner Mind. Gary's inflatable inverted cone structure collapsed during testing and the project had to be delayed until next year. Michael will also bring his project, which involves a dance pad that triggers overhead fireballs, to the playa in 2007.
Once again we experienced some difficulty with the check-out process of honoraria art; some artists couldn't find us and some didn't understand that they needed to have their sites inspected for Leave No Trace compliance as well as sign off on their registration form. Next year we will have specific checkout hours and one ARTery volunteer will be assigned to this process.
The Future theme generated many interesting projects, ranging from the political and environmental to the personal. Some projects, notably David Wilson's Sugar Cube, featured new "green" building techniques. Others used retro technologies, like Jamie Vaida's Goes Around, Comes Around, an insect carousel powered by a 1920's Case steam engine, by Kinetic Steam Works. Glimmer's Fire in the Belly explored women's fears during pregnancy, and Chris Meyer's "What Remains…", a cemetery with one cross for every solider killed in Iraq, examined fear for the immediate future.
One project in particular raised the bar for large-scale art on the playa both in terms of scale and community. Message out of the Future, by a Belgian collective known as Uchronia, was an incredible structure made entirely of 2" x 3" wood nailed together in a seemingly random pattern. The completed piece measured approximately 180' in length and 50' in height. Its cavernous interior space was accessed by three entrances and was the site of nightly dance parties. Jan Kriekels, Uchronia's founder, funded the entire project with income form his radiator company. Many of his employees used their annual vacation time to participate in the project. Eighty crew members flew to the United States from Belgium, built a communal camp, and labored on the installation. Jan's philosophy is that any group of creative individuals can benefit greatly by living and working together, building community through art-making. This ethos, of course, dovetailed beautifully with the Burning Man Project's ethos. Message was designed by Belgian artist Arne Quinze, who worked round-the-clock on the installation.
Although the Burning Man Project does not usually allow sound systems and d.j.s in the art area of the playa, an exception was made for Uchronia. The Project was under the impression that the artists were creating ambient sound environments in the installation, and by the time it was discovered that their massive sound system was designed for DJ's, it felt inappropriate to stop their plans, as they had contributed so much to the event. Some felt that the nightly dance parties detracted from the purely sculptural qualities of the installation, while others felt they gave it life and attracted more participants. Better communication leading up to the event would have clarified expectations; as their project had several leaders, and email communication was sporadic. In 2007 we look forward to improved pre-event communications with international projects.
Another interesting aspect of Uchronia was the on-site production of a full-length photographic book, destined to be gifted to 50,000 people worldwide. Crew members actually began production of the book on-site, using an RV converted into a design studio, complete with a satellite hook-up to a Belgian server.
Though there were doubts about their burn platform of dry wall boards, to the delight of DPW it was more successful than anticipated. The cleanup of the Uchronia operation could have been much more thorough; our DPW had to spend time removing MOOP from their site. But all of the remaining unused wood was included in the massive 6 semi flat-bed truck loads of donations to Habitat for Humanity in Reno. All told, the Belgians gifted our community with a wonderful project, and many of our participants enjoyed socializing with the Belgian camp. We hope to see more international art projects in the future!
With over three hundred playa art installations, Black Rock City experienced confirmation that its citizens are artists, and that the art is the heart and soul of the Burning Man event.
One of the highlights in 2006 was Robert Buchholtz's Perhaps. Created from a huge shaved styrofoam vase and mosaic mirrors, Perhaps towered over the playa surface, offering a playful reflection of the world surrounding the structure. Creating what is typically fragile and ephemeral, Perhaps shared with participants a sense of beauty and nature within the physically challenging playa landscape.
Another offering that garnered excitement and praise from the citizens of Black Rock City was Youniversal Trust. Conceived by a group of artists from the Los Angeles area, Youniversal Trust was a pyramid constructed of over $10,000 in real paper currency. Proclaiming at its base "In you we trust", the pyramid was open for exploration and, if so desired, devastation – the bills were easily accessible and could be taken away from the structure. Constructed as both an art installation as well as a social experiment, the artists believed and depended upon the community for self-policing and monitoring. While the installation suffered some losses and destruction, the community also left additional bills, to help cover the depletion.
Performance art continues to grow in popularity, particularly performances involving fire. A notable performance was 2BLEVE by Nate Smith . Billed as the biggest explosion on playa since the inception of Burning Man, the complete performance lasted only approximately ten seconds, and utilized over 250 gallons of fuel. The two gigantic fireballs created by the demonstration caused participants to feel almost blown over by their power and intensity as they engulfed the dusky sky. Another performance piece, Thermic Zombie Lance of Power, asked the question "what is immutable and what is solid?" A thermic rod was used to bore through solid rock, creating rivulets of molten lava. The sparks coming off the rod lit the night sky while shining on the excited faces of participants lucky enough to catch the show.
All in all, 2006 was a great year for art, with more art than ever and less problems and delays with the ARTery check in process and set up. One troubling trend in 2006 was the proliferation of graffiti; the Conexus Cathedral columns and installations within the Pavilion at the Man were "tagged." While the SugarCube installation provided a place for graffiti artists to work and play, participants tagged art all over the playa this year. We need the Burning Man community to understand that while graffiti is a perfectly legitimate art form, it cannot be practiced on other people's art! This will be communicated in 2007 via the Jack Rabbit Speaks newsletter and in the Gate Issue of the Black Rock City newspaper.
Christine Kristen and Beth ScarboroughClick here to read the 2005 Playa Art report