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Amazing Art Structures Being Built at Burning Man 2023

Updated: Aug 25, 2023 09:33
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While most people arrive on the Playa after everything is already built, most of the artists have been hauling, digging, hammering, strapping, sawing, and polishing in the dust (and rain) for weeks now, moving thousands of pounds of steel, glass, timber, (and elbow grease) onto a prehistoric lake bed in the Nevada desert.

It can take months if not years of careful planning and testing to be ready. These artists, not only have to make sure that their structures can withstand gale-force winds and dust tornados, but often, they also have to make sure their art can support the weight of you and your entire “poly-pod” camp, climbing on it day and night.

So, if you’re heading to the Playa, and you see some of these incredible pieces, remember the artists and their helpers, send ’em a ‘Thank You’ and if you see them on the Playa do something nice for them, as they’ve already worked very hard, and done something very nice, for us.

The 2023 Burning Man theme is ANIMALIA:  Which will “celebrate the animal world and our place in it—animals real and imagined, mythic and remembered—and explore the curious mental constructs that allow us to believe that imagined animals are real, real animals are imagined, and that somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, mankind is somehow not part of the animal kingdom.” – Stuart Mangrum Dir of Burning Man Project’s Philosophical Center and host of the Burning Man LIVE podcast.

Shoutout to, Building 180 is an art production and consulting agency in SF, curating and producing uniquely complex art installations from conception to completion.  I believe most, if not all the artists listed here have benefited from working with Building180, and they tipped us to the great work listed below. 


“Farmer the Rigger”
by Zulu Heru and Burger Boys

Farmer the Rigger is a giant Afro-eccentric magical entity made of weathered steel, supported by his hands that he uses to traverse the playa when it is dusty enough to do so undetected. Farmer the Rigger is a monument to the working class, skilled laborers, and the culmination of hours spent mastering one’s craft. Farmer the Rigger is a guardian, watching over this safe space we collectively create for all beings, especially people of color to express themselves freely and to be celebrated for doing so.

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The Ursas
by Jen Lewin

Named after the constellations Ursa Minor and Ursa Major, The Ursas features two towering polar bears. In 2022, Ursa Minor, a 13-foot tall sculpture, debuted on the playa. Inspired by Polaris, the work’s glowing and multi-paneled infinity-mirrored body reminds us to “look up.”

In 2023 Ursa Minor will return, but this time with her big sister. Standing over three stories tall, Ursa Major’s hollow body is filled with glowing infinity mirrors, each reflecting mosaic drawings of extinct animals from the past 12 months.

The pair, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, stand in solidarity.
Ursa Minor in hope, looking up.
Ursa Major, as a cathedral and tomb, for species lost.


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A post shared by Jen Lewin Studio (@jenlewinstudio)

by Flaming Lotus Girls

Mutopia has germinated and is evolving, creating a zone of growth, mystery, and possibility. Starting as one strange Seedpod, each successive plant evolves as it matures and adapts, incorporating features and forms of the plants, animals, and machines it interacts with within its surroundings.

Mutopia’s series of evolving plant beasts is an exploration of the evolution by mutation that underlies all life. It creates a fantastic space for all manner of playa creatures to play in. Embrace the joys of kinetic fire effects and scruffy tendrils. Did they think you were just a plant? They didn’t realize you are on a journey.


Over Ruled
by Cody Smith & Looking Up Arts

A large red sign commands “NO DANCING” in big, bright letters, visible from afar. The provocation dares participants to defy with a boogie, shuffle, or strut and perhaps even gather together into a sweaty, rhythmic rebellion.

Ground-mounted spotlights cast enlarged silhouettes of dancers onto the letters, broadcasting the disobedience across the playa. Crowds thus magnify their energy, sending out ripples of mischievous joy and luring in reinforcements.

Approaching reveals smaller text on each letter, a true story of someone’s collision with a rule and the consequences: banishment, termination, expulsion, or incarceration. If the tincture of joy and grief gives way to a desire for restorative justice, then Over Ruled’s goal is fulfilled.

“LAKA’LELUP | Coming Together for a Common Purpose”
by Mia Hanak and Millennium ART partnering with the Washoe Tribe

The Wašišiw (Washoe) People of CA/NV, the Indigenous inhabitants and original stewards of the Lake Tahoe Basin, bestowed the name LAKA’LELUP upon the art installation, which means “coming together for a common purpose.” Our common purpose with this art installation is to bring people together to protect our common home, Planet Earth. Integral to the Washoe’s belief system is that the land, the water, and the people are ONE.

The curatorial theme of LAKA’LELUP focuses on the ecological preservation of the Lake Tahoe Basin and the ancient clarity of Lake Tahoe by addressing Anthropogenic impacts such as streamflow pollutants (phosphorus and nitrogen), atmospheric deposition, algae growth, snowpack, microplastics, drought, bark beetles, and wildfires.

By day, LAKA’LELUP is in REFLECT mode, allowing humans to witness and contemplate themselves in their surrounding environment. By night, LAKA’LELUP transitions to ILLUMINATE mode, with the custom designed LED system coming to life through the two-way acrylic mirror, accompanied by a musical score.

Touch the Sky
by Martin Taylor and Chromaforms


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Martin Taylor (@chromaforms)

Touch the Sky is a sculpture of a mythical winged creature with the head of a human preparing to take flight. The sculpture is fabricated from a myriad laser-cut sheet metal plates welded together. The face is rendered in sharp detail with eyes closed in dreamlike rapture. The hair flows back in the wind.

The skin is made of reflective stainless steel heat-treated to a rich gold color. The surface of the sculpture is outlined by geometric tattoo-like perforations that accentuate the shape of the body and emit light at night. Wings made of golden stainless and patina’ed steel stretch upwards from the back in a dramatic pose. Touch the Sky serves as a visual metaphor for taking leaps of faith to achieve our dreams and fly.

Cat Tree for Humans
by Connie Yang + Ash McGahee

A giant cat tree built for human-sized cats to climb and play in! Full of places to perch and watch the playa, hidey holes to snuggle in, and ramps, ropes, and nets to climb.

It’s a brightly colored structure that can be seen from great distances on the playa, and is meant to encourage playfulness and interaction, like a big fuzzy jungle gym.

Most surface areas are covered in rugs and fabric. It is cozy, provides high places for shelter, and dynamic things to climb. Everything a cat needs.

Cactus of Life. A Mirror of truth. Awaken your true self
by David Lombrozo, Tania Ordoñez, Pablo Fernandez and Humberto Wong

Cactus of Life is a sculptural piece that offers a glimpse inside of oneself. The Mexican traditional Tree of Life and the iconic cactus come together as one. Here all are welcome to see themselves as they are, no prejudice. By doing so, all can share a better version of their self with the world.

The first symbol comes from the Mexican artisan tradition of the “Tree of Life.” Made of clay, this tree is adorned with many figures related to different themes such as the sun and the moon. The second symbol is a cactus, the desert plant that survives harsh conditions and welcomes all beings who come to find life. Cacti also contain psychedelic properties that help the recipient to see inside themselves.

by Christopher Schardt

A 26’ x 14’ butterfly 15’ above the ground. Its wings are hinged so that they flap, propelled by the wind or by participants operating a lever. 38,000 LEDs cover its surface. As speakers play classical and classic pop music, images choreographed to each section are displayed on the LEDs.

The graphic image of the butterfly doesn’t really do the light show justice, you’ll have to see it for yourself to witness the amazing glow, the post below will give you a little taste:



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A post shared by DRIFT (@studio.drift)

“Rise” represents inspiration and newfound purpose in the wake of uncertainty.

For DRIFT (Amsterdam), insights from nature offer clues as to how we might tackle the challenges we face today — from the global pandemic to climate change to geopolitical conflicts. DRIFT’s Lonneke Gordjin explains, “True evolution comes from adaptation and from getting into unknown and uncomfortable situations to learn and become better. We have a massive challenge ahead of us. If we understand how nature works in uncertain circumstances, it will become easier to accept and embrace that we have to go step by step and constantly change and adapt to remain a part of the evolution of this earth.

Expect 1000 drones to reshape the night sky.

SIDENOTE from the author: If you’re a self-proclaimed “art critic”, talking shit about the sculptures going to Burning Man this year, trust me…nobody cares what you think. You don’t understand what you are looking at, or what it means to people, you are just a self-important, toolbag who no one wants to talk to at a party. 

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