The Real Reason You Should Have Gone to Burning Man
I’m ready for the haters who go in on me for loving Burning Man. I will admit, I sometimes roll my eyes at folks who make it their whole life. You won’t see me sporting a bumper sticker or going to every burner event in The Bay. But if you ask me if you should go to Burning Man, I will always encourage you to do it. As pals, if you ask me about whether it’s worth going to Burning Man, we will probably get into a little bit of a debate about it over a beer.
However, at the end of our potentially heated debate, we might agree on one thing which may just be the whole reason you finally decide to go. There is no better place to see public art than at Burning Man. Unlike a public park or corporate campus, Black Rock City’s playa filled with art doesn’t have any size requirement and you can walk around a piece of art entirely and freely interact with it.
Animalia Art at Burning Man 2023
This year, the theme for the art at Burning Man was Animalia. The art at Burning man celebrated animals of all kinds and our own place within the animal kingdom….both our good and bad influence on it.
“This year’s Burning Man theme 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,” according to the blog post announcing the theme.
The last time I went to Burning Man was in 2008. 15 years is a long time to be away from Black Rock City. I was most curious how the art would be different after 15 years. The most difference I saw was that much of the art doesn’t light up with fire at night but rather lights up with lights! Sometimes the art is even fully solar powered.
Some of my Favorite Art from Burning Man This Year
I know people love to say how everyone at Burning Man only goes there for the party. For me, I only go there for the art and my own connection to the artists who create the work. Due to the challenging mud conditions, I missed out on a few days of exploration, regrettably limiting my ability to see everything. Although the mud had the positive effect of reducing dust on the playa, it made biking around quite difficult, so I ended up walking most of the time and couldn’t cover all the ground I wanted to. However, being on foot allowed me to engage in more conversations and meet more fellow attendees while journeying to and from the art installations.
1000 & 1
With our relationship with AI, we find ourselves further and further away from what’s real. TYFU (Tyler Fuqua Creations) is a Burning Man – 6x Honorarium based out of Eagle Creek, Oregon.
This piece always just brought a smile to my face. Most especially when you saw it surrounded by water and mud. It made me laugh a little to think that the artist may not have imagined that their fish sculpture would be actually swimming in the desert. “ATABEY’s Treasure is represented as a fish leaping off the ground. The goddess of fresh water to the indigenous Taíno people in the Caribbean. Given the environmental challenges my Puerto Rico has experienced recently, we chose to honor her spirit. This will be ATABEY 2.0,” mentions the artist on the Burning Man site.
This is a local artist! BitCube was created by San Francisco artist, Colin O’Donnell. What I loved about this one is that it’s created using a material that well known to residents of Black Rock City. As you walk around the city, you see gray water containers at camps. These massive jugs are caged with metal (often steel) and fit hundreds of gallons of gray water. When I saw BitCube I was in complete awe. During the day, it’s just massive to look at… at night, it lights up and looks like a glowing Rubiks Cube. I am not very confident with heights so I didn’t climb it but saw many people climbing the containers to get a birds eye view of the city from the top.
Recognize this work? This is a local artist, too! They created Entwined at Golden Gate Park which has come back a couple times by popular demand. In truth, this tree may be my favorite of all the favorites this year on the playa. This glowing tree was so captivating at night. You felt completely held in a hug. If you know me at all, you know that trees are maybe my favorite thing but I think the reason that this felt so nurturing is because it was based on nursery rhymes.
“Elder Mother is inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the Elder-Tree-Mother. The boy in the story meets the Elder-Tree-Mother, who sits atop an Elder-Tree that grew out of the teapot next to his bed (in his dream). She speaks with him, and they go on many adventures and explorations over time. She gathers memories and shared experiences. She illuminates and night and provides shade during the day. Come and listen to her story,” says the artist.
This beautiful butterfly was a delight to see at all times of day. Oakland artist Christopher Schardt made this cutie which flapped its wings when you swang in a swing below it. At night, the wings illuminated creating a dreamy rainbow canopy above. Our Managing Editor, Alex Mak mentioned this piece in his most anticipated Burning Man art pieces.
Chapel of Babel
A few months back, I went to a fundraiser at the construction site for Chapel of Babel in Petaluma. Visiting the final piece at Burning Man was absolutely one of the things I was the most excited to see. I was completely enamored by the piece and found myself circling around and around the interior in awe. What I love most about it is that the imagery is both a mix of fantastical moments of imagination combined with real moments that depict the artists’ life. I love the juxtaposition of fantasy and reality. The piece was planned to burn on Friday evening but with the rain Chapel of Babel was burned the same night as The Man.
We’ve all heard of King Cobras but have you ever heard of a Queen Cobra, let alone climb on it? This was artist 6th and her final piece for Burning Man. The 50 foot long sculpture was around 25 feet high. Seeing people climb all over this beauty was a joy. Yet another reason people love seeing the art at Burning Man is that you’re encouraged to interact with it unlike when you might see this gorgeous piece in a public space.
So, Why Should You Go to Burning Man?
For the art! I acknowledge that there’s ongoing controversy and debate surrounding the motivations for attending Burning Man, with some suggesting it’s primarily about “doing drugs in the desert.” For me, I’m not big into doing drugs so making the trek is for the community and the art itself. The art showcased at Burning Man represents an extraordinary engineering challenge that never fails to inspire awe, making the journey entirely worthwhile. It’s a place unlike any other on Earth, where you can witness an unparalleled display of talent. I hope this brief glimpse inspires you to explore the work of these remarkable artists online and look forward to what they’ll think up next.
Will I personally be going back to Burning Man? I hope to someday. It’s definitely a trek and journey worth going to if you can. Most especially going to see some of the amazing art. In the coming months, I will be working to meet more artists that made work for Burning Man this year. Given I missed some of the art because of my inability to use my bike for much of the time I was on the playa, I will be making an extra effort to see as much art within The Bay that I can. Expect to see some artist interviews in the coming months here at Broke-Ass Stuart along with where you can explore the art yourselves.
Howdy! My name is Katy Atchison and I'm an Associate Editor for Broke-Ass Stuart.
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