For the past five years I have been packing out to the Nevada desert to attend/co-create/observe/endure the event known as Burning Man. It’s always quite a surreal and visually rich experience… fascinating textures and found patterns abound.
Artists and makers and generally creative people set up projects, camps, and art pieces that seem to celebrate and spring from a really basic human instinct — to create something just for the joy or experience of creating it. The projects range from tiny and personal to epic in scope, requiring years of fundraising and scores of volunteers. Details about this year’s art are here.
While it’s necessary in my everyday life as a designer to be always critiquing, always reviewing, always tweaking, it’s one of the great pleasures of Burning Man to be in a space amazingly free of judgements and criticisms of peoples’ creative output. The overall feeling is curiosity, openness, and gratitude to the individuals that make and share the projects. This aspect of the experience is really fun and freeing.
Daytime at Burning Man is all about biking around, looking at art projects, getting lost, visiting friends across the playa... and of course remembering to re-apply your sunscreen.
But at night a whole different visual experience emerges, with led lights, propane flame poofers, bonfires and personal lighting— creating a fantastic array of colors and patterns.
In addition to being an enthralled observer, I participate in the Golden Guy project; it’s an alleyway of tiny bars inspired by Tokyo’s Golden Gai neighborhood. There were 13 watering holes in 2018, each with a different proprietor and vibe. Shown above are the facades of our two pop-up bars Random Service and Blank Slate: every night is a different event and crowd.
On Saturday night the Man burns. Always accompanied by fireworks and a serious soundtrack from concentric rings of artcars, this is the big event of the week. It’s catharsis is felt for miles.
Many art pieces are burned throughout the week, and the following day you can see interesting vestiges among the ashes. Some people collect charred fragments as keepsakes, but anything that remains is carefully cleaned and removed by the crews who made the art. The playa is returned to its natural state.
All in all, it’s a challenging, hot, dusty, wonderful, inspiring, supremely silly and mind-bending experience. Now that all the dust is cleared and my gear is stowed til next year, I am hoping to find some time to take inspiration from some of these found patterns, set aside the inner critic, and see what I can create.