This year we have been very lucky to be able to bring an art installation to Burning Man, the annual week long party in the arid depths of the Nevada desert. Anita’s Dropship is a mobile sound system that pumps out generative dubstep, delivers ‘drops on demand’ via two cranks that cause the music to build in intensity when turned, and a big red button that triggers 32 bars of obnoxious wobbly bass. It went down very well on the Playa, with people either loving or hating the music (apparently dubstep is quite polarising – who knew?), but everyone getting into the concept and interactivity.
Black Rock City is a very special event for many reasons, but when it comes to the range of art on display, there really is no more impressive place on earth. Installations come in all forms, from sculptural to video-based, stationary to mobile (many being in the form of giant converted vehicles, know as art cars), huge and towering to the small and intricate. The amount of work and dedication that artists put into their pieces is truly inspiring, especially considering that many are completely self-funded. To simply be part of that landscape was an incredible experience.
Here are some of my favourite art pieces from this year (click on titles for more info):
As one of the star pieces of the year, the Embrace was amazing from so many different perspectives. From afar, the outlines of the figures were smooth and perfect. From nearer, you would start to notice the intricate curves and texture in the different panels of wood. From up-close, the scale of the piece was simply jaw dropping. Furthermore, you could scale the piece from the inside and look out of the eyes of the figures, offering a great view over the rest of the festival. Embrace was burned early on Friday morning. It was the first burn I had ever seen, and seeing something of that scale go up in flames was truly spectacular.
A Burning Man veteran of an art-piece, this huge mechanical octopus, made primarily out of reclaimed and recycled metal, provided both spectacle and heat in abundance. Particularly effective when parked up next to a sound-stage at night, the fire technician was clearly a drummer of some kind, as the tentacles were always firing on the beat. Apparently El Pulpo Mecanico gets through 200 gallons of propane per night!
As if watching a fire wasn’t mesmerising enough, this guy decided to turn it upside-down. Fire In Balance was a metal sanctuary where flames smoothly engulf the ceiling from the inside. When the wind was down, the fire would spread out across the entire surface.
The latest in a series of stroboscopic zeotropes from Peter Hudson, Eternal Return was something so dramatic that it felt like it really belonged the desert landscape, looking totally at home even if it stood in complete isolation months after Burning Man was over. When spinning at full tilt, the dozens of fibreglass figures would magically converge into one smooth sequence of a person running up a wall and flipping backwards over and over, to mesmerising effect. The jewel in the crown was that the kinetic energy to spin the enormous structure was provided by people at its base on rowing machines!
This year’s burn has left our heads spinning with ideas for projects for 2015, so watch this space. Furthermore, if you are planning a piece for Burning Man and would like any musical or sound elements made, do get in touch, as we now have a very special place in our hearts for projects destined for the Playa.