Burning Man 2019 – “Everything changes, nothing perishes” wrote Ovid in his narrative poem Metamorphoses, about 2 millennia ago. Since then, literature has been exploring the power – and trauma – of change and transition. At Burning Man 2019 it’s up to artists and architects to interpret the theme of transformation with temporary pavilions, shrines and installations – all doomed to be set on fire at the end of the festival.
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Burning Man is the iconic festival rising at the end of every summer in the Nevada Desert. This year edition “is a celebration of change and an exploration of uncertainty. Looking beyond the horizon of the self, we are surrounded by and inseparable from a world in constant transition. The political and physical landscape, our planet, in a cascade of tipping points.”
“Do we have the power to influence these changes rather than just lament them, to bend the arc of history? And if we don’t have that power, does anyone?”
We rounded up 10 mesmerizing architectures and installations in Black Rock City inviting to reflect and find answers to these questions.
The true epicenter of the festival, The Man, is located is the heart of The Playa open area. Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu of studio HYBYCOZO – Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone – fashioned The Man gorgeously. Cocooned by a winding, ascending walkway, the iconic landmark shines in the night, throwing patterned light across the playa. “The cocoon is lit internally… revealing cracks from the transformation,” explain the architects.
27 stones by Benjamin Lang Holz confronts nature and yourself as you journey along stones floating above the earth. “Step into an alternate reality where destructive energy has been harmonized with nature to create a moment of physical and mental elevation“. 27 Stones finds inspiration in simplicity, minimalism, and math to create clearness and consciousness in a material world, inviting you to a moment of complete presence.
California-based artist Dave Keane has created The Folly, a carnival village built around a clock tower and a windmill and made from salvaged wood. Like a medina, the “imaginary shanty town” and public sanctuary space invites to get lost in a maze of passageways, ladders, tunnels, cargo nets, secret doors and hidden rooms. “The Folly of Man has been described as the state or quality of being foolish. In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but suggesting some other purpose or extravagant appearances.”
The Reactor Project
Panama-based architect and artist Assaf Allouche has created The Reactor Project, a slatted timber structure with curved wings and pyramid top. “The Reactor is not only a beautiful structure, but a transformational space for any day or night programming.” After sunset, the building shines with video mapping shows and hosts dj sets and parties.
Temple of Direction
Inspired by Japanese torii gates, Geordie Van Der Bosch has created a timber shrine inviting visitors to walk through it and gather in its open central hall, eliciting both a physical experience and a metaphorical journey. “This linear form reflects the passage of life with its beginning, middle, and end,” said the Burning Man team. “Throughout the structure there are areas that reflect this journey: narrow and wide spaces, bright and dark spaces, and tunnels that create intimate physical settings.”
From afar, it resembles a breaking wave deep in the desert – a reminder of the playa’s origins. From within, it transforms into a highly immersive shared audiovisual experience. Squidsoup has brought to Black Rock City its Desert Wave installation suspending over 500 LED lights from a metal frame. The pendants hang down to different lengths to form and undulating wave.
Chris Carnabuci has created Mariposita – Little butterfly in Spanish -, an installation narrating the act of coming out of a shell, escaping confinement, and breaking through to a more meaningful and enlightening existence or experience. “A rebirth requires power, curiosity, determination, and support, all characteristics that lead to revival and restoration. Mariposita is meant to inspire awakenings and reawakenings, growth and regrowth, beginnings and ends”.
Inspired by an ancient legend of the Black Rock Desert and conceived as “magical place for meditation and wisdom”, Fragments monumental installation by Marc Ippon de Ronda is composed by giant gigantic mirrored shards emerging from the sand. “This artwork is about the transformation of perception. I want visitors to feel free to climb the pyramid’s steps, to take shelter in the shade of the shards and watch their reflections change in the mirrors.”
Steam of Life
Helsinki-based studio JKMM teamed up with Sauna on Fire to build Steam of Life, a Finnish Sauna to heat up Burning Man revellers. Built from dark wooden slats, the sauna is arranged in a ring-shape around a shaded outdoor yard for users to cool down and relax. “The pavilion aims to offer a purpose to seek out the yet unknown by encouraging co-creators to become active community members, while facilitating the learning path to gain a more profound understanding of ourselves. Are you ready to dive into the metamorphosis and beyond?”
Mechanic octopies, fire-shooting dragons and MadMax-alike cars but also nomadic houses and self-propelled dance clubs surf the desert. Mutant vehicles drive through Black Rock City. After sunset they contribute to boost the dreamy and in-wonderland vibe of the festival transforming the desert into a carnival of neons.