Friday, April 20, 2018

Burning Man Art Now in DC @Renwick

During the summer solstice of 1986, a small group of friends met up on San Francisco’s Baker Beach and burned an eight-foot-tall effigy of a man. The ritual was dubbed Burning Man two years later, and moved to a dried-up lake bed in the Black Rock Desert in 1990. 
Eight thousand people attended in 1996, and within four years, that number had swelled to 25,000. In recent years, 75,000 people—though more would likely come if ticket sales weren’t capped—have set up a temporary city within a seven-mile square plot of land known as Black Rock City, which lasts the entire week before Labor Day. 
Recent popular conceptions of Burning Man have focused on all-night parties set to electronic music and fueled by all manner of substances. But, at its core, Burning Man is much more an art festival and experiment in temporary community than it is a marathon rave. 
The event’s true cultural essence forms the focus of “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” an exhibition currently on view in Washington, D.C., held both within the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery and its surrounding neighborhood, with some works installed outdoors just around the corner from the White House. (An initial set of these installations will close on September 16th, while others remain on view until January 21, 2019.) 
Artsy asked artists presenting in the show to describe their works on view, and reflect on what it means for Burning Man’s alternative culture to be presented at an art museum in the nation’s capital. Their responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.
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