Desert Arts Preview 2015

Burning Man Arts hosted the 10th annual Desert Arts Preview on Sunday May 3 at the Cowell Theater in San Francisco’s Fort Mason. This sold out event, held in its largest venue to date, featured eight artists (and art teams) talking about their artworks in progress destined for Black Rock City 2015.

Speakers included Jon Sarriugarte and Kyrsten Mate (Project Empire), Rebecca Anders (Illumicanth), Scott “Skeeter” Cohen (The Life Cube), Flux Foundation (Dreamland), Capra J’neva (Axayacoatl), Chris “Kiwi” Hankins (Goddess of the Empty Sea), Marco Cochrane and Julia Whitelaw (R-Evolution), and Jazz Tigan (Temple of Promise).

We’ve recorded the event for your viewing pleasure. So grab a tasty beverage, sit back, relax, and enjoy:

Beyond Thunderdome

by Mary Fucking Poppins

That’s right, bitches, I did it. I went to Thunderdome last night battled, and won.

Well, sort of, the guy that I fought threw the fight.

I have been at Burning Man for a few years now and have always thought that I wanted to fight it out in Thunderdome.

Man, was I wrong. That shit is some hard fucking work. Not because it’s about fighting, at least it wasn’t for me, but because it’s about showmanship.

The crowd might get excited to see people whack the hell out of each other, but the point is to entertain, this is what my opponent explained to me as we got ready to go into the dome. (more…)

Get Your Makin’ Pants On, Maker Week is June 12-18!

Youth Education Spaceship at Maker Faire 2013 (photo by Harley Dubois)
Youth Education Spaceship at Maker Faire 2013 (photo by Harley Dubois)

It should probably go without saying that we’re all about makers, and the maker movement. Our friends at Maker Faire are kicking some serious maker butt these days, with over 130 Maker Faires now happening around the world annually, inspiring thousands of people to start making, and giving makers the showcase they need and deserve to show off their creations.

The movement got an incredible boost last year when President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire and issued a call to action that “every company, every college, every community, every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” And so here we are, doing just that. The White House recognizes that by “democratizing the tools and skills necessary to design and make just about anything, Maker-related events and activities can inspire more people to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and possibly take their creations to the next level and become entrepreneurs.”

2013 Global Arts Grantee Metamorphosis at Maker Faire in 2013.
2013 Global Arts Grantee Metamorphosis at Maker Faire in 2013.

This year, the White House will celebrate a “Week of Making” from June 12-18. The week will coincide with the National Maker Faire in Washington D.C., featuring makers from across the country and participation by a number of federal agencies including the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Small Business Administration, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, Corporation for National and Community Service, Department of Homeland Security and the Smithsonian. Pretty cool.

President Obama with Lindsay Lawlor and Russell the Giraffe (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama with Lindsay Lawlor and Russell the Giraffe (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At last year’s Faire, President Obama met Lindsay Lawlor, who built a 17-foot, talking robotic giraffe named Russell that you might have seen loping around Black Rock City in years past.

As the President put it, “Today’s D.I.Y is tomorrow’s Made in America.” Yeah, he gets it.


by Mark Magellan

There was a lone structure burning on the desert.

Morning burn of Embrace by The Pier Group.

Morning burn of Embrace by The Pier Group.

The sexless giants stood erect over the world; they gazed into each other’s eyes, saying goodbye to the world that was, and embracing what was bound to come; their shadows formed dark tentacles that were nailed to the desert floor, mocking the light from the blazing fire.

The antique land was full of wanderers who had created a new Canterbury; the ashes from the lovers would be their new covenant, the relics of eternal love, their hope to carve shapes out of the chaos.

Two, among thousands, sat watching the colossal structure. (more…)

Burning Man Arts Presents: The Artists’ Symposium and Desert Arts Preview

The veteran artists of our community hold a wealth of knowledge and experience: possibly the most valuable resource of all to other artists, and one that has been inadequately tapped until now.

Burning Man Arts — in the spirit of facilitating collaborative connections — is pleased to invite our community’s artists to an all-day Artists’ Symposium for artists to share knowledge and connect around mutual goals and needs. If you’re an artist (or would-be artist) creating work destined for Black Rock City or anywhere else, this is a fantastic opportunity to network with other artists and arts professionals, learning best practices about creating large-scale artwork.

You’ll learn from experts in fundraising, project management, heavy equipment, fire art, structural engineering, public art and more. See all the details here.

The event will be followed by the Desert Arts Preview from 6-8pm … come see artists presenting their works-in-progress for this year’s Burning Man (note: a ticket to the Artists’ Symposium includes admission to the Desert Arts Preview. You can also purchase tickets just for the Desert Arts Preview).

What: Artists’ Symposium
When: May 3 @ 10am – 9pm
Where: Fort Mason Center
2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123 (directions at
Cost: $20
Tickets: Buy tickets or RSVP

Questions? Email artsymposium here: artsymposium (at)

The NOW! Festival — It’s Like Bread, Sliced

This came across our radar, and we’d be hard-pressed to imagine a faster/easier/better way to bring Burning Man principles into your local community — and if the folks who came up with this aren’t Burners, we’d be utterly shocked (albeit pleasantly surprised).

It’s called NOW! festival. Here’s how it works: they pick two weeks a year and encourage people to come up with free and nearly free awesome experiences that serve to “co-create the best possible version of our community for one extraordinary week.” Sound familiar? Thought it might.

Tetherball, people. There's TETHERBALL!
Tetherball, people. There’s TETHERBALL!

So people list their ideas on the website, and the listings are as much an advertisement as an inspiration to others to get off their duffs and create something as well (we’re digging the “Me Too” button).

The list of events reads like Black Rock City’s What Where When guide, only less completely insane. Somebody’s offering a concierge service outside the DMV, another’s hosting a ukelele jam. There’s a tetherball competition, a conversation about healthy eating, and a mobile bike repair station. And of course there’s a “Psychic Friends Pop-Up Healing Station” and a “Midnight Pajama Silent Disco”. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Basically, it’s great stuff that makes any neighborhood a better place to be, pulled together by people who want their neighborhood to be a better place.

It’s happening in San Francisco’s Panhandle neighborhood this week, so check it out if you’re in the area.

And for God’s sake people, please create one of these in your home town!! They’ve got a handy How To guide and a FAQ for all your questionings.

We tip our hat to these fine folks making great things happen.

R-Evolution Has Begun!

I have been writing about The Bliss Project, created by artist Marco Cochrane and his crew, since 2010. The project includes three sculptures intended to demand a change in perspective … to be catalysts for social change. They are intended to challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge that has developed around the female body — which has been used for power and control — to see the human being. They are intended to de-objectify women and inspire people to take action to end violence against women, thus allowing everyone to live fully and thrive.

The Pantograph – a medieval-era enlargement tool
The Pantograph – a medieval-era enlargement tool (Photo by Jay R Houghton)

I had never seen sculpture being created like I did when I was there to see them assembling Bliss Dance for the first time. Bliss Dance pushes the limits of scale and engineering, and is as ambitious as she is breathtaking. So I loved watching the crew’s precision and grace as they assembled this incredible sculpture. They acted together on the assumption that it would all fit together once they got it to Black Rock City.

In 2013 I was lucky to be in the Bliss Dance Studio the day they were lighting up Truth is Beauty, the second sculpture in the series.

R-Evolution is the third and final sculpture in the series. R-Evolution continues with the theme of a woman expressing her humanity. At 48-feet tall, R-Evolution will debut at Burning Man 2015. When I visited the studio in 2014, Marco and Deja (the model for all three sculptures) were there. Marco used a Pantograph — a medieval-era enlargement tool — to create a 15-foot clay version of R-Evolution by hand from a ¾ life-size original, using classical sculpting techniques.

Welding R-Evolution (Photo by Jay R Houghton)
Welding R-Evolution (Photo by Jay R Houghton)

The next step was to begin the second phase enlargement to her final metal form — the metalwork for the second half of R-Evolution is well underway. They need to complete the sculpture; paint her for rust protection; design, build and install the lighting; place the mesh skin and construct the base — all before Burning Man 2015. And you probably already know that the Man burns in 137 days.

If you’d like to follow along and watch the progress of R-Evolution check out her Facebook Page.

The Derry Temple — A Small Step in the Same Direction

Temple at sunset (Photo by Josh Lease)
Temple at sunset (Photo by Josh Lease)

“Aye, about 30 of us sat through a presentation about Temple. Most said they would participate. One other guy and myself showed up to the next meeting, and only I ended up actually working on the project. But see here, a thing I’ve learned is some steps you have to take on your own.”

Cookie is from the Top of the Hill neighborhood in Derry, the same neighborhood where the Temple stands overlooking the river Foyle and the city of Derry-Londonderry. He first heard about Temple the same way many people did, in a community meeting. Artichoke Trust engaged and worked with over 40 local community groups in an effort to ensure everyone knew that Temple was for everyone, not just one community, but for all of Derry and beyond. The Top of the Hill is part of the greater Waterside neighborhood, a Protestant area, which sits on the opposite side of the river Foyle from the City Side, a Catholic area, but Top of the Hill is traditionally Catholic. Confused yet?

Peace Wall in Derry (Photo by Josh Lease)
Peace Wall in Derry (Photo by Josh Lease)

These are the types of divides that go back a long long way in Northern Ireland, and were fuel for the fire of violence and division during the Troubles; a time when sectarianism was aligned with political and national allegiances. Soldiers in the street, bombings, and paramilitary groups were the norm. The peace accords in 1998 brought an official end to the Troubles, and it left Northern Ireland to try to pick up the pieces and get on after nearly 40 years of civil conflict.

Top of Hill Republican Bonfire (Photo by unknown)
Top of Hill Republican Bonfire (Photo by unknown)

With the Troubles still fresh in the minds of the older generations in Ireland and around the world, it has been easy for the press to focus on Temple as a project about, and in response to the Troubles. It’s true, reconciliation and community healing related to the conflict is still desperately needed. Over 3,500 people lost their lives to the Troubles, so everywhere you look in Temple echoes of the Troubles can be seen. Not only does the community carry scars of the Troubles, but so does the City of Derry-Londonderry. The name has a hyphen to avoid conflict. Sectarian murals dot the city and Peace Walls — 25 foot iron, brick, and steel walls built to separate Catholic and Protestant communities — still stand in the city center. Even Temple’s location brings up thoughts of the sectarian bonfires, because in the very spot the Temple stands was the normal location of a very large annual sectarian bonfire that’s usually followed by violent marches and rioting.

(Photo by Josh Lease)
(Photo by Josh Lease)

At 18, Cookie never knew the Troubles. He was just about 1 when the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ was signed. He and his friends have grown up in a town and a community desperate to move on, but still divided by religion, by violence, by walls, and even by a river. The Troubles may be over on paper, but his generation has grown up hearing the stories, seeing the bonfires, and having to deal with the economic and social damage left in the wake. Derry boasts a very high unemployment rate and one of the highest suicide rates in Ireland. Suicide since the end of the conflict has risen over 67% and the number of victims of suicide since the peace agreements will soon surpass those of the Troubles. It is so prevalent in Derry there is a special volunteer only rescue crew that specializes in suicides. The night of the burn, a local friend working on the project told me that someone he knew had committed suicide the night before. This is what the media did not focus on; everyone in Derry and around knows loss and hardship, and Temple was for them too.

Temple Interior (Photo by Josh Lease)
Temple Interior (Photo by Josh Lease)

It was no wonder to me when Cookie said he had considered joining the military. It wasn’t because he was looking for adventure, he was looking for a strong community. “I don’t have to think about doing that anymore though,” he said — he found that community in the Temple Crew. He didn’t know what Temple would bring, but he took that small step on his own to see what Temple could be for him. In that step he found a community, and as it turns out, a job after the project is over. He had been looking for a job for over two years. He also now has his sights on making his way to Black Rock City too, working on a large project of course.

Temple at Night (Photo by Josh Lease)
Temple at Night (Photo by Josh Lease)

Cookie’s comment “some steps you have to take on your own” stuck with me over the week. Spending time at Temple, I watched people arrive by the thousands. There were many concerns voiced about the project and its chosen location. “No one will come” were words of worry voiced many times to organizers. But they did, over 60,000 in a week, and each one took that step on their own. Perhaps they didn’t even realize they were taking a step.

School children arriving at Temple (Photo by Josh Lease)
School children arriving at Temple (Photo by Josh Lease)

Temple was a joyous meeting place for entire families. It was routinely packed so full you could not get inside. An entire elementary school came to visit Temple one day. Song and dance broke out frequently. On the last day Temple was open, over 28,000 people came to see it, to spend time inside it, to leave what they sometimes didn’t know they came to leave. As a volunteer Temple Guardian I handed out dozens of pens to people who, once there, realized that Temple was for them too and they had a contribution to make.

Temple burned in front of over 20,000 people from all over Ireland, the UK, and Europe. A member of the security team told me it was not only the largest gathering he had ever known of in Derry, but most amazingly it was totally peaceful. Temple has redefined what art born in the desert can mean for the world. Before I left Derry I heard calls for other Temples in Derry, in Belfast, and in other cities across the world, because Temple changed Derry. It has shown that art can unite communities after times of deep divide, that fire can be a source of healing instead of intimidation, and amazingly what can happen when so many take a small step in the same direction.

(Photo by Josh Lease)
(Photo by Josh Lease)