[This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]
As Burning Man is, if nothing else, a crucible for radical and avante garde self-expression, it’s no wonder that the city’s functional and infrastructural elements are so often imbued with creative artistry as well. And when base necessity meets with artistic inspiration, banal functionality is elevated beyond its original purpose, taking on altogether new forms.
Public transportation takes the form of the magnificent roving sculptures that are Mutant Vehicles. Personal transportation (bicycles) are transformed into rolling exhibitions of personal inventiveness. Illuminating the city at night with kerosene lanterns becomes a deeply-ritualized activity. The city itself is a work of functional art, designed such that one can see the Man from every street corner. Even the street signs are meticulously hand-crafted to mirror the given year’s art theme.
In the following essay, originally published on the Burning Man website, Rod Garrett explains how the Man Base (the pedestal upon which the Man stands) evolved from basic functional need to an elevated work of interactive art.
The Man and the Plinth
Standing at the geometric apex of Black Rock City is the collective icon of The Man. This figure represents nothing expressed or explicable, yet is a physical and ethical guidepost for fifty thousand people during at least one week of the year.
In the beginning, the Man stood and was burned directly on the playa. Nearing the millennium, we began to see increasingly greater assemblies at the “Burn” – marking the end of the event. Concerned that the ever-larger assembly was blocking full view of the “Man” for many, we employed a stopgap measure of mounting the figure on stacked hay bales. However, as the pyre was consumed in flame, bits of charred straw were lifted, showering the open playa. This made our “Leave No Trace” policy quite problematic, so that practice ended.