The Art is disappearing out here overnight, with a couple of the non-burnable huge pieces like Zach Coffin’s The Universe Revolves Around YOU and Pier 2 in the process of being taken down. The playa’s pretty much empty now with only the Man pile still burning, the Dragon Smelter and Bone Tree hanging around the Esplanade, and I’m told about four pieces out there waiting to be pulled up. Burn piles out where David Best’s Temple of Juno, The Man and Otto Von Danger’s Burn Wall Street stood, are being tended to by those cleanup crews.
We had 330+ art pieces on playa this year and if you didn’t make it out here, you missed an impressive selection of art. There were sublime pieces of sculpture like Flux Foundation’s Zoa and Kate Raudenbush’s Star Seed. There were architectural feats that manifested beauty like The Pier Group’s Pier 2 and the Temple of Juno, the Temple being amazing in both its physical and spiritual states as well as before and while it was burning. Wizzard’s Mayan Tricycle made for a great burn and Matt Lottor’s Cubatron Core always had a crowd around it taking in this year’s spinning delightful light patterns. The C.O.R.E. projects ringing the Man went up in a fantastic blaze all at once, Burn Wall Street’s Goldman Sucks had a stark bright glow to it and cheers went up when the Bank of UnAmerica collapsed on itself.
There were, in fact, so many art projects that I wanted to explore one of the many cool things the ARTery does in Black Rock Rock and that is to organize Art Tours. My friend Eva told me that in 2003 she walked up to Saul Melman and Ani Weinstein’s Johnny on the Spot and a couple people were remarking on how someone had vandalized the piece by writing “R. Mutt” on it. She broke in and let them know that actually that piece was homage to Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 piece called “Fountain” and that he signed his pieces with the moniker “R.Mutt”.
She then began talking about Dadaism and a group grew behind her. She moved onto other art pieces, discussing them, and each time she’d turn around there were more people listening to her, twenty then fifty, then seventy. She tells me this was the beginning of her experience as an art tour guide at Burning Man and that she soon thereafter spoke with Lady Bee who ran the ARTery for years and tours of Art of the Playa began.
I don’t have all the details, but somewhere between then and 2006 the ARTery began giving tours “officially”. In 2005 there was the first Audio mp3 version of art tours by Jim Tierney (Anarchist Jim) and Evonne Heyning. Glenda Solis aka bathsheba and I were talking at lunch and she filled me in on some more details.
There are several types of Art tours at Burning Man. The XRT or External Relations Team tours take groups of people like city leaders who may be interested in public art in their cities around the playa. Media Mecca has been giving tours for years so all the media types can take their pictures and report on what is going on out here. The ARTery has several types of tours that are for playa citizens. Every day starting on Tuesday of the event and running through Friday, at 11:00 am you will see a bunch of Art cars in front of the ARTery. Notable cars are the Heart Deco, Kazbus, Purple Princess, the Monaco, the Surly Bird and this year, Abraxas (the Golden Dragon).
To get a ticket, come the day before you want to tour and go to Everywhere, which is next to the ARTery and is where Regionals, Black Rock Arts Foundation, Black Rock Solar and other organizations live during the event. You can only get tickets one day in advance.
Originally the ARTery offered tours only to the mobility challenged, but in the last four years they’ve grown to cover a bunch of different types of tours including the main ARTery tours given by Glenda who discusses the artists’ philosophies, Maria who is connected with BRAF and the Nevada and Reno Museums. Maria is also the Artists’ Advocate at the ARTery and has a lot of knowledge about both Honoraria and non-Honoraria pieces. Eva gives tours that are heavy on playa and art history in general. There is also a kids art tour that picks up kids at Kidsville in the Surly Bird and takes them to more interactive and whimsical pieces they can appreciate, like Max Poynton and Andrew Grinberg’s Bottle Cap Gazebo (they love bottlecaps). A big hit with the kids was 2010’s Grand Flat Piano by Olle Bjerkås and Jon Wingborg Gothenburg.
I got on the Meet the Artists Tour where artists jump on board the Heart Deco bus and Dazzle and Diablo simulcast the tour on BMIR while stopping at each piece to get artists’ input on what they built. It was Thursday and about five huge Art Busses sat across the Esplanade from the ARTery and Everywhere, where their music mixed in a cacophonous mix up of various musical styles. We disembarked as Jon Sarriugarte and Kyrsten Mate’s Serpent Twins moved about in wild wide circles around us and with a group of people on bikes following. The tour on each bus is amplified so you don’t have to be on the bus to enjoy the tour. Our first stop was Dadara’s Transformoney Tree at Esplanade and the Promenade to the Man where Dadara discussed how the Tree takes money and transforms it into something with a different value and of the infinite possibilities if we looked at money as art rather than exchange for goods and services.
We checked out the Pier and Christopher of CharWash jumped aboard and explained the purification aspect of his piece where participants could be surrounded by fire nightly. He said, “It’s turned out to be not nearly as dangerous as we thought it would be.” Dazzle explained Big Art for Small Towns at Mark Szulgit’s Reno Star Cosmic Thistle and she told the story of Cap’n Jim at the Tuna Guys’ Remembering Cap’n Jim. Cap’n Jim passed away this year and for years he was a legend for bringing and gifting tuna at Burning Man. The piece was a memorial to him and a place for all those who loved him to come and pay their respects.
We stopped at James Reinhardt’s TESSERACT and he told us about the concept of the uncarved block of Taoism where anything is possible that his fire sculpture was based on. The windmills that mooed like cows were David Boyer’s Mooving. Laura Kimpton jumped aboard and shared her philosophy on her art and what EGO was all about. Kyrsten Mate gave us the mythology behind The Serpent Twins. Jess Hobbs discussed Flux Foundations Zoa. We heard the story of Sarah Cockings’ Lune Tide and how it was first affected by a worldwide helium shortage, then was disabled by some of our high winds out here. She was the same artist who brought out Is Land a few years ago that disappeared at a festival in the UK. Dazzle said her next project will be amazing. The third time’s a charm.
In addition to the guided tours, there are two bike tours a day from Tuesday to Friday at 10:00 am and 2:00pm, self guided tours using Patty Glen’s map (available at the ARTery) and Anarchist Jim and Evonne Heyning’s audio tour and PDF they’ve produced the last few years that are available before the event begins at the Art Tour page.
It is also rumored that Betty June, the fearless leader of the ARTery and the entire Art division of Burning Man gives tours from time to time and that they are a must attend if you’re lucky enough to hear about them. There is also a Burnt Art Tour on Monday morning where you ride around and are told about what was standing at all the burn piles. This event is a cocktails encouraged tour.
However you enjoy the art out here at Black Rock City, remember next year that these resources exist. I am told that all total this last week around 1200 participants enjoyed the Art Tours. Feel free to join us next year. You might learn something and you will most definitely see something you probably would have missed otherwise. Also, if you have a large art car with a great sound system and would be interested in providing transportation for the tours, contact the ARTery on Monday of the event to take part in the tours. They’re great fun.