Posts in placement

August 5th, 2010  |  Filed under Metropol

Placing Art in Black Rock City

[Christine Kristen (aka Ladybee) was Burning Man's art curator from 1999 to 2008, where she dealt with all things visual and aesthetic, including managing the art and the art grant program, photo-editing the Image Gallery, writing art content for the Burning Man website, working with the ARTery, managing the archives, and lecturing and writing about the art of Burning Man. She has a MFA in sculpture from the Art Institute of Chicago. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]

Authorities are Baffled, by Vince Koloski

Authorities are Baffled, by Vince Koloski, 1993

Integrating hundreds of art installations into the layout of Black Rock City is a challenging task which has evolved over the years from very little management back in the mid-90’s, when art was scarce, to a complex system that accommodates all art installations on the open playa, installations with flame effects in theme camps, and art placed in the city infrastructure, including the Keyhole; the airport; the 3:00, 4:30, 7:30 and 9:00 plazas; the Man base; and the Center Camp Café.

The Bone Tree, by Dana Albany, 1999

The Bone Tree, by Dana Albany, 1999

In 1999, our theme was “The Wheel of Time,” and for the first time ever, the newly-formed Art Department decided to map the art in a theme-based pattern. We created a map that represented a clock face, with the Man at the center, and twelve major installations mapped at the hour locations just off the Esplanade. On Friday night we staged a series of performances, starting at 6 PM, at the 6:00 position. Dana Albany’s Bone Tree led participants around the clock face, where a performance awaited them every hour, on the hour. Of course by about 3AM it was freezing, and the weather put an end to our grand cavalcade of performances. We did learn, however, that arranging the art installations in some sort of logical pattern added theatrical significance and prominence to the art. In 2000, the art was mapped in the shape of a gigantic human body with the Man as its navel, to reinforce the Body theme. Russell Wilcox’s laser installation illuminated this body, although perceiving it from the ground was a bit abstract- aerially it would have looked like a large stick figure in laser beams.

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October 21st, 2009  |  Filed under Building BRC, Preparation

Make it real

Sweet thing is there to turn plans into reality

Sweetthang is the person who draws the lines in the sand

Take your plans and make them real.

For a lot of Burners, it’s a yearlong task. You plot and plan and meet and talk. You have an idea for an art car, and you wrestle with the logistics and the money and the know-how, and sometimes it comes out great and sometimes … well, it’ll be better next year. It’s an evolutionary thing. Same thing with art projects. Oh yeah, it was all going to fit together just fine. Except it didn’t. And then you had to adjust.

It’s like that for a lot of people in the Burning Man organization, too. A lot like that. And no one knows  it better than Sweetthang.

It’s Sweetthang’s job to translate the map of the playa, and the flags on the ground, into actual camp layouts. She has to adjudicate border disputes. She has to confirm (or deny!) where your theme camp begins and ends.

The task  has to be daunting. You know how hard it is to make what appears on your planning sheets actually show up in the desert dust. No, the DJ booth goes over HERE.  And it faces THAT WAY, not like this. And the sun showers go BEHIND the recycle stuff, not in front of them! Sheesh!

Ok, now exponentially increase the complexity of the undertaking. Imagine trying to figure out where it ALL goes, what ALL those flags in the ground are supposed to mean. Oh, the electrical wires are buried here? The spider box goes over there? Oh, then we can’t have the Airstream park like that. It’s got to go over here.

You get the idea.  40,000 people showing up with there own ideas about how it’s all supposed to come together, about where they’re going to set up, but the map says no. And you’re the person who has to figure it out. That’s Sweetthang.

Of course, things happen. Adjustments must be made. Because really, one of the best things about having a plan is changing it.

So the question is this: How’d you do? Did it all come together the way you thought it would? What did you learn this year that’s going to come in handy next year? Tips and tricks for playa preparation are most welcome …

sweet thing 2-1 copy