Curators’ Walking Tour of "Burning Man"
ArtTable members were joined by Karyn Miller, the Golden Triangle BID’s Public Space Activation Curator, and David Suls, Senior Director of Planning and Policy, for a walking tour of the Burning Man exhibit installations around the Golden Triangle district in DC. The Golden Triangle District reached out the Renwick as a potential partner for the Burning Man exhibition. Karyn explained that this venture was the first time the Renwick had done an outdoor extension, and their partnership was a great way for Golden Triangle to take their public art involvement up a notch.
The Burning Man festival is a unique gathering, named after a crowd watching the burning of a statue of a man that has grown year after year. The participants trade art and supplies throughout the duration of their stay. At Burning Man - located at an otherwise uninhabited wide open landscape out in Black Rock City, Nevada except for the duration of the festival - art created is on a huge scale with incredible creativity. The streets and sidewalks of DC have proven to be a great backdrop for pieces that are too large to fit through the doors of the Renwick building. Six installations around the city have elicited overwhelmingly positive responses and feedback. In the process of bringing six large pieces into the heart of the nation’s capital, the pieces went through a necessary compression to get in front of people in the hustle and bustle of city living. Burning Man also focuses on the democratization of art making, and this ideal is reflected in the variety of art and non-art backgrounds of the artists chosen to bring pieces to this installation.
The artists behind these pieces depicted a diverse array of thought and experiences. Ursa Major, a giant bear made of 170,000 pennies, was crafted by a couple who met at Burning Man and were married there a few years later. Maya’s Mind, a six-thousand pound cement image depicting Maya Angelou’s face and inside her head, addresses the inclusivity of monuments. Many of the pieces, such as XO, are lit up at night. Golden Spike was made by self described “math and geometry nerds” and depicts a complex mathematical pattern. Speaker’s Past adds a modern twist to an ancient temple motif. Two giant crows caw out from the grass of a national park space; the were recast, as the originals were unusable after sustaining damage at the Burning Man festival.
The installations were carefully placed in the environment of the city to prioritize the pedestrian experience rather than vehicles. With the use of a pedestrian counter before and during the exhibition, curators have found an uptick in pedestrian traffic during the exhibit’s run. Visitors have been mostly respectful of the pieces, and have often asked questions to the people maintaining the works.