The 12 Most Mind-Melting Artworks Headed To Burning Man This Year

Posted on December 26, 2016 | Posted by admin

Approximately 525 years ago, an Italian polymath named Leonardo da Vinci completed a pen and ink depict called “The Vitruvian Man.” The piece illustrates a nude human in two superimposed stances, inscribed in a circle and a square. Inspired by the work of an architect named Vitruvius, Leonardo created the piece as a manifestation of the ideal human body, the principal archetype of proportionality.

Fast forward to 2016, when Leonardo’s iconic contribution to the fields of art, science, maths and the place where the three intersect is likely to be honored in the most dream-like of ways. In the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock City, approximately 70,000 people will join together to burn the Man to the ground.

That’s right, this year’s Burning Man theme is Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop, paying homage to the artist and his crew who transformed 15 th- and 16 th-century Florence through ingenuity, ingenuity and crazy skill.

Over 300 artistshave registered to bring their most surreal, hallucinatory and utopian Leondardo-inspired visions to life on the large-scale stage that is the playa . There are giant butterfly sculptures. There are floating LED dancing girls. There are most certainly inhaling robot alligator puppets.

We’ve rounded up 12 of the projects most likely to make Leonardo say, “Whoa, what? ” Each artist or artist collective contributed a brief description of their project, along with a quotation describing how the piece taps into the overall spirit of Burning Man. Take a look below.


by Anna-Gaelle Lucy Marshall and Dusty Visions( Portland, Oregon)

Photo by AG Lucy Marshall

Project description : “’FLOCONS’ is a dynamic and evolving series of large-scale, ornament-like sculptures, imagined and built by a collective of artists to be displayed in a garden-like way.[ It] is a shared creative experience in participatory art that displays the beauty of human collaboration and communal attempt. As participants approach the series, they will find a collecting of large free-floating sculptures, each as unique as the artists who created them.” Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man : “We believe in the positive impact of community-driven participatory art projects and seek to support the creation of pieces that can involve a wide variety of individuals and groups from concept to finish.’ FLOCONS’ was designed as a dynamic and constantly evolving series; the metal hangers providing a blank canvas for endless creative expres in a unique format that is transportation-friendly, allowing for multiple displays year-round.”

Learn more about “FLOCONS” hereand support the project on IndieGogo here .

2. Firmament

by Christopher Schardt( Oakland, California)

Photo by Christopher Schardt

Project description: “A vast, overhead canopy of LEDs displays celestial, playful, psychedelic, majestic images while classical music emotionally supports an engulf, comforting, communal surrounding below.”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “’Firmament’ captures an aspect of Burning Man that is increasingly hard to find. It is an oasis of calm in a ocean of thumping art autoes, a place of beauty rather than sight. Thousands of people lie under it every night, enjoying the flowing visuals and peaceful music as long as they like, before returning to the cacophony that is Burning Man at night.”

Learn more about “Firmament” here.

3. Mechan 9

by Tyler Fuqua( Eagle Creek, Oregon)

Photo by Jason Hutchinson

Project description : “’Mechan 9’ is a giant fallen robot that is half-buried in the ground. How he got there, and why he fell in the desert, and most importantly, who constructed him, can all be exposed if you decipher the strange text that is on his body utilizing a special decoder.( A decoder sticker found in a hatch on his head .) The clues will take you on a treasure hunt all over the city where you will learn the history of’ Mechan 9’ along the way. The robot is over 30 feet long and can be climbed upon. In fact, you HAVE to climb on him to find the secret of his heart chamber! ”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Burning Man is about discovery. Discovery of one’s ego, discovery of new people, and discovery of amazing art.’ Mechan 9’ captures that spirit by inviting people to decipher a strange text and detect the mystery of the giant robot. Who knows what else you will detect on your adventure to unravel the secrets of’ Mechan 9’! ”

Learn more about “Mechan 9” here.

4. Electric Renaissance( A Tribute to Cadillac Ranch)

by Heliotropics( Santa Cruz, California, and Aachen, Germany)

Electric Renaissance
Rendering: Project. “Electric Renaissance, ” Burning Man 2016
Project description : “’Electric Renaissance’ celebrates the advent of the zero-emissions, all-electric vehicles of the future with a salute to Cadillac Ranch, Ant Farm’s iconic installation, the gravestone of the gas-guzzling, gross, polluting dinosaurs of the industrial past.[ It was] conceived of by the’ Electric Renaissance’ team of Jason Guy, Bodo Julicher, Paulina Kuper, Keith Muscutt, Bob Oberg, Steve Ornellas, Sean Pace, Richard Peifer, Pawel Pietkun, Joslyn Schott, Jacob Stelzriede, Jakub Sztur and Andrzej Sztur.”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “’Electric Renaissance’ foresees that the Cadillacs, after a harrowing and transformative journey through the bowels of the earth, are being resurrected as zero-emissions vehicles at the dry lake bed’ playa’ at Burning Man. In keeping with the Leonardo da Vinci theme of the Burning Man Festival this year,’ Electric Renaissance’ also celebrates human ingenuity in developing technological solutions to societal and environmental challenges. While the original idea of the installation was to use actual electric-vehicle bodies, interred trunk down in the playa, that proved both financially and technically very difficult to negotiate( due in part to the fragility of the playa ). So, like most art at Burning Man,’ Electric Renaissance’ will be made of flammable the documentation and destined to end in a blaze of glory( unless someone spares it that fate ). ”

Check out “Electric Renaissance” on Instagram.

5. Dust City Diner

by David Cole and Michael Brown( Oakland, California)

Servin’ up sandwiches and sass, you’ll find us when you need us most.
Project description : “The’ Dust City Diner’ is a magical 1940 s-style diner, complete with a quilted stainless steel backsplash, red leather stools, a gurgle coffee maker, the Ink Spots and the Andrews Sister on the radio, and of course blue plate specials. Made for Burning Man 2008 ’s theme “The American Dream, ” the’ Dust City Diner’ serves hot coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches from twilight till dawning at an unannounced place in the deep playa. Our aim is to provide a special reprieve for those who want to sit, read the paper and enjoy the company of other weary travelers.”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “ We love the idea of a gift economy, and what would be more appreciated than a classic grilled cheese sandwich and a piping beaker of strong coffee in the middle of the night? The idea began as we reflected upon the strange experience of being surrounded by people and activity at Burning Man, but still feeling somewhat isolated and not connecting with those around us. The project was to create an intimate oasis for an evolving cast of strangers who, for as long as they occupy a chair, are the’ regulars’ who give character to all diners across the field of America. The special appeal of constructing something that one merely stumbles upon and perhaps never sees again is one of the things that is most particular to Burning Man.”

Learn more about the “Dust City Diner” here.

6. Heart of Gold

by HYBYCOZO( Yelena Filipchuk& Serge Beaulieu)( San Francisco, California)

Photo via Yelena Filipchuk
Project description : “A series of geometric sculptures based on Leonardo da Vinci’s draws that play with your sense of view and warp your perception of the inner and outer dimensions of the self.”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Our work seeks to capture the spirit of wonder, larger-than-life installation, and the curiosity of geometric, out-of-the-box reasoning. Building and ingenuity are the lifeblood of the Burning Man community and we hope to construction honest artwork that invites people to be considered building and design.”

Learn more about HYBYCOZO here .

7. Horizon Lines

by Tyler Buckheim( Key West, Florida)

By Tyler Buckheim
Project description : “At first look’ Horizon Lines’ appears to be a cluster or’ forest’ of 25 wooden posts rising out of the playa. The top section of the posts are painted black, with a golden line between the black and raw timber sections, and the sides of each post painted to a different level. When participants come to the properly marked place seeming immediately north, south, east or west at the statue, the painted portions visually align with the horizon or mountain range behind it. The golden stripe generates a gilded horizon line. The moment the paint on each post and the natural backdrop line up, you will see the optical illusion of the merging of the foreground and background to make one whole image.”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Burning Man prospers on individual view and experiences. Each person chooses to be present and fully immersed in this bizarre and wonderful culture. The statue reflects this essential part of the burning man experience by interacting with the viewer. Building each person a necessary part of the statue and allowing them to experience the morphing of their surrounds based on their own motion. Revolutionary self-reliance is one of the key principles of Burning Man and, as a part of that idea, the statue itself relies on each individual’s participation and interaction.”

8. Dreams of Flight

by Michael Gard( San Francisco, California)

by Michael Gard
One of the figures he’ll be flying.
Project description : “My project is wire figures created in aluminum with internal LED lights. These is likely to be fly around the playa at night under large black helium balloons.”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “One of the finest of many spirits Burning Man represents to me is wonder. This project is pretty mysterious from even 50 feet. The night sky genuinely hides the balloons, giving the impression of mysterious drift, dancing kinds. Coming closer, people figure it out, but then dig the ingenuity. It’s fun to interact with people after being approached with that level of novelty.”

See a video of “Dreams of Flight” at Burning Man 2014 here.

9. The MechaGator

by Ryan S. Ballard( New Orleans, Louisiana)

by Ryan Ballard
Project description : “MechaGator” is a 12 -foot-tall fire-breathing robot alligator puppet controlled with levers and foot pedals that you operate by mounting her little pink pony saddle on her tail. She has disco balls, little pink wings and a unicorn cornet. And she has a serious craving for propane.”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “’MechaGator’ captures the spirit of Burning Man in her flaming interactive whimsy. She brings joy to all persons who encounters her.”

10. Imago

by Kirsten Berg( Berkeley, California)

By Kirsten Berg
Project description : “Blue-mirror-steel butterflies hover 17 feet over the desert, wings lifted as if merely alighted, yet ready for takeoff. Stepping beneath the delicately-perforated, arching wingspan, vivid blue illuminate scatters, encircling us in a vaulted, luminous space of geometric patterns/ reflections.’ Imago’ holds a space, in structure and feeling, that is illuminate and uplifting, like an intimate temple or futuristic shrine.[ The] design was specifically inspired by the arching, peaked roof shapes of Buddhist temples and’ spirit houses’ found in Thailand, where I live part of the year, and the blue iridescence of Morpho butterflies. With’ Imago, ’ I wanted to bringing the static, geometric forms of the temples together with the organic living form of the butterfly, all to create a space to immerse and reflect in light.”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “The elevated butterflies are easily resonant metaphors for the transformative experiences that compel so many migrations to Burning Man: immersion into a place of imagination, to be renewed, transformed. Butterfly metamorphosis mirrors our playa experiences: intense preparations, followed by the suspension of mundane life, to immerse into a dreamlike space that is safe yet undefined, full of potential. When the time of cocooning is over, we emerge, high on imagination. Just as the ripen butterfly, known as an imago, returns to the wider world, ripe for creation and pollination.”

Learn more about “Imago” here.

11. Piazza di Ferro

by Iron Monkey Arts( Seattle, Washington)

Rendering by Tabasco Mills
Project description : “This year the Iron Monkeys will pay homage to our craft by constructing a functional, participatory blacksmith shop on the playa. Encircling the shop will be a public assembling space, fostering the community to observe, discuss and contribute to what is happening in the shop. Inspired by the theme, the Iron Monkeys decided that this is the year to share our craft at Burning Man. 2016 also marks the 10 th anniversary of the Iron Monkeys, and in festivity, we want to encourage an important element of our philosophy: everyone can blacksmith. The theme for the event this year is a great opportunity to share our craft and give participants a chance to experience blacksmithing.”

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Our piece captures the spirit of Burning Man by imbuing participants with the faith that’ I too can do.’ We believe everyone can blacksmith, and will spend all week teaching this old-world craft to those who enter the shop. This is interactive art at its dirty, sweaty core.”

Learn more about the “Piazza di Ferro” here.

12. Renaissance

By Pink Intruder( Miguel Arraiz and David Moreno; Valencia, Spain)

Pink Intruder
Renaissance model
Project description : “’Renaixement( Renaissance ); will be an art installation at Burning Man 2016 that brings, for the first time, the esthetic of Las Fallas to Black Rock City. Funded in part by an Honorarium Grant from Burning Man, this “falla on the playa” will use a contemporary speech in its external appearance but also express the essence of Valencian culture and the Fallas tradition. With this year’s Burning Man theme and[ Leonardo’s] connection with the Borgia family and Valencia’s Silk Exchange Market house, a contemporary architectonic cardboard pavilion will be built on the playa. A cardboard tubing structure of over 50,000 pieces, the mosaic ground floor mixed with traditional Fallas Festival cardboard sculptures[ will show] the traditional way of working in our city, Valencia, Spain.

Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Through all the year, thousands of people work to make possible the Fallas festival. At this phase, the project satisfies the spirit of the Burning Man: the community. The base of the’ Renaissance’ pavilion the ground floor, with thousands of mosaic pieces has been assembled by kids and social[ the organisations of Spain ]. ”

Learn more about “Renaissance” here.

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