When Burning Man festival–goers get to the temporary Nevada city outside Black Rock City, greeters famously say, "Welcome home, again." While I have never attended the annual weeklong event, I imagine that this feeling of homecoming will resonate for all Burning Man fanatics who visit the Renwick Gallery's latest exhibition No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, opening today.
The exhibit features costumes, jewelry, sculpture, video, and photography by artists and collectives who have participated in the communal spectacle of experimental art, performance, music, and expression. Displayed across the entire museum, the show brings installations directly from the festival, with the additions of a specially commissioned sculptural temple for the gallery's Grand Salon, Burning Man's first-ever virtual reality (VR) experience, and artifacts that track the history and evolution of the event.
“The scale, the communal effort, and the technical challenges inherent in creating works for the desert are part of what sets Burning Man apart from other art experiences,” said director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum Stephanie Stebich in a press release. “It is an amazingly creative laboratory where innovators go to play and to push the boundaries of their craft. Displaying the art of Burning Man at the Renwick is the latest example of our focus on new directions in craft and making.”
Highlights include Shrumen Lumen by FoldHaus Art Collective, three larger-than-life corrugated plastic mushroom-like sculptures with embedded LEDs that expand and contract when viewers step onto sensor-enabled circles; a scaled version of Truth is Beauty, Marco Cochrane's sculptural form of a dancing woman made of stainless steel mesh; The Android Jones Deep Playa Experience interactive VR program that lets you "walk" through the desert, by Android Jones and immersive media group Vision Agency; and intricate, oversized LED lanterns by the HYBYCOZO art collective. (For more on the VR experience, read ARCHITECT's interview with Jones.)
Though many of the installations will be familiar to those who have been to Burning Man, the goal of the exhibit is to provide a larger audience with the opportunity to experience the festival. Gallery officials think they'll get a total attendance of 1 million people by the time the exhibit closes next January. If the Renwick's Wonder exhibit in 2015 is any indication, the interactive experience is likely to be a hit among D.C. locals and tourists alike.
The curators have also collaborated with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District for the gallery's first-ever outdoor extension of an exhibit. From now until December, visitors can check out six different works by Burning Man artists in D.C.'s Golden Triangle neighborhood. See a map of the art installations below.
As they say when you leave Burning Man, I wish you well in the default world ... until you visit the exhibit, that is.