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A Burner Lexicon: Art

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, and Burning Man

Art Installation by Chainsaw. Pyropolis 2006. Image by Adam Rice.

Art, –noun, One of the burner principles is no spectators. Everyone at a Burn event is expected to participate by sharing their art or otherwise contributing to the community. When you meet a Burner and introduce yourself, early in the conversation you are often asked ‘What do you do?’ Your new friend is not asking to hear about your day job as a data entry clerk, he wants to know what you are passionate about; he’s asking what kind of art you make. Obviously, that giant sculpture that you haul out to the playa is art, but so is that fabulous costume you made, the meal you cooked with love and shared with the community, the music you make or spin, or the program you wrote to power someone’s robot.

Art is not the combination of drugs you took or how often you saw naked breasts during the event. See also: Participant, Tourist.

Back when I attended my first Burn events a decade ago, if a random person I was talking to had heard about Burning Man they probably had heard it was some kind of art and music festival in the desert. I even encountered people reluctant to attend because they knew everyone was expected to participate, but they were not musicians, DJs, or visual artists.

Nowadays, most people I encounter seem to think it’s a giant rave, or some kind of orgy. All of these definitions of the event are simultaneously true and overly reductionist, of course, but it does suggest a shift in focus that many find troubling.

Other entries in A Burner Lexicon can be found at

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