Burning Man’s Museum of No Spectators

General / People / Places / April 16, 2020

Sure, Burning Man’s been cancelled this year.

But when it returns in late August of 2021, it’ll offer a new, countercultural and participatory opportunity.

It’s called the Museum of No Spectators, and it was inspired by an exhibition organized last year by the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery.

Called “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” it illuminated the values of the hugely popular Black Rock, Nevada event through its guiding ten principles: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy.

Gifting in particular resonated with the organizers of the new museum, architect/artist John Marx, artist Absinthia Vermut and builder Jerry James. They’ve worked out a design for nine galleries – and a gift shop placed front and center at the entry to the museum. It’s a place where visitors do the gifting, not the buying.

“There’s a perception about Burning Man that you wake up, crawl out of a trailer, and start stepping over couples,” Marx says. “People think that’s what Burning Man is about, but I say it’s to embrace community and kindness as a human art.”

He sees participatory art – and gifting – as intrinsic to that, and the new museum is its physical manifestation. “You enter the gift shop and there are ample art supplies and artists to show you how to make a gift,” he says. “You make only one thing and it’s symbolic – a piece of jewelry or a drawing, and you could leave it at the gift shop or give it to someone an hour or a week later.”

Then there’s the series of highly curated galleries, whose names – like Snark, Sparklepony and Dark Art – change on a daily basis. “We want people to bring art to fill the galleries, to fill the walls with art, whether it’s graffiti or writing on the wall, or a poem or a drawing or a piece of art to install,” he says. “We want them to display their humanity.”

And surely by the time Burning Man 2021 rolls around in a year and a half, there’ll be plenty of that to go around.

For more, go here.

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Michael Welton




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