These Dazzling Burning Man Art Projects Need Your Help

Article by: emily ward|@_drawylime

Tue June 12, 2018 | 15:25 PM

We're a little over one month (!) away from Burning Man,and artists all over the world have their heads down and hands full in preparation for Black Rock City this August. Most of the big art you see at Burning Man is created almost entirely by volunteers, and the budgets for these large and small-scale installation art run into the tens of thousands of dollars (some easily topping $100,000).

Burning Man's founder, Larry Harvey, established the arts grant program that so many artists have benefitted from over the last two decades. Mr. Harvey, who died from a shocking stroke back in April, set Burning Man's 2018 theme, "I, Robot" to question the role of technology in our lives. This year's theme asks, "What would you do if you could do what you wanted? And not what you had to do to make a living?... Reawakening those desires is a transformative experience; relearning how to dream, how to play, how to have desires that arise innately from your being, rather than selected off a shelf of pre-programmed experiences — and perhaps most importantly, to do all this in a community that brings you into living contact with your fellow human beings."

The art projects below represent a wide range of thoughtful answers to this question. Beyond Burning Man's official  2018 Black Rock City Honoraria, many artists are working projects that capture unique interpretations of this theme.

If you're working on a project for Burning Man 2018 that needs financial or volunteer support, please leave a link to your campaign in the comments.

Singularity (Rebekah Waites)

Artist Description: "Singularity is an interactive art piece that combines physics and psychology. It explores how traumatic events can create mental cages. Using symbolism of the birdcage and house, this piece creates a space for participants to explore and interact. Much like the infamous Russian dolls, the entirety of this piece will include multiple layers of various sized bird cages and houses. Each layer represents a memory of a memory. The details tell a story that changes as the piece breaks down in size. How far down the rabbit hole can we go? Singularity will be built in two phases. Phase 1 is a smaller/internal version of houses and cages currently under construction to make its debut at the All Of Us Event. It will measure approximately 16’ tall and will also be used at events and exhibits taking place outside of Burning Man later this year and into 2019. Phase 2 is the large 40’ birdcage with the 2 story house trapped inside that will be built for Burning Man. These two phases of Singularity will ultimately come together as one cohesive piece at Burning Man."

Based in: Los Angeles, California

Fundraising ends: Monday, July 30

Donate here to bring Singularity to BRC!

Temple: Galaxia (Arthur Mamou-Mani)

Artist Description: "The importance of Burning Man's hallowed Temple needs little introduction. For 2018, selected lead artist Arthur Mamou-Mani and his crew are in the midst of creating 'Galaxia,' which "celebrates hope in the unknown, stars, planets, black holes, the movement uniting us in swirling galaxies of dreams. A superior form of Gaia in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Galaxia is the ultimate network, the fabric of the universe connecting living beings into one entity. Galaxia is shaped of 20 timber trusses converging as a spiral towards one point in the sky. The triangular trusses form different paths towards a central space holding a giant 3D printed mandala, the heart of Galaxia. The timber modules start large enough to hold small alcoves in which people can write in peace. As participants walk through the path, the timber modules lift up and become thinner and thinner towards the sky as people reach the central mandala."

Based in: London, England; Reno, Nevada

Fundraising ends: Donations ongoing

Donate here to bring Temple 2018: Galaxia to BRC!

Digital Dalang (Ali Argus Audie)

Artist Description: "Digital Dalang: Shadows Out of Time is an immersive and interactive shadow puppet theatre that will debut at Burning Man 2018. It unifies traditional and modern storytelling techniques—Indonesian Wayang Kulit shadow puppets and digital projection mapping. Wayang Kulit, flat marionettes, are the symbols of Hindu-Indonesian mythology of early times. The exclusion of a third dimension to the puppets is no accident. Its absence provides ground for thoughtful reflection on the concept of time and the shadows of our ancestors. Digital Dalang will conceptualize the implied, yet traditionally hidden, third dimension of the Wayang performance and simulate the spiritual experience of the Dalang through visual effects and sound overlaid on the shadows of this ancient form of puppetry."

Based in: Indonesia

Fundraising ends: Saturday, July 28

Donate here to bring Digital Dalang to BRC!

Monument of Indecision (Henry Washer)

Artist Description: "The Monument of Indecision is a sculpture-installation for Burning Man 2018. A monument to the power and weight of individual choice. A place for reflection and self-empowerment. Everyone has the capacity for good and bad and I want this piece to inspire the contemplation of one’s own decisions. This is a sanctuary for the individual to seek out their own wisdom and truth unique to themselves. The structure is a place to reflect on the decisions we’ve made or choices we will have to make. The man is sculpted as a physically strong figure to remind people that making a choice takes strength and courage and should not be taken lightly. In the day time, the viewer can come take refuge in the space and look at the sculpture with natural light to see the starkness of a situation. At night they can return and see the space lit up with the dancing lights of his potential, showing that with strength comes beauty, kindness, and the possibility of a better world."

Based in: Petaluma, California

Fundraising ends: Tuesday, July 17

Donate here to bring Monument of Indecision to BRC!

All Power to All People (Hank Willis Thomas - presented by Kindred Arts)

Artist Description: "A symbol of community & comradeship, the Afro pick, exists today as many things to different people: it is worn as adornment, a political emblem, and signature of collective identity. The Afro pick continues to develop itself as a testament to innovation. The temporary monument would be placed as a symbol and site, to highlight ideas related to community, strength, perseverance, comradeship, and resistance to oppression, equal justice and belonging."

Based in: New York, New York

Fundraising ends: Sunday, July 22

Donate here to bring All Power to All People to BRC!

Wrong Desert (Wesley Skinner)

Artist Description: "Wrong Desert includes a large steel cholla cactus, three aluminum agave plants, and three steel boulders sculpted into benches. The boulders have artfully integrated solar panels, and also conceal the battery bank – no loud, stinky generators! The centerpiece of the installation is a formidable cholla cactus, typically found in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. How it appeared in the Black Rock Desert is anyone’s guess! The 10' tall cholla will appear mostly dead, sculpted from repurposed curved steel pipes. Its skeleton has thousands of plasma-cut holes, through which both the sun and internal lights will beam to cast dappled shadow patterns on the playa. The trunk has spines of rubber tubing riveted to a skin of upcycled motorcycle tires."

Based in: Oakland, California

Fundraising ends: Wednesday, July 11

Donate here to bring Wrong Desert to BRC!

Saddle Up! (Yellowstone Burners)

Saddle Up! Fundraiser from April Jones on Vimeo.

Artist Description: "Saddle Up! is a collaborative art car project being created by the Yellowstone Burners in Cody, Wyoming. It is based on a 35-foot-long school bus with an added upper deck. The vehicle will remain street legal to drive with most modifications of decor being made once it arrives at the event location. It will be close to 30 feet in height at the top of the horn and cantle. The public will be able to climb on board and enter our old western-styled interior, then climb up to our shaded deck area which features The Watering Hole saloon. The saloon has a trick; we will serve hydration drinks, not alcohol, at public events, free of charge. This will include tasty electrolyte-based lemonades, teas, pickle juice shots, and good ‘ol plain water. There will be places on the deck to sit and relax in the shade of this old west style “saloon.” With our 100 gallon tank, we can serve 800 people with 16 oz. of water each, before we have to refill. We can serve more than that, however, because we will also have gallons of our pre-made drinks on board.

Saddle Up! is meant to honor Wyoming’s rich history of horse and rider, while providing a unique experience to all who climb on board."

Based in: Cody, Wyoming

Fundraising ends: Sunday, July 15

Donate here to bring Saddle Up! to BRC!

Pan Genius (Amy Munson, Vulfie Munson)

Pan Genius Bm Fund 2018 1
Photo by: Amy Munson

Artist Description: " Pan Genius is a giant robotic cymbal playing chimp propped on top of Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species". The metal frame, gears and inner workings will be visible through a protective clear fiberglass shell that will compose the face and body. The moving arms will clash together cymbals, complete with a mighty monkey screech during one revolution of it’s cycle. His intense eyes will appear to move as the head nods with the motion of the arms. The movement will be powered by a hand-wheel located on the side of the piece, along with the efforts of one-two participants that will bring him to life."

Based in: San Diego, California

Fundraising ends: Monday, July 16

Donate here to bring Pan Genius to BRC!

ANAHAD (Stefano Casati)


Artist Description: "ANAHAD is a flaming art installation for Burning Man 2018, which aims to connect the burner, the art, and the environment harmoniously. ANAHAD comprises of three individual freestanding trees which will be connected at the base by stepped wooden podium. Each tree will be 20ft (6m), 56 mild steel tubes with a diameter of 1-1/2” (38mm) will compose them. The podiums are hexagonal and measure 16 ft (5m) in diameter and 3ft (1m) tall. A lighting system composed by LEDs and DMX lights is fitted to the wooden podiums, while the tallest tubes (4 for each tree) will have flames spitting out from the top controlled by the user."

Based in: London, England

Fundraising ends: Thursday, July 19

Donate here to bring Anahad to BRC!

The Chilopod (Lawrence Grown and TeamEmbrio)

Artist Description: "The Chilopod [ky-lo-pod] is an interactive, biomorphic structure that will premiere at Burning Man 2018 and will continue living as a sculpture in Bay Area public spaces afterwards. An artificially intelligent, insect-like creature, it will be brought to life with human touch and sound. It is designed to evoke a living organism, in order to remind us of our integration with the natural world rather than our superiority to it. 

The Chilopod is 18 feet tall, 30 feet wide, 55 feet long, and build mostly of wood. A central spine rises from the ground and curls over like the midrib of a leaf. From the spine extend 13 pairs of legs, 24" apart at the spine, and 48" apart at the ground. The spine is also a single lane walkway, with a climbing ladder that leads to a platform and a slide. 

LED lights animate the Chilopod. Inside, white lights branch out into lung shapes, then recede, and 'breathe' again. Additional lights suggest the circulation of blood and the movement of energy. The external lighting patterns morph over time like the skin of a chameleon. The lights illuminating the Chilopod respond to touch and sound from people and the environment, creating an interactive experience for visitors."

Based in: Berkeley, California

Fundraising ends: Sunday, July 15

Donate here to bring The Chilopod to BRC!

Big Pollinator (Jakob Bokulich) 

Artist Description: "A kinetic, interactive sculpture, participants are invited to turn geometric, beehive inspired "gears", making art and analogy from machinery and motion. The sculpture will burn on the playa this year, with spinning gears igniting each other in succession. It will extend horizontally more than last year's prototype, creating an increased canopy effect. At approximately 20 feet high, Big Pollinator seems to hover in the air, a machine of flower-like modules spinning in synchronicity. Interior lighting and the shape of the modules create an interplay of lights and shadows between the "flowers", making hexagons appear and disappear, ephemeral patterns suggestive of a beehive."

Based in: New York, New York

Fundraising ends: Wednesday, August 1

Donate here to bring Big Pollinator to BRC!

Kinesios (Bradley Norris and ND Collective)

Chaos 3

Artist Description: "Kinesios, named after the little-known Greek God of Motion and Conflict, is a colossal 40-foot interactive steel art installation. The structure is formed by two vertical panes that sit parallel to one another, with a giant swinging pendulum suspended in between.

Each of the walls is uniquely perforated, with the holes illuminated from within. One side of the piece displays the rigid order of binary code. The other side pays homage to the free spirit of chaos. When activated, the piece moves to create a visceral communal experience highlighting the struggles and implications of man vs. machine in modern society.

To bring the piece to life, participants climb into the pendulum. Through synchronized swinging movement, they propel the pendulum higher and higher. Cooperation and group effort is key! The lights inside each pane only illuminate in reaction to the motion of the swing. So the higher the motion, the greater the pulsation, frequency, and synchronization of the lights. Now, imagine seeing this from a distance, against the stark contrast of the Black Rock Desert at Burning Man.

The mission of Kinesios is to mesmerize and mystify. Most of all, it forces those who see it to think about the complex, often-overlooked patterns that we face as humans interacting with technology."

Based in: Nashville, Tennessee

Fundraising ends: Tuesday, August 7

Donate here to bring Kinesios to BRC!

Tree of Life (Tyler Rivenbark, Frida Ticehurst and Institute for Human Creativity)

What It Is: "The Tree of Life is a large-scale art installation for Burning Man 2018 and beyond that received an honorarium from Burning Man Arts. The 10-story art piece in Burning Man history, reminds us of our deep connection with each other and all life on this planet, while inviting us to participate in opportunities of transformation and creative interactivity. The Tree of Life is a 110-foot tall art piece that activates an ancient symbol and invites you on a journey through life. It is an interactive art and architecture sculpture created for you to come play and awaken your senses. As you enter the piece, you will be among the roots where an ambisonic sound space is brought to life with captivating performances and gatherings. A 90-foot tall central light and sound atrium moves you through the heart of the tree. Ascending the atrium staircase, you are embraced by the vibrations and frequencies of the seven chakras through the ambisonic surround sound. At the top, you arrive in the Temple of the Stars, a place to spend time friends contemplating the wonders of Black Rock City. The Tree of Life is your home to feel into the interactive exchange between the earth and space, nature and technology, in which both the internal journey and external expression are brought together. We invite you to be part of the team by giving life to the Tree of Life."

Based in: San Francisco, California

Fundraising ends: Donations ongoing

Donate here to bring Tree of Life to BRC!

Kaleidoscope (Greg Barron)

Kaleidoscope Bm Fund 2018 4

What It Is:  " Kaleidoscope stretches to the sky, inviting you to climb steep ladders and stairways, with colors that shift with the changing light of the day. Prismatic windows light the way, and the views of the city and Playa are around each turn. Kaleidoscope becomes a jumble of light, color, steel as you wend your way up. Kaleidoscope is intended to evoke visions of buildings in old industrial areas of cities and towns around the country. It will convey the emotional and nostalgic atmosphere of the well used and worn places, aging industrial buildings in older, sometimes derelict areas of every city in America. These places and buildings were not derelicts needing to be torn down and replaced, these were living breathing entities in themselves that should have been celebrated and preserved one way. Kaleidoscope is a tribute to these buildings, a reminder of days gone by. A shift not only of light, but of time."

Based in: Alameda, California

Donate here to bring Kaleidoscope to BRC!

The Great Train Wreck (Collaborative Artisans Reno-Sacramento)

Artist Description: "The Great Train Wreck is an artistic interpretation of railroad history where locomotives were ceremoniously destroyed in head-on crashes for public entertainment, often drawing crowds of 40,000-plus. The California State Fair staged wrecks from 1913 to 1917. At Burning Man in 2018, we will have two interactive wooden locomotives from Reno and Sacramento that will ultimately simulate a crash-and-burn as the finale. The engine design is a 2-6-0 configuration, circa 1870s. Participants will be able to access the cab of each locomotive, and walk platforms on each side of the water tank and tender cars. The cab’s various controls and playthings are operable and functional, with a whistle atop the boiler unit, a 'steerable' LED headlight, warning bell, 'steam' vents for the drive units, and a CO2 powered "smoke" generator in the stack . We will be laying over 200 feet of wooden train tracks on the playa. All of July will be spent decking out the basic structures to be highly detailed authentic representations of 1870s era steam locomotives. The overall display will have a sound component of various train noises, some of which will be operable via radio link to art cars. In a final show, with great fanfare (and a great deal of pyrotechnics) the locomotives will be rolled together, using human power with ropes and pulleys, to create a collision with explosion, and then burn to the ground."

Based in: Sacramento, California; Reno, Nevada

Fundraising ends: Wednesday, August 1

Donate here to bring The Great Train Wreck to BRC!

The American Riad (Oakland Avenue Artist Coalition (OAAC), Central Detroit Christian (CDC), Ghana Thinktank)

Artist Description: "For 2018, Detroit artists (will) collaborate with Morocco, Syria, and Indonesia to turn abandoned buildings into affordable housing centered on an Islamic Riad. Detroit is often portrayed as blighted, and Islam as a religion to be feared. But a group of North End Detroiters are working with artists and architects from Syria, Indonesia, and Morocco to turn that notion on its head. We will create a series of art and architectural installations using tenets of Islamic design meant to combat social isolation. Imagine steel arabesques merging with aged Detroit brick, dappled light from delicate Islamic patterns falling across a lush public gardens and courtyard, filled with art by local artists - a central gathering spot for neighbors to hold public events or just mingle - all of it built through cross-cultural skill-shares and community workshops."

Based in: Detroit, Michigan

Fundraising ends: FUNDED!

Donate here to bring American Riad to BRC!

Trace (Kate Greenberg and the Dust Crusaders)

Artist Description: "TRACE is an art piece for Burning Man 2018. It will be created with nearly eight miles of hand-dyed cotton rope that will weave into a mirage-esque form above the dust. It is an art piece inspired by the interconnectivity and ephemerality of the playa, and reflects on the way Burning Man teases our perception of reality as we generate and explore it together - like a shared dream. This sculpture will be created from hand-dyed colored rope, in a form that celebrates how individual journeys cross paths on playa, yet intertwine to shape an evanescent landscape and its broader community. 

Black Rock City offers an augmented reality. The dust brings a veil of mystery that can elevate the city's creations from marvelous to magical, and each new magic tempts us to expand our perceptions further. These creations, creators, and explorers generate a week-long enchantment of the playa together. At its best, the effects of this temporary reality are not impermanent and can be carried back through the gate and enrich lives outside it.

We hope to discover what TRACE of the Burning Man experience we carry home, and are placing a book at the heart of the installation that will invite visitors to reflect on this question... How has Burning Man altered your perception of reality?"

Based in: San Francisco, California

Fundraising ends: Donations ongoing

Donate here to bring TRACE to BRC!

Myriapoda Robota (Art To Be Continued Collective)

Artist Description: The Art To Be Continued Collective "are bringing a 20' long interactive Centipede to the Playa! While studying steam engines, lead fabricator David Date discovered a mechanism which mimicked the kinematics of walking insects and became the inspiration for Myriapoda Robota. Myriapoda first appeared at BRC 2016, as a 6 segment long centipede. Despite being overloaded with lead acid batteries and all steel construction, she walked!  In 2017, (the group) brought Kinetic MerKaBa Vehicle and received another Honorarium grant for the 11 Benches of Sitting Man. For 2018 I-Robot, (the group) are bringing Myriapoda Robota and Mebot, A selfish robot bench made of antiquated technology sitting alone in his own splendor..."

Based in: Santa Cruz, California

Fundraising ends: Donations Ongoing

Donate here to bring Myriapoda Robota to BRC!

Luna Flora (The Coop at Arcosanti)

Luna FLora 2018 // IndieGoGo from WOOD METAL ROCKS on Vimeo.

Artist Description: "Luna Flora is a blooming Lotus flower with an interactive metalwork moon at her center. She represents the ideals of femininity and feminine energy. The intimate space provided within Luna Flora will encourage dialogue and connection between they who find themselves held in her warm embrace. Our hope is that Luna Flora will inspire thoughts and conversations about femininity and how it relates to maintaining a healthy energetic relationship to ourselves, our peer groups, and the world at large. Our team of 11 has been assembled from an extended network two communities, one fostered by years spent in the Burning Man and the second through the Urban Laboratory at Arcosanti. With a lead artist, an engineer, a project manager, a lead builder, seven fabricators, and a documentarian, we intend to grow the seed of Luna Flora into a 15 foot tall installation on Playa, creating a documentary about the process along the way."

Based in: Arcosanti, Arizona

Fundraising ends: Saturday, June 23

Donate here to bring Luna Flora to BRC!

Long View: A Polar Bear Stands in the Desert (Don Kennell and Arctic Burn 505)

Artist Description: "We are building a polar bear out of car hoods to show the connection between carbon footprint and habitat loss. We are creating an icon for global warming. This ambassador from the Arctic will tour the country after Burning Man 2018, opening people’s hearts to the plight of the polar bear and increasing awareness about their habitat loss. At night, the artwork will have images projected that shows scenes of melting ice & ocean habitat. Our plan is to travel this message around the country to invigorate the conversation about climate change. A 36-foot polar bear is impossible to ignore. This icon will rally people together with common concerns to share a common experience. It will bring more people on board. We will partner with local groups where the sculpture is installed to increase awareness of practical solutions for reducing carbon footprint."

Based in: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Fundraising ends: Donations ongoing

Donate here to bring Long View: A Polar Bear Stands in the Desert to BRC!