Why art thrives at Burning Man

Nora Atkinson, who curated No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man at the Renwick, takes us on a trip to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to see the beautifully designed and participatory art of Burning Man, revealing how she discovered there what’s often missing from museums: curiosity and engagement. “What is art for in our contemporary world if not this?” she asks.


In a recent TED talk, Atkinson asks us to examine the contemporary art world and how we separate artistic works that impress us due to their price tag from art that moves us. It’s this emotional connection that Burning Man’s art taps into. Oversized, non-commercial, and sometimes dangerous, the incredible installations are the core of Burning Man, and they’re part of what brings people back year after year.

“What fascinates me the most isn’t the quality of the work here, which is actually rather high, it’s why people come out here into the desert again and again to get their hands dirty and make in our increasingly digital age,” Atkinson shares. “Because it seems like this gets to something that’s essentially human. Really, the entire encampment of Burning Man could be thought of as one giant interactive art installation driven by the participation of everyone in it.”

Posted: 4 September 2018
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