Art is expression. Blooming of the mystery of the divine creativity in humans—it births a moving response, often deep change, in the minds, emotions, and wills—the souls, of those who experience it. Some art is simple, like viewing a ‘2D’ canvas bearing Van Gogh’s brushstrokes in swirly colours of static paint, ancient minerals hanging on a wall at the Lourve. This can be powerful and evocative. Yet humans are creatures with (at least!) five senses, and so immersive art installations can be even more engaging, moving, ’REAL!’
Amazing new art exploration is exploding in the realm of Virtual Reality, blooming through programs like Google Tilt Brush, Art Scape, and Zbrush, where artists are creating digital sculptures, landscapes, and more. These can make for potent immersive experiences.
But what did we do before do before technology’s matrix allowed us to step into an artist’s alternative reality? And what about the sense of touch, smell, and ’real’ interaction?
I have seen 2D things that have made me catch my breath. But when you walk into an art installation that touches the strings of your heart, it’s like being in a dream…like visiting another planet—without having a helmet and goggles on! It’s real! And for that, no where on this planet is better than Black Rock City! For example, can you, in virtual reality, enter a space which thrums with a low deep bass sound of a heart beat emanating from surrounding speakers, and find a stethoscope hanging, and place it on your friend’s chest to hear their heart beat? You can when you enter the ’Listen’ art installation. Where can your find this?
For over 30 years, Burning Man art installations have manifested some of the most potent immersive art experiences to be experienced on earth. Burning Man Festival, held in Black Rock City, Navada, is the biggest, wildest and most radical gathering of artists I’ve ever seen, and includes hundreds of fresh new art installations every year. My description—and I’ve been around the block, is that Burning Man is “the pinnacle of what fallen humanity has ever accomplished,” this is more than a festival. In the middle of barren arid desert, the second-largest flattest part of the USA (after Bonneville salt flats), in a few short weeks, the full Black Rock city is laid out, streets, regions, zones, ready to host an impromptu community of close to 100,000 people.
While many smaller art installations are set up and displayed throughout Black Rock City by ’Burner’ residents in the ’yards’ surrounding their tents and RV’s, the main stage for diligently planned large-scale art installations is the central playa. This area is huge—about the size of downtown San Fransisco—it can take hours to walk across this area, depending on what state of ’Art appreciation’ you are in! In this vast and sparse dusty theatre, creations beyond description are built by individual artists, and collective groups, often including internal generators or solar panels for power. Sometimes one can enter into rooms, climb levels, walk (or crawl!) through these immersive experiences. These are almost always left unattended, and are usually well respected by wandering Burners. On the Burning Man playa these mind-blowing, soul-stimulating art installations wait, ready for your surreal encounter.
Not only 3D static art installations dot the landscape. Amid the arid gallery, ambling at at safe 5 mile-per-hour max, you see ’Mutant Vehicles’, aka ’Art Cars,’ dragons, pirate ships, UFO’s, and more. These are perhaps best described by Burning Man’s own website Burningman.org as “…especially at night…roving works and whimsical forms of public transformation, carrying people deep into the playa to explore the art and experiences to be found there.”
Burning Man is meant to be, and is, one big huge radical art installation! Not only about art though, it is a deeper exploration and experiment in communal living. With a ‘gifting economy’ intention, participants are encouraged to share and give, refusing to engage in financial transactions. Thus the artists don’t ’charge’ for their art. Through grants, crowd funding, donations, and personal sacrifice, the art installations are paid for and completed.