I first attended Burning Man in the late ‘90s. In the early years of the festival, most projects were still being built during the event, so I was able to participate with a group of people building and burning art. Collaborative art was something I explored before, but discovering a whole culture and festival focused on it changed my art practice entirely. The process of making artwork together was beyond something I alone could envision. It took the group to complete the process. I was hooked.
As Burning Man grew in scale and complexity, so did the artwork. More groups formed and more spaces dedicated to supporting this work grew. California spaces like The Shipyard (Berkeley), The Box Shop (San Francisco), NIMBY (Oakland), American Steel Studios (Oakland), m0xy (Oakland), Obtainium Works (Vallejo), and The Generator in Reno, Nevada, evolved, usually taking over formerly industrial buildings to make a place for big art to be built. Groups also formed such as Flaming Lotus Girls, Therm, Neverwas Haul, Five-Ton Crane, Cyclicide, and Ardent Heavy Industries.
Loving the Process
I came to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the collaborative group process when I began working with the Flaming Lotus Girls, a women-driven group started in 2000 that continues to welcome both women and men to build with them. I, along with my co-founders, believed so strongly in this inclusive, collaborative, and community-building process that we formed our nonprofit Flux Foundation in 2010 while we built the Temple for Burning Man. We have been building projects and community out of American Steel, following the idea that art can create community.
Art making at Burning Man evolved as an inclusive group process and the artists and art groups surrounding it share this as a core tenant. Most projects created for Burning Man, or now projects “beyond the playa,” are built by large groups, and most invite people to join their build process. The best way to participate in a build is to look at the latest Honorarium projects on the Burning Man website to see which ones are in your area or an area you’d like to visit. Then look on the project site and reach out. You can also reach out or visit spaces like American Steel Studios, NIMBY, or The Generator.
Sometimes projects reach a volunteer capacity and don’t have space for more. Be respectful.
Be patient. Some parts of a project require expertise you might not have. What else do they need help with?
Remember, sometimes sweeping the floor or grinding a pile of parts is the most important thing that needs to be done.
Find a Group
• The Box Shop SF
• Nimby, Oakland’s DIY Space
• Obtainium Works
• The Generator
Anywhere else – Search for Burning Man Honoraria near you!