I am doing an art project for Burning Man 2017. ‘Via Homo Incendi’ roughly translates to “Way of the Burning Man”. Fitting for the Burning Man 2017 art theme “Radical Ritual”, this project takes the form of a pilgrimage. Inspired by the Roman Catholic ritual of the “Stations of the Cross” (also known as “The Way of the Cross”, Medieval religious pilgrimages, and the Disneyland tradition of the “Hidden Mickey”, the installation consists of 22 ‘stations’ placed at various locations around Black Rock City.
The central concept of this installation is pilgrimage – a journey through a partial history of Burning Man. Some may stop at every station, others will stop at only one or two.
Each station is attached to a street sign post and represents a year in the history of Burning Man. Like perusing a yearbook, each station is an opportunity to ponder, reminisce, or strike up a conversation. At each station, there is a discussion about the Burning Man art theme and a list of events in the default world that same year. The participant / pilgrim is encouraged to reflect on the theme, the events of the year, and the intersection of the two.
The earliest station is designated “1996”. While this was not the first year of Burning Man, it is significant for being the year the larger default word discovered it – in November of that year, Wired magazine and CNN reported on it, and the secret was out. A larger Black Rock City population the next year necessitated the creation of a pre-planned city layout. Thus, 1996 represents a major transition to the Burning Man we know today. There is a “future” station (designated “201?”) at Esplanade & 6:00 which serves as both an introduction to the installation and an invitation to think about where to go from here.
There are 22 stations. Why 22? In numerology, 22 represents ‘dreams made manifest’; in Bible study, 22 represents ‘extreme chaos’; both seem appropriate for Burning Man, don’t you think?
The installation is at once very small (each station is the size of a few pieces of paper) and very large (Esplanade to Lustrate and 7:30 to 4:30).
The stations may be experienced in any order, but if experienced sequentially by year (forward or backward – this is Burning Man and not everyone moves in the same direction), the pilgrim’s path through the city will trace a giant Burning Man logo across Black Rock City itself. Like a ‘Hidden Mickey’ at Disneyland, this image of the Man is there waiting for the astute observer to see. Yes, that’s sort of ‘meta’ – the layout of the installation maps a representation of its location. Or it can just be a walk through the city.