Each year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, a city of more than 75,000 people rises out of the dust for a single week. During that time, enormous experimental art installations are erected and many are ritually burned to the ground. The thriving temporary metropolis known as Burning Man is a hotbed of artistic ingenuity, driving innovation through its principles of radical self-expression, decommodification, communal participation, and reverence for the handmade. Both a cultural movement and an annual event, Burning Man remains one of the most influential phenomenons in contemporary American art and culture.
No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man brings the large-scale, participatory work from this desert gathering to the nation’s capital for the first time. On March 30, the exhibition takes over the entire Renwick Gallery building, part of DC's Smithsonian, bringing alive the maker culture and creative spirit of this cultural movement. Immersive room-sized installations, costumes, jewelry, and ephemera transport visitors to the gathering’s famed “Playa,” while photographs and archival materials from the Nevada Museum of Art trace Burning Man’s growth and its bohemian roots.
In addition to the in-gallery presentation, the Renwick is expanding beyond its walls for the first time through an outdoor extension of the exhibition entitled No Spectators: Beyond the Renwick, displaying sculptures from Burning Man throughout the surrounding neighborhood in partnership with D.C.’s Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID).
Large-scale installations—the artistic hallmark of Burning Man—form the core of the exhibition. Individual artists and collectives featured in No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man include David Best, Candy Chang, Marco Cochrane, Duane Flatmo, Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti, Five Ton Crane Arts Collective, FoldHaus Art Collective, Scott Froschauer, HYBYCOZO (Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu), Android Jones, Aaron Taylor Kuffner, Christopher Schardt, Richard Wilks, and Leo Villareal. Multiple installation sites have been selected throughout the neighborhood surrounding the museum for No Spectators: Beyond the Renwick, which will include works by Jack Champion, Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson, HYBYCOZO, Laura Kimpton, Mischell Riley, and Kate Raudenbush.
“‘No Spectators’ is a long-standing saying on Playa. You are encouraged to fully participate. It’s all about being there, being fully present, and not just observing. Two of the ten principles of Burning Man are radical participation and radial inclusivity, meaning that there are no outsiders. Everyone is part of the experience.”
“Burning Man is a creative laboratory where innovators go to play and to push the boundaries of their art. The Renwick Gallery and Burning Man share a dedication to exploring contemporary maker culture in the United States and the vital role that creativity plays in innovation, connection and community.”
– Nora Atkinson, Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft
Nora Atkinson, the museum’s Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, organized the exhibition in collaboration with the Burning Man Project, the nonprofit organization responsible for producing the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City, for facilitating and extending the culture that has issued from Burning Man into the wider world, and for cultivating its principles reflecting an immediate, non-commercial, and participatory culture. The outdoor extension of the exhibition is presented in partnership with Washington, D.C.’s Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, a 43-square-block neighborhood that stretches from the White House to Dupont Circle. The Burning Man community was instrumental in suggesting artworks for inclusion in the exhibition.