Catching fire

Photos from veteran Burner and arts reporter Kris Vagner

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In its 34 years, Burning Man has never really had a curator or an art department gatekeeper. A committee determines which art pieces get funded, but there’s no committee to determine that a particular piece is allowed to be shown. The rule is: If you can haul it out to the desert, install it and light it reasonably safely, no one’s stopping you.

A handful of time-tested subgenres have arisen organically from this “anything-goes” approach to curation—or, rather, complete lack of curation. Some of the categories include “art that spews fire when you push a button,” “art with mind-bogglingly complex LED patterns that trap stoned hippies for hours,” “sculpture that doubles as a theatrical set,” and, of course, “enormous wooden structures that look great on fire.” This year, Burning Man had strong showings in all of these genres.