A Tribe of Artists: Costumes and Culture at Burning Man
Not everyone at Burning Man traipses the playa drunk on organic margaritas while tripping on peyote Jello shots and juggling lit torches naked. Some wear costumes.
Artist Geoffrey Nelson’s A Tribe of Artists: Costumes and Culture at Burning Man presents a colorful, iconic tribute to some of the fashions displayed on the Black Rock City catwalk during the annual 10-day festival.
That said: Yawn.
The exhibition consists of two dozen life-sized portraits and six slightly interactive light-up mannequins.
“When you let people do what they want to do, they’re not limited,” says Nelson.
This season’s Burner looks include classic Mad Max road-warrior chic, covering yourself in mirrors and dressing like cartoon animals. Or was that last year?
One year, a guy dressed like Yo-Yo Ma, says Nelson.
Turns out, it was Yo-Yo Ma.
Nelson recalls watching the virtuoso play the cello on the playa. No crowd gathered around him. No fanfare. Just a guy and a cello.
“To understand this arena at all, you’ve got to actually go out to Burning Man,” Nelson says.
The exhibit is meant to celebrate the fashion-forward looks of the festival. “If I could blow sand and dust into the room I would,” Nelson laughs. “Just to make it seem real.”
From sexy, surreal and streamlined faux-feline couture to cozy knit maniac-wear, anything goes inside the two-mile circle of desert anarchy. Or maybe more aptly and troubling, everything goes.
And maybe that’s the problem.
What may be most astonishing about Nelson’s exhibit and photographs is that it is not the least bit astonishing. The individual photos loom out of their borders and have a true living presence, but once you’ve seen one heavily pierced heathen in a Viking suit with a bone in his nose, there’s very little the next one can do, short of wearing a finely tailored suit, to raise so much as a non-pierced eyebrow.
What does this say when people dressed to release their innermost inkblots, their wildest, most-Freudian wildebeests fail to offend the senses?
Blame the Internet.