We built this city
Before the hordes arrive, volunteers install Black Rock City’s public art
My name is Audrey Love. Forty-nine weeks out of the year, I spend my days as an art student, city employee and freelance photographer. The other three weeks, I dedicate to working at this lil’ shindig in the desert called Burning Man. This is my fifth year venturing out to the desert for Burning Man and my fourth year working as a volunteer for the organization. Specifically, I volunteer with the Artery. The Artery is a liaison group that works between the Burning Man infrastructure and artists to facilitate the placement and display of art on the playa in Black Rock City. I am fortunate to bear witness to the building of monuments, to understand the inner workings of some of the largest artistic and technologically creative expressions on the planet.
I typically spend my days in the shade of the Artery in Center Camp or dispatched to art sites. Artists are placed at precise GPS-coordinates, which we mark in the field in advance with what we call a “floofy.” The artist is escorted to his or her site, where heavy equipment is often needed to unload materials from whatever kind of vehicle it came on, and then help is provided to build it, although addressing construction needs is more a role for the Art Support team. Art Support can mean any number of things: troubleshooting an artist’s problems, making sure that the work-site is safe, even climbing into scissor lifts to secure part of a structure while it’s bolted into place. Much of the team’s workload and heavy equipment needs are predetermined off-playa, when a rough timeline of needs is created.
The Artery team is constantly finding ways to adapt to this unique space. Often I feel that the instincts nestled and dormant deep inside me all year in the “default world” finally have their moment to shine. In the playa environment, I become resourceful, industrious and fastidious. Perhaps this is a sign of passion? Why is this side of me only really present out here? This part of Burning Man, before the rest of the city arrives on Monday at 12:01 a.m., is like a little secret, a community of volunteers that is so dedicated to the encouragement of a societal head-change that they flock to the desert to make something magnificent out of steel, lumber, sweat and heart.
I firmly believe that the three weeks I spend with the Artery and the Art Support team are the most useful and inspiring experience I could ask for as an emerging artist. I wouldn’t change what I do out here for a moment, and I constantly seek ways to embed myself deeper into the process of making this event great every year. As I’m still very much in the thick of my experience this year, it is hard to bring this story to a conclusion—but perhaps my photos provide some insight as to how much dedication some are willing to pour out, because they truly love what they can contribute to the experiences of their time, and other’s time, spent in Black Rock City. The only thing I can say for now is borrowed from this year’s Temple of Flux building crew: “It’s gonna be great.”