Burning Man is a haven for everything quirky and out of this world. It has seen some of the best art pieces ever put on display. But ever wondered about the actual work that goes behind building it?
Burning Man is hot, dry and wild. When planning of building something that will make everyone sit up and take notice, you need to be on the top of your game. That’s what Max and Jonny Poynton strived to do this year to create the massive and beautiful “The Black Rock Lighthouse Service”. A cluster of highly detailed wooden lighthouses in deep Playa. A high-profile project and one of the biggest on Playa in 2016, the Lighthouses were a smashing success.
The team recounts their experience about what goes into the making of something special and magnificent!
1. Have a solid plan!
The best part of being at Burning Man, you don’t have to stick to the rules! If you want to build a fire breathing dragon, go ahead and build it! But in the end, it’s the big ideas that people respond to. The big ideas are the ones that are either simple or complex in nature but eye-catching nevertheless! The Black Rock Lighthouses invited participants to lend a guiding hand as they visited various levels of their subconscious, and that uniquely crafted experience gave the Burning Man cause to grant Honorarium art status to the project.
Max and Jonny’s concept envisioned bringing a cluster of lighthouses, “structures typically associated with the coastline, [to] the Black Rock desert with the same functionality purposes.” The Lighthouse Project at its heart was a crystal-like cluster of Lighthouses ranging from 6 to 60 foot tall and some leaning as much as 20 degrees. Inspired by the juxtaposition of creating a destination of fun and shelter by something that is meant to warn you of danger. The lighthouses doubled up as a centre for anyone to wander in, explore and chill if fatigued by the arid weather!
It took more than 60 volunteers to come together at the American Steel Studios in Oakland, California to make it to the finish line. The basic material that was used for the structures was wood, glass, fabric and paint. Thus keeping it seemingly simple.
2. Your crew should be on point!
Every one who works on a huge scale project like this should be a professional, no doubt, but they also need to be enthusiastic about the project and treat it like their own child. Folks from Switzerland and South Africa were essential from the moment they met the crew at Afrika Burn in April, as they rolled in for the Lighthouses’ three-week long Playa build all the way through to the Burn night. The interior of the lighthouse, “Durga,” was built by a Japanese glass art crew and no one saw it fully completed until the Monday they opened. Not even the crew. The scale of the project resulted in a lot of people joining in to help out with the basic construction like wood work etc.
Also the biggest hurdles faced were finances for the project. But being the bonhomie community that the Burning Man is, donations for almost $20k poured in to the relief of the crew. So all in all, a complete team of experts from all fields joined in to make this possible.
3. Accept the praise wholeheartedly!
After everything that the people put in, the least they can do is give themselves a pat on their backs. It feels really good to be part of the team of a destination piece. Burning Man is a crowded art landscape, and you don’t get a trophy just for showing up, you need to stand out completely! Once the praises start pouring in, you know you’ve done a great job and that this is going down in the books. And we doubt there’s a feeling comparable to that.
4. Get attached, but learn to detach!
With the amount of work that goes into each piece, the one question that often gets asked is “How do you burn up everything that you have so painstakingly built?”. The answer though is simple. As creators, the people know that art is something that will be remembered for times to come. It’s temporary but the memories are permanent! Working on a crew is a special thing, and receiving a community’s gratitude as a group strengthens those bonds.
Co-creator and lead artist Max Poynton says, “I’m in awe and floored at the amount of energy, skill, creativity, humour, support and love that was thrown into this project. And what really blows my mind was how well that reverberated and shone through the piece. The number one piece of feedback that I got back from people was that they felt the love and intention put into it.”
We’re in awe of the amazing effort that goes into each small piece of art that goes onto the playa. Next year is just going to bigger and better!