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Burning Man: Art in the Desert

From its early days on a small beach in San Francisco in the 1980s, the Burning Man festival has evolved into a temporary city, population 25,000, in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. For one week in August, the experimental community called Black Rock City challenges participants to join together in a spirit of self-reliance and creativity. Art is an essential aspect of Burning Man. Each year, Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man, announces a theme for the event. Participants seek to make that theme come alive, in ways ranging from large-scale installations to individual costumes. During the years, Burning Man has become a testing-ground for a growing circle of artists seeking alternatives to mainstream art institutions and engaged audiences. All mediums are represented, with few constraints beyond safety, but certainly the most compelling works are large-scale constructions and radically altered vehicles, "art cars." During the festival, most of this art is burned, in a ritual that strips it of its value in the conventional marketplace. Art at Burning Man, like the experience of being there itself, is a way of being outside routine existence. After the festival, Black Rock City becomes Black Rock Desert. For more than a decade, photographer A. Leo Nash has been creating a photographic document of this work and in his photographs we see the wellspring of a new art movement.
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About the Author

A. Leo Nash is a photographer. He lives in Oakland, California. Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. He lives in New York City.

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