Carnival of Mirrors has just been announced as the art theme for Burning Man 2015. It conjures up all sorts of fantastical imagery that fits seamlessly into the great expanse that is the art imagination of Burning Man. Creepy carnival rides, rigged games of chance, hollering carnies in a variety of wacky costumes inviting you to “step right up and try your luck” and of course, the funhouse.
This year the base surrounding the Man will be a midway, a term from American fairs and is the location where rides, food and amusements were concentrated. As stated in the theme info page, “Our midway, on the other hand, will satirize deception while inviting all participants to summon up their inner geek, that secret freak who hides behind the mask of what is called normality. We will turn grifting into gifting; otherness becomes creative self-expression.” The Midway itself will be sure to delight us in it’s colorful, sideshow nature but in it’s depth even more treats await. Inside this Midway will be a Funhouse, a maze of mirrors and masks challenging us to see the true self and questioning us on self-consciousness. It will also house the Burning Man regionals communities. Representatives from around the world will turn The Man into carnival madness. “Mind readers, fortune-tellers and vendors of patent medicines will vie with every form of all-too-human oddity for public attention; barkers will of course be everywhere. ” This sideshow of regionals will create an atmosphere where burner artist from all corners of the globe can connect and interact. Once through this Midway and the Funhouse of mirrors, participants will reach the inner sanctum, a courtyard of photo booths surrounding The Man creating a sea of faces engulfing the body of the Man (sounds intense, huh?).
The entire theme, Carnival of Mirrors, turns our preconceived notions of that colorful, carnival culture on it’s head. It urges us to get involved. To break down the boundaries between performance and participation.
“Classic carnivals, as theaters of illusion, upheld a very strict dividing line that separated carnies, cast as showmen, from members of a naïve public who were labeled chumps and suckers, marks and rubes. Our carnival, however, will perform an even more subversive trick — its motto is Include the Rube. The wall dividing the observer from observed will disappear, as by an act of magic; through the alchemy of interaction, everyone at once can be the carny and the fool.”
Carnival of Mirrors seems to play on this concept of reflection and showing. It fits so nicely with a quote from German Bertolt Brecht who said “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” Is that not what we build at Black Rock City each year?
The announcement of the theme each year is extremely exciting as it gets our creative juices flowing and allows us to begin to dream of all that we will make for this year’s dusty festival. However, the bigger news is the release of the brand new Burning Man website, www.burningman.org. Burning Man hasn’t had a new site since 2003 and truthfully their old web presence left something to be desired. With the change over to non-profit status Burning Man has shifted to a .org and their new site is sleek, easy to use, image heavy and interactive. They’ve also archived a ton of media from prior years producing the Burning Man Timeline Map which allows you to look back on all past festivals in slick, beautiful and informative way. Want to know the theme for 2005? Or how many people attended in 1998? Want to see a photo of the 1988 Man burn? It’s all there to feast your eyes upon.
The main focus of the new site is year round Burning Man culture. Will Chase eloquently described www.Burningman.org, “Our goal with Burningman.org was to create the ultimate storytelling tool for Burning Man, supporting its growth as a global culture which is making a significant impact in the world. Burning Man is no longer just about the event in Black Rock City. It’s about people living Burning Man every day, everywhere. This site tells the story of an event that spawned a culture that is supported and spread by a network of like-minded, interconnected individuals on five continents around the world. And, as you’ll see, this is the story we’re telling with Burningman.org.” This fresh platform also pushes participation giving you clear info on how to get involved and creating a discussion about “the information, ideas and issues that affect our community, whether that’s “what’s the best way to build a shade structure?” or “how do I build a real-world business that rhymes with the Ten Principles?”
The Burning Man blog has been replaced with Voices of Burning Man where new dialogues will help with this push towards increased participation. The photo galleries have also been overhauled to become Galleries, which includes photos, video and Playa artifacts.
Burning Man has stepped up their game. Their site makes it easier than ever to access everything you ever wanted to know about the Burning Man festival and their spotlight on Burning Man culture will help us grow as a community. If you’re total Burning Man nerds like us you’ll have no trouble getting lost in www.BurningMan.org. Now why are you still reading this article, get over to the new site and dork out.