Resonating bass, strobing LEDS, interactive art, incredible performers and so many over the top costumes. Sounds like Burning Man and the Black Rock Arts Artumnal Gathering was a little slice of home. Each attendee came out dressed to the nines wearing everything from fancy ball gowns and three piece suits to disco ball mirrored jumpsuits complete with sparkling face mask. Hosted in the Bentley Reserve the Artumnal Gathering had the juxtaposition of the historic architecture of the banking hall with the crazy, colorful, pulsating magic of all things burner.
The celebration was much more than a fancy party. It was a chance to acknowledge BRAF Grantees and Civic Arts artists and the artists of Burning Man in general. The event hosted both a live auction during dinner and a silent auction throughout the night showcasing a plethora of burner art. All proceeds went back into Black Rock Arts Foundation funding to support future grant winners and their civic art. BRAF awards grants for “highly interactive, community-driven works of art that prioritize community involvement in their development, execution and display. We fund art that is accessible to the public, civic in scope and prompts the viewer to act.” They also work within their Civic Arts Program to place public art, usually works that were featured at Burning Man and now need a permanent home. One of the most well known Civic Arts Program pieces is Marco Cochrane’s Bliss Dance, which they installed at Treasure Island in San Francisco in April of 2011.
Tucked away in the Sansome Lobby was a small room of interactive art. It was a welcome respite from the thumping dance floor and buzzing silent auction area. The installation, Light Curtain was a fun surprise. Despite being almost hidden in the corner it drew a crowd of onlookers and participants. The LED curtain was mounted on the wall where it randomly changed to different light patterns. An Ipad on a tripod allowed dancing participants to create shapes with their bodies which appeared in the Light Curtain, forming arms, hands, faces within the LED display. Nearby was Indra’s Net, which honestly is difficult to describe. A large pyramid with a suspended silver ball was filled with LED light that created infinity within the sphere. Partygoers sat on a chair and wore a headset that was able to read brain waves. The thoughts of these participants changed the colors of the lights within Indra’s Net.
The music was bumpin’ all night long with a healthy mix of dancing and socializing in that certain weirdo burner way. Walking through the event there were many snippets of conversations and debates about all things Burning Man. People were genuinely excited and impassioned in this melting pot of artists. Despite the party atmosphere it enabled real discussions about the future of Burning Man and how participants can inspire change in the default world through art.
Right around 3:30am the party took a slight turn. The fog machines set off the fire alarm, which no one really noticed at first. The flashing white lights of the alarm blended in with everything else. It turned into the perfect closer, an announcement was made and the crowd was smoothly escorted outside as the fire department showed up. Once the building was cleared the strike crew was able to get back in there and take care of business. Participants lingered outside continuing to chat, the connection of Burning Man keeping them lingering on the Bentley steps. The Black Rock Arts Foundation is currently accepting applications for 2015 grants. If you have a great idea for a civic art installation or you’d like to volunteer please visit their website and get involved.