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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
fire in the desert

Pictures: The Burning Man festival is host to some truly incredible works of art

The annual counterculture festival in the heart of the Nevada desert sees some mind-boggling works of art created – and then burnt down.

13 William Neuheisel / Flickr William Neuheisel / Flickr / Flickr

THIS YEAR’S BURNING Man – the wild annual festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert – will start on 28 August.

During the festival, a temporary, self-sustaining community pops up in the desert, free of the constraints and expectations of daily life. One of the main spectacles at Burning Man are the outlandish, elaborate and zany sculptures, structures and art installations that attendees create there. Many are intentionally destroyed at the end of the festival, since part of Burning Man’s mission is to leave no trace, but some have left the desert and are installed in other locations around the world.

We’ve rounded up 20 of the most stunning works from past festivals. Check them out below.

Bliss Dance by Marco Cochrane (2010)

1 Geoff Stearns / Flickr Geoff Stearns / Flickr / Flickr

After debuting at Burning Man 2010, the 40-foot-tall sculpture moved to San Francisco’s Treasure Island and then permanently to The Park Las Vegas, an outdoor area on the strip, in 2015.

The Prairie Wind Chapel by Robert Hoehn and Wind Tribe (2015)

Burning Man 2015 Facebook Facebook

This airy temple featured a Victorian reed organ and two wood and metal pipe organs.

R-Evolution by Marco Cochrane (2015)

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Constructed of steel rods and balls covered in stainless-steel mesh, and lots of LEDs, R-Evolution was a 48-foot-tall sculpture of a woman. It was part of a series by Cochrane that also included the Bliss Dance sculpture shown earlier.

Balloon Chain by Robert Bose and Michael Cha (2012)

4 Wolfram Burner / Flickr Wolfram Burner / Flickr / Flickr

Artist Robert Bose, also known as the Balloon Guy, and his assistant ,Michael Cha, have been making chains of balloons at festivals since 2006. The longest, which they did for Burning Man 2012, stretched 6,000 feet.

“Totem of Confessions” by Michael Garlington (2015)

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The 50-foot-tall structure was made of salvaged materials, and inspired by the architecture of ancient Buddhist temples.

Fire Tetris by MIAOU Labs (2015)

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MIAOU Labs, a Montréal-based artist collective, created a 27-foot-tall installation of the game Tetris, made of steel boxes. People could actually play it – even though the shapes were formed using fire.

The Temple of Transition by Chris Hankins and his crew (2011)

My first glimpse of the temple, just as a dust storm was kicking up. Patrick Barry / Flickr Patrick Barry / Flickr / Flickr

Over 300 people teamed up to create the Temple of Transition, which comprised six structures: five 58-foot-tall outer temples and a 120-foot-tall inner temple. They were all connected with 60-foot-long walkways.

The Super Pool by Jen Lewin (2014)

The Super Pool was made up of dozens of disks that lit up when someone stepped on them.

The Ego Project by Laura Kimpton and Michael Garlington (2012)

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Formed with 10,000 gold trophies total, each letter of the sculpture stood 20 feet tall, 10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep.

Temple of Grace by David Best and his crew (2014)

The 70-foot-tall gold-painted temple was made primarily of wood and steel. It was surrounded by eight altars where participants could go to sit and reflect.

“Penny the Goose” by Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson (2013 and 2015)

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This sculpture of a squawking goose was made of 120,000 Canadian and American pennies.

Becoming Human by Christian Ristow (2015).

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Becoming Human was a 30-foot-tall sculpture of a robot, which occasionally moved its arm to smell the flower in its hand.

Key Note by Michael Christian (2009)

13 William Neuheisel / Flickr William Neuheisel / Flickr / Flickr

This 12-foot-tall sculpture was made entirely of locks and keys.

The Blunderwood Portable by the Cat and the Cockroach Collective (2015)

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The Cat and the Cockroach Collective, a group of Boston-based artists, built a giant 24:1-scale replica of a 1927 Underwood Portable typewriter.

During the day, it displayed a Archy and Mehitabel poem; and at night, the paper changed to a projection screen so that participants could type their own messages. At the end of Burning Man 2015, the structure was burned.

Pulse and Bloom by Saba Ghole, Shilo Shiv Suleman, Rohan Dixit, Heather Stewart, Luke Iseman, and Sam Clay (2014)

15 Scott London / Facebook Scott London / Facebook / Facebook

When someone placed their hand on one of the 20 lotuses that made up Pulse and Bloom, the flower’s light would flash in a rhythm matching that person’s heartbeat.

It was one of the largest biofeedback installations in the world, according to its creators.

Got Framed by El NiNO (2015)

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This 12-foot-tall gold picture frame invited participants to snap a photo or climb the structure.

The Steampunk Tree House by Sean Orlando and the Five Ton Crane Arts Group (2007)

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Made of recycled wood and metal, Orlando explains on a website about the installation that the treehouse was inspired by a combination of Victorian architecture, HG Wells books, and Jules Verne novels and poems.

It now permanently lives at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware.

Big Rig Jig by Mike Ross (2007)

18 Jesse Wagstaff / Flickr Jesse Wagstaff / Flickr / Flickr

Made from two 18-wheelers, Big Rig Jig was a sculpture by the Brooklyn-based artist Mike Ross. He used custom-built screws to support it, according to Atlas Obscura.

The Lost Tea Party by Wreckage International (2014)

19 Raquel Baranow / Flickr Raquel Baranow / Flickr / Flickr

The train of tea pots consisted of five trailers pulled by a 1943 GMC 4×4. The pots actually had boiling water inside.

El Pulpo Mecanico by Duane Flatmo and Jerry Kunkel (2012)

20 Ian Norman / Flickr Ian Norman / Flickr / Flickr

El Pulpo Mechanico was a flaming octopus made of recycled metal from a junk yard. When it was erected at Burning Man, it used 200 gallons of propane per night and lit up the “playa”, the main festival area.

- Leanna Garfield

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