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The Art of Burning Man Compliments of the Renwick

October 11, 2018

According to Jason the Handyman who ultimately decided to stay in Atlanta after Season 2, Episode 4 of Queer Eye, Burning Man centers around fire, art and community. I already like art and community. And I’m okay with fire as long as I have sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat and I don’t have to be in a terrestrial conflagration or burned by invisible rays emanating from a fusion reactor in the sky.

But it turns out Jason the Handyman wasn’t giving me the full story. The Burning Man primer at the Renwick has a different take on what that summer week in the Nevada desert is about. The primer tells me that among Burning Man’s ten core principles are  gifting and decommodification.

Whoa. Hold on. Those sound I’ll have to give away my dark chocolate. That’s s big red flag that tastes of less than 40% cocoa! Even more terrifying, the primer also tells me that at Burning Man I may encounter the playa chicken — a legendary carnivorous poultry reputed to live in the Black Rock Desert.

I’m out!

The Renwick’s “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” is as close as I’m going to get. The exhibit is in three parts. The first floor features costumes and models. The second floor has the big installations. And a leisurely picture-taking-filled 30-minute walk around the Golden Triangle neighborhood reveals the 6 outdoor pieces.

I quite enjoyed trying to find the outdoor pieces. The Renwick does a great job of providing a map to where the pieces are. It’s just sometimes hard to actually see what you are looking at even when it’s a big metal “XO” by the Farragut West Metro or a giant golden pyramid at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and K Street.

I’m always impressed by artists who are willing to put their works out in the unsupervised elements. Someday, these pieces will make their way to a museum, and only people with gloves and art degrees will be allowed to touch them. But someday is not yet today!

In honor of the Jason the Handyman’s Burning Man principles, I saw the indoor exhibit with family (my most immediate community). I gushed at numerous people about how cool the art was. And I saw the outdoor exhibit on a really hot, fireball-in-the-sky day. There was dark chocolate, too, but Jason didn’t say anything about my having to share it.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” is at the Renwick Smithsonian American Art Museum until January 21, 2019 and in the surrounding neighborhood until December 2018.

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