Located in the Black Rock Desert of Northwestern Nevada, Burning Man is a major event for Vegas locals and tourists alike. Three different Burning Man sculptures currently reside in Vegas and represent the Burning Man culture that is alive and well in the Las Vegas community. Tons of people travel through Sin City on their way to Black Rock City. With Burning Man 2018 just around the corner, we’ll discuss one of our favorite Nevada festivals and its special connection with Las Vegas.
History of Burning Man
The annual event now known as Burning Man had humble beginnings as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice in 1986. Founders Larry Harvey and Jerry James met on Baker Beach in San Francisco with a few friends and burned an 8-foot tall wooden man and smaller wooden dog as a spontaneous act of “radical self-expression”. The tradition continued the following year and the effigy grew to 15 feet tall, and by 1988, it had grown to 30 feet. At this time, Larry Harvey officially named the summer solstice ritual “Burning Man” and titled flyers as such to ward off references to the practice of burning live sacrifices in wicker cages.
In 1990, the figure was erected at Baker Beach on Summer Solstice but not burned because of police enforced permitting reasons and the potential fire hazard. The Man was then invited to San Francisco Cacophony Zone Trip #4 on Labor Day weekend in the Black Rock Desert, NV and burned on September 1, 1990 where the annual festival and tradition continues today.
Burning Man 2018
The 2018 art theme, I, Robot, will offer an exploration of humankind’s decidedly mixed feelings about algorithmic intelligence, cybernetic augmentation, and the mystery of what it means to be human in an increasingly automated world. Due to the recent passing of Burning Man’s founder, “The Man with the Hat” Larry Harvey, this year’s event is expected to be unlike any other. Be there to watch The Man burn on Saturday, September 1.
Burning Man Sculptures in Las Vegas
Considering art is one of the defining features of Burning Man, it makes sense for the Burning Man sculptures to live on outside of Black Rock City. The Playa comes alive in Las Vegas through many of its sculptures, now memorialized throughout the city of Las Vegas. You can see several pieces of art with your own eyes in the heart of Las Vegas.
Marco Cochrane’s sculpture “Bliss Dance” was installed in MGM Resorts International’s new dining and entertainment district, The Park, in March 2016. Located between Park MGM (previously Monte Carlo), New York-New York, and the new T-Mobile Arena, the 40-foot tall statue, which debuted at Burning Man in 2010, serves as The Park’s visual focal point. The dancing lady was crafted to celebrate humanity, feminine beauty, and the power that can be harnessed when there is balance on our earth. This unique modern steel sculpture challenges all past engineering feats and techniques seen in previous years.
The Downtown Project
Starting in 2012, Burning Man teamed up with Downtown Project and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to bring elaborate Burning Man sculptures and other artwork from Black Rock City’s festival for display in Las Vegas. Burning Man provided creative consulting to Downtown Project, and partnered to bring vibrant, interactive art and culture to downtown Las Vegas.
Artist and aerospace engineer Kirk Jellum showcased his original work at Burning Man, a fire-spewing praying mantis. This larger-than-life mantis now resides in the Container Park in Downtown Las Vegas and is a 150:1 scale replica of a female mantis the artist found in a field. The praying mantis took 3,000 hours to build, is 40 feet tall, 30 feet wide, and burns approximately 50 gallons of liquid propane each day with flames that reach six stories high. If that weren’t enough, the mantis has a 4,000-watt sound system – allowing the music to crank up and the mantis to boogie on down.
“Big Rig Jig”
After a long journey from Burning Man to Coachella to Banksy’s Dismaland show, The Big Rig Jig is now permanently installed in Las Vegas by Tony Hsieh on Fremont Street. The Big Rig Jig was constructed from two discarded tanker trucks and serves as both a sculpture and an architectural space. Visitors can enter the lower truck, climb through the tankers, and come out to a viewing platform between the rear axles. Created by MIke Ross, this sculpture stands 50-foot-tall and weighs in at a whopping 25 tons.
By establishing the agreement with the Downtown Project, Burning Man can use Las Vegas as a platform for art and ideas, and to share its 10 principles, which include radical self-expression, decommodification and civic responsibility. Burning Man culture continues to thrive in the city of Las Vegas and its showcased art continues to live on.