Burning Man: Art and Technology
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco;
Stanford Arts Institute
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
Sold out; Video Recording is Available
Read a synopsis of the symposium and watch the complete video: Burning Man: A Journey Through a Desert Oasis of Art and Technology.
This program explores the creative spirit of Burning Man as an original western cultural movement and its innovative paradigm of art as a participatory and interactive experience, not attached to traditional museums or commercial art markets. Technology has increasingly become a component of Burning Man art. We intend to explore the affinity between art and technology with the rise of Silicon Valley and the parallel evolution of the Burning Man movement. Both are pillars of contemporary art and technology based in the Bay Area that have a global reach.
The keynote address will focus on the cultural and maker movement aspects of Burning Man and its synergy with the rise of Silicon Valley fueling the opportunity for new development and beta testing at Black Rock City in the spirit of utopian art.
The other three presenters will trace the evolution of the Burning Man movement from a beachside festival to a temporary full city exploring the linkage between the art and technology, the institutional and curatorial responses to the art produced there, and its organizational challenges, successes, and ethos.
Fred Turner, Professor of Communications, Stanford University, “What Burning Man Does for Silicon Valley”
Turner will explore the connections between the rise of Silicon Valley and the parallel evolution of the Burning Man movement based in San Francisco, both as cultural movements with a universal status that links art with emerging technology. Bio
Scott London, Scott London Photography, “The Ephemeral City: Reflections on a Decade of Burning Man Photography”
London, an award winning official photographer of Burning Man, will present a slideshow of images from the event that captures the last ten years of its development and transformation. Bio
Nora Atkinson, Curator of Craft, Smithsonian American Art Museum & Renwick Gallery, “When the Man Met the Man: Burning Man’s Journey from the Desert to the Museum”
Atkinson will address the institutional approach to Burning Man as an art movement that values collective creativity, yet outside of commercial art markets. How can museums and other cultural institutions respond to this unique challenge of interpreting, collecting, and preserving the record of the art produced at Black Rock City and the synergy of the art and technology that underlies these works. Bio
Katherine K. Chen, Associate Professor of Sociology, The City College of New York, and the Graduate Center, CUNY, “Enabling Creative Communities: How Burning Man Catalyzes Creativity and the Arts”
Chen will focus on the organizational sociology of the Burning Man movement looking at its accomplishments, challenges, and limitations. Chen is a Stanford graduate (AB, MA 1995). Bio
Turner’s research and writing explore media, technology and American cultural history. He is especially interested in how emerging media have shaped American life since World War II. He is the author of three books: The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties (Chicago, 2013); From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (Chicago, 2006); and Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory (Anchor/Doubleday, 1996; 2nd ed., Minnesota, 2001). His essays have tackled topics ranging from the rise of reality crime television to the role of the Burning Man festival in contemporary new media industries. They are available here.
Turner’s writings have won a range of awards, including the PSP Award for the best book in Communication and Cultural Studies from the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers and the Katherine Singer Kovács Essay Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. They have also been widely translated.
As a photographer, Scott is perhaps best known for his images of Burning Man, a series spanning a decade and a half. The photographs appear in the coffee-table book, Burning Man: Art on Fire, a collaboration with writer Jennifer Raiser and fellow photographer Sidney Erthal. It first appeared in 2014 and an expanded Second Edition came out in 2016.
Scott’s photographs have also been exhibited at museums and shows across the U.S. and Europe. Highlights include the “Living” exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark and the “Art in an Ephemeral Age” show at the Institute of Art and Ideas in England. In 2018, several of his photographs were featured at the Smithsonian as part of its “No Spectators” exhibition at the Renwick Gallery.
In addition to his photography, Scott is known for his print and radio journalism. He has contributed to many books and magazines and is the former host of “Insight and Outlook,” a weekly cultural affairs program heard on National Public Radio stations across the United States.
Scott was born in Washington D.C. At the age of five, his family moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where he was raised and educated — and where, as a teenager, he taught himself photography. He returned to the U.S. in his mid-20s. He has been living in California since 1993. Scott's website is www.scottlondon.com.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Before joining the Smithsonian, Atkinson was curator at the Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, Wash., from 2006 to 2014, originating notable exhibitions such as Fragile Fortress: The Art of Dan Webb (2014), Making Mends (2012), Lisa Gralnick: The Gold Standard (2010, traveled) and The Book Borrowers: Contemporary Artists Transforming the Book (2009). Her critical essays and writing were featured in five publications produced by the museum.
Atkinson earned a bachelor's degree (2002) and a master's degree (2006) from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is a 2018 graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute’s executive leadership program.
The City College of New York, and the Graduate Center, the City University of New York
In addition, Prof. Chen has researched how fields of organizations coordinate supporting older adults who are aging in place in NYC. Currently, Prof. Chen is undertaking an ethnography of how a growing organization, which originated out of the democratic free school movement, communicates its unfamiliar mission and practices to contemporary generations of prospective and current stakeholders.
Prof. Chen received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from Harvard University and an A.M. in Sociology and an A.B. in Human Biology from Stanford University. She is an associate professor in sociology at The City College of New York and the Graduate Center, the City University of New York.
Free street parking is available on John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Drives near the museum during February. Paid parking is available in the Music Concourse Garage located directly under the museum and its entrance can be found at Fulton St. at 10th Ave.
Additional Resources about Burning Man
- Stanford Goes to Burning Man, a Series of Interviews by Alexandra (Mac) Taylor ’20
- Fred Turner: Silicon Valley Tech Culture Has Roots in Burning Man, Stanford Scholar Says
- Nora Atkinson: Why Art Thrives at Burning Man
- Katherine Chen: Why Newcomers Can’t Ruin Burning Man