The 'Desert Forest' Art Installation — Burning Man Art

LOCZIdesign often talks about 'creating spaces that balance and inspire'- Laying on the floor of the 'Forest' was like receiving a giant hug from the Great Mother herself. The echoing tunes of Robot Heart bellowing in the background set the tone for my favorite art installation from this year's Burning Man. A long-time believer and contributor to the festival that stretches the body, mind and soul, I returned to the desert after a 5-year hiatus only to find her teeming with fresh energy and brilliance. Enraptured by the sheer size, I stood agape at the enormity of it all — 60,000 people in a temporary city is immense. Poised in the distance stood sturdy lacquered walls, all white and

glistening, to welcome me HOME. Within its chambers the world outside slowed, embracing all who entered. The gentle touch of the leaves calmed my spirit and focused my mind. It was a place to rest and watch the sky roll by and it was indeed a magical space- built with great artistry and even greater love. I was so taken by the sculpture and its effects, that I had to meet the mind behind this wondrous creation and share with all of you.

My friend Lisa, who had been one of the tireless crew working 10+hour days, introduced me to its visionary creator, Phoenix. His generosity and clarity are noted from his interview with Mennlay

"It’s very large. We built a large scale forest in Brooklyn this past summer (above) to test out how it would work and to raise funds. It was 1,000 square feet. The one in the Burning Man 'Desert Forest' was 2,000 sq/ft. The original was only 50 square feet. Our kick-starter website for the project explains exactly what the forest experiment was...I used to design furniture and in the past two years I’ve been building the prototype of the forest in my friend’s basement. All of my friends thought it was so magical and encouraged me to make a larger piece."

 

What about art, what about your art inspires you?

"It was actually inspired by my apartment, which had no doors in it. I didn’t have enough money to build any so I hung those plastic strips— you know, much like what you would see in the freezer sections of a grocery store. I soon expanded beyond the door and into the room. It began to feel like you were swimming while being in the space. I took it from there, making it comfortable with soft faux white fur on the ground. The comfortable environment I think really transports you emotionally. You’re in this forest and it’s playful and kind of intimate. You feel enclosed and also very free. People seem to have found it very meditative. Somehow [even though you would think polyester trips are the opposite of nature], it still provokes such a nature-like and powerful reaction from people."

Is there a role in which art plays within society? What is that role— particularly with your art?

"I would say that I was always interested in the type of art that gives you a very intense experience. It is a mix of being interactive and having an entire body experience...a way to touche all of your senses. At Burning Man, I was talking to cops and they thanked me; informing me that the 'Desert Forest' was taking care of people. It seemed to have calmed them down. I noticed too that most would be chatty at the beginning and then grow quiet once in the forest. In terms of what it provides for society; it gives people a great experience."

And what about the furniture making?!

"I used to have a steel fabrication studio and would build various designs for artist and designers. It was so long ago that I don't really think about it much about it too often yet, I do want to get into building buildings and exploring architecture. Architecture also evokes experiences when done right. And I have built spaces in the past. The feeling that you get from your surroundings, it was always the part of furniture making and architecture that I have been drawn to."

How was burning man this year?

"It was all forest all the time! This is my tenth consecutive year at Burning Man and this year I didn’t party, I just spent my time at the 'Forest' and experienced it with the other people. I was perfectly happy with that. I really also want to add that there were so many people that

helped in the fundraising of the 'Forests': from DJ's, people working the door to bartenders — everyone worked really hard to give to this project. -And then, there were the crew members at BM themselves, who would push through these extreme weather conditions to build and install. We’re talking 13 hour work days — I can’t get over that kind of devotion. It’s amazing to me that so many people are attracted to it, but I’m pleasantly surprised and have the support from various people who not only want to do it next year, but also help contribute and build. The entire outcome was beyond inspiring."

 

Collaboration and contribution are the name of the game at Burning Man. The extremes push to you know yourself and humanity in a new way. Not unlike building a house, these large installations require intention, thorough planning, communication, skill and extreme exertion. The outcomes usually far outweigh the effort and therein lay the rewards. To read more about Phoenix and his work, you can find the info, here.