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The flame lives on: a look back at the best art installations of Burning Man 2022

After skipping two editions for COVID-19, the annual desert gathering returned with an ever-more outrageous lineup of elaborate architecture and mutant vehicles.

During the Summer Solstice of 1986, artists Larry Harvey and Jerry James dragged an improvised, wooden human effigy down to a San Francisco beach, and then burnt it. A crowd of onlookers gathered to watch and thus began the Burning Man legacy – a yearly gathering which has grown to become one of the most influential cultural events in the United States, making its mark beyond the playa – a term that refers to the dried lake bed where Burning Man now takes place – and into the fields of art, design, music and even business.


After a three-year hiatus (at least on sanctioned events), the annual Black Rock City-based festival officially returned to the Nevada desert at the end of August. This year, close to 80,000 attendees braved temperatures soaring up to 105 Fahrenheit, and faced unexpected dust storms, as they flocked to the playa to camp, dance and party in the temporary “city” of fantastical art installations, music performances, and yes – a whole lot of fire.


This year’s Burning Man showcased a record number of installations and pavilions that celebrated "community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance", collectively responding to the theme “Waking Dreams”, which, according to the official website, explores the "transformative power of dreams, both literal and figurative". More than half of the 88 works were intended for the 2020 edition and were finally brought to life this summer. Not only are many of the art pieces incredibly photogenic, but the rising interest in (and coverage of) Burning Man in recent years has attracted a growing global network of artists, architects and designers driven by the festival’s ethos of communal participation in creative expression.

Skipping the hectic commute, and questionable sleeping arrangements, we took to the internet to round up seven of our favorite sights from Burning Man 2022.

Catharsis by Arthur Mamou-Mani


This geometric amphitheater was created by French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani and his team, who specializes in pop-up, digital fabrication led architecture. His practice believes in harnessing the potential of renewable materials and sustainable processes for a circular design process. The pavilion he designed, named Catharsis, was intended for the 2020 festival, for which the architect staged a virtual experience after the event was canceled. Mamou-Mani had previously led the design of the installation Tangential Dreams at the 2016 Burning Man, and then in 2018 masterminded the festival’s Galaxia Temple. Inspired by the poincaré disk, the massive structure is made of a total of 60 timber modules assembled through metal hinges. Rather than burning the structure at the end of the festival, as is tradition, Mamou-Mani had planned to deconstruct it and rebuild it elsewhere. As such, it is designed with a seven-fold rotational symmetry system that helps with repetition in the process of fabrication and assembly. The spaces are connected with nets for people to rest and interact above the structure itself. It also has benches for “Burners” to park their bikes prior to experiencing the space.

Empyrean Temple by Laurence Renzo Verbeck


The Temple for this year’s Burning Man is called The Empyrean Temple, the brainchild of Colorado-based architect Laurence Renzo Verbeck. In the shape of a “compass rose beacon”, as described by Verbeck, the design references ancient cosmologies and contemporary theologies to create a ceremonial monument that playfully flirts with light and shadow. Visitors can enter via one of its eight entrances on its octagonal main structure, its surface meticulously decorated with tessellation pattern latticework that distills sunlight inwards. Since 2000, the Temple has been a major gathering point of the Festival and serves as a neutral, non-denominational spiritual space that would eventually be covered with photos, inscriptions, and small mementos left by attendees.


There is only one official ritual at the Temple, and that is to burn it on the very last Sunday night of the nine-day affair, signifying its conclusion.

Point of View by Hybycozo


Art collective Hybycozo is a multidisciplinary practice led by Serge Beaulieu and Yelena Filipchuk that is heavily influenced by fields of mathematics, science, nature, and culture. Titled Point of View, their contribution to Burning Man is inspired by folk art and embroidery patterns native to Filipchuk’s birthplace, Ukraine. Playing with geometry, the large-scale installation consists of three steel polyhedral sculptures. During the day, they appear like intricately crafted solids, while by night, they are lit within to cast mesmerizing patterns of light and shadow on the surrounding desert grounds.


To fund the project, the artists created a series of limited-edition artwork, ornaments and jewelry that share a similar design language. “It is not possible for us to think of this year without thinking of [Yelena’s] homeland and wanting to represent the beauty and spirit of Ukraine while working through the emotions of this challenging time in our artwork,” Beaulieu remarks. A portion of the artworks’ acquisition proceeds will be donated to organizations supporting the crisis in Ukraine.

Paradisium by Dave Keane and The Folly Builders


Paradisium is a grove of geometric trees sitting in the middle of the playa that are built primarily out of reclaimed lumber that was burnt at Northern California’s 2020 CZU Lighting Complex Fire. According to the creators Dave Keane and his team at The Folly Builders, the project seeks to “remind us of the forest’s beauty and our interconnectedness and interdependence with nature, while also fostering a sense of community and an investment in our shared future.” The forest comprises 27 trees of different sizes, each decorated with intricate geometric patterns made out of old fence boards, forming a canopy at 12 feet above the ground with walkways connecting the tallest structures. A glade at the center serves as a sanctuary where the community can gather and meditate. Again, sustainability plays a key role in the realization of this project – the whole structure is designed to be flat-packed, so it can easily be disassembled and transported.

The Solar Shrine by Antwane Lee


The elements of this Afrofuturistic, interactive installation are informed by the magical realism of Ancient Egyptian and Nubian cosmology, specifically referencing the two ancient culture’s beliefs in the Sun deity, Ra. The piece itself is composed of three structures. A 35-foot tall tower with four fire poofers blasting flames into the sky. Through the tower, visitors enter the second and main structure – a two-story observatory with an altar on the ground level, and a rooftop terrace for meditation and yoga during the day, dance parties and music performances at night. The third structure is a shorter monument which houses fuel for the pyrotechnics. Designed by Chicago-based architect Antwane Lee, the inspiration for this installation came from the experiences and environment in Africa. “There is a global trend of people all over the world looking for ways to connect to our ancestors on physical and spiritual levels,” explains Lee, “as all of humanity traces back to Africa, we believe that this art installation can bring that connection of our shared past into our present.”

Unbound: A Library in Transition by Jules and Dave Nelson-Gal of Unbound Arts


Created by husband-and-wife artist duo Jules and Dave Nelson-Gal, this colorful Neoclassical-style structure is dubbed “a temple to human thought”. Its exterior is clad in pages and covers from over 3000 books, while the space becomes a visual, physical and conceptual backdrop for words. Voices of recorded readings – books, poems, writings — that have been collected from individuals around the world emanate from within the walls. The structure was created as a tongue-in-cheek commentary of a world transitioning from physical to virtual, where books are being deemed less and less relevant for information dissemination – becoming “debris” of human intellect. “This piece is meant to reveal the boundless potential of human thought, creativity, and collaboration as well as question how time can change our understanding of what once was considered fact,” explained the artists.

The Last Ocean By Jen Lewin


With The Last Ocean, Brooklyn-based artist and engineer Jen Lewin makes a poignant statement against climate change and the resulting environmental crisis. The 8000 square foot interactive sculpture, Lewin’s most ambitious production to date, is made up of over 300 pentagonal tilings fashioned from reclaimed and recycled ocean plastic. After initially being told by US plastic manufacturers that her vision could not be realized, Lewin worked with South African company Ocean Plastic Technologies — which has developed a circular economy for ocean-bound and post-consumer plastics to collect, clean, and fabricate recycled and reclaimed plastics — to produce her sculpture. Inspired by the world’s largest body of floating ice, the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica, this glowing installation highlights Lewin’s unique, mesh-network LED technology to create a giant patchworked “ice field” that lights up when visitors step or dance on it. On the end of the platform sits Ursa Minor, a large polar bear sculpture, who overlooks the large fractured, LED ice field.