Art and Play(a):
The Allure of Spontaneous
Play at Burning Man
Photos and Captions by Nancy Good
As a photographer, artist and essayist, I am keenly aware of the inherent desire for connection between artists and observers. Often this connection is merely passive, but in the context of Burning Man, the cultural/societal connection is most often very active. There are multiple reasons for this active connection on the Playa: the physical effort it takes one to find the art installations, the monumental size of the art that demands interaction, the kinetic nature of many of the art pieces, and the playful, spirited nature with which Burners approach each artistic discovery. Gallery or museum exhibits do not usually encourage touch, climbing or otherwise actively engaging the art, but Burning Man most certainly does. This "play" allows those who would be observers in any other setting to become participants in the art, in the culture of not only Burning Man, but of the artists as well.
Further, educators, counselors and art/play therapists have long understood the importance of play not only for child development, but also for adult health and well-being. Specifically, play therapy helps individuals become more responsible for self, develop creative solutions and strategies to problems within a nonjudgmental environment, foster respect for self and others, nurture empathy for other individual's life experiences, cultivate new relational skills with friends, family and community, which fosters a sense of well-being, self-assuredness, and confidence in the default world. To the point: We Need to Play!
As my eye and spirit seeks out this play, my camera captures the abandon, the freedom, the delight and childlike nature of these connections. My intent is that this story of play will encourage our communities (in the default or outside world) to find more opportunities to engage in this type of artistic play as a means to build happier and more connected communities, as opposed to isolated and lonely ones.
Above: Stephen Hendee created sculpture for the celebration of 30 years of public art programming in the City of Las Vegas.