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From Reno To The Playa: A "Bigger, Crazier" Man Base

By BLM Nevada (Burning Man 2015) via Wikimedia Commons
The Man Base is an immersive art experience that allows participants to enage with the foundation of the symbolic Man.

Since its inception, the counterculture festival known as Burning Man has been a utopia for art and artists. Massive installations color the Black Rock Desert, even down to the very foundation on which the iconic “Man” stands. Our reporter Holly Hutchings caught up with the designer of the base to see what it’s all about.

At a hollowed-out brick warehouse in Reno, a crew constructs a huge art project--the edifice of the iconic Man.

On the playa, the leader of this build is known as “Haggis,” but in his daily life he’s Andrew Johnstone, Design Steward of the man and his base.

“At the secret stealth location in Reno we build large sections of it, then that goes on to something like 15 semi-trucks and we take it all out to the desert,” Johnstone says. “Every day that we build here saves us three days on playa. It's a lot easier to build here than it is in the desert.”

Each year, the base becomes more interactive, allowing it to be a social and meditative space. Previous bases have been things like, flying saucers and a carnival of mirrors. 

“This year, the theme is 'I, Robot',” Johnstone says. “He will be on a giant cogwheel that's over 100 feet across with a central space that you can access from the outside, from the 3 and the 9.”

It’s a nod to the machine age and will be surrounded by fanciful robots, cyborgs and works that explore humanity in an increasingly automated world.

“It's an audacious thing. It's an arms race of stupidity,” Johnstone says. “We never come back and go, ‘Let's do it smaller next year. Let's not be quite as ambitious next year.’ It's always bigger, bigger, bigger, crazier, and I love it.”

With this design, builders say they hope to honor founder Larry Harvey, who died earlier this year.  

Holly Hutchings is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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