The Museum of No Spectators Burning the Man 2022 / John Marks + J. Apsynthia Vermot
Text description provided by the architects. Finally, the Museum of No Spectators is launched, after being delayed during the pandemic. The original idea of this different type of exhibition space for displaying art has remained faithful to the way it was first conceived by co-artists John Marx and J Abcynthia Vermot. The No Spectators Museum emphasizes inclusivity while moving away from “art as an elitist sport”. It challenges the idea that museums are neutral spaces for displaying what artists do. Although many museums actively seek change, many are still seen as exclusive. The stature of these institutions in the art world can make it difficult to walk away from the idea of “museum-level art” as being above all other arts, yet anyone who has visited Burning Man will know that exceptional and powerful work is being created outside of a museum context, some of which resonate deeply with society, redefining our perception of what constitutes art.
As an architect, John Marks wanted us to rethink the idea of art museums. So in the dusty ocean of Nevada, Black Rock City, Marx and Vermott constituted a museum like no other. Marks describes the ideas behind this collaborative project, “Burning Man invites you as an event to experience art not just as something you might passively value, but as a joint project that unleashes your creative potential. That’s why Absinthia and I thought a museum in the playa encourages all ‘Burners’ to Making artworks in an unformatted and spontaneous environment was an ideal way to reconsider what museums could be. It also raises interesting questions about the scope of cultural inclusion and how this might affect society in general.”
The No Bystanders Museum captures the full participatory nature of Burning Man culture. This is in sharp contrast to the virtual museum experience for the visitor who “consumes” art through blockbuster displays. At the Museum of No Spectators, the visitor is no longer a consumer, but rather a person entering a radically inclusive space where the creative process is a key component of how art is shared with others – an inherently de-commodifying experience.
Marx sums up the design concept for the Art and Architecture project, “When you approach this mysterious and intriguing building with its exhibits of unusual shape, part machine machine, part creature, abstract and surreal form, it may be presented as a blank image, with a vast exterior, hovering alphabets” Museum No Bystanders’ above. Its dynamic forms appear to be otherworldly but ingrained. It is waiting for you to get close and become a part of it…to participate.”
In the face of Banksy’s critique of modern museums’ emphasis on ‘out of the gift shop’, Museum No Spectators is a study in the abolition of the nine, participants will enter through the ‘gift shop’, where we have changed the use of the word ‘shop’ to mean ‘make’ rather than ‘buy’ . Here the “Burners” were encouraged to make a gift of their own created art on the spot before moving to the main museum. In this new type of museum, art is constantly changing as the “torches” come and go, each able to realize their potential as an artist. During the week of the event, the art continued to evolve with the “flares” radically expressing themselves by adding to or removing from existing pieces.
J Absinthia Vermut narrates the background to the project, “The Museum of No Spectators came up when John and I were talking about the Burning Man exhibition at the Auckland Museum of Art. I had attended and loved seeing the art on the walls, but having lived in Auckland and attended Burning Man for as long as I knew, Not many artists were included.Exiting the gift shop where I saw the items I had gifted in the playa, and making it a commodity was not in line with the principles of Burning Man.Wandering around the museum and looking at someone else’s art was the definition of watching.Which was ok, because we didn’t We’re in Burning Man. But what if we were? What would that be like?”
That question was answered in the 1,400-square-foot museum built from steel frames and aluminum Dibond panels by a team of 30 volunteers at this year’s Burning Man event from August 28 to September 5. In 2020, the design team developed an interactive digital version of The Museum of No Spectators as part of the Burning Man 2020 digital series of events. The Museum of No Spectators was made possible as a result of a fundraising campaign.