Burning Man: The Order of Chaos

By Samantha Krukowski.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Theory and History

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Burning Man now attracts over 50,000 people who gather at a remote desert site annually to create an impermanent city that inspires a dizzying array of objects, spaces, experiences, and behaviors. At the micro level, it is chaotic and simultaneous and infinite—it cannot be seen as a whole, nor can it all be seen. At the macro level, it is planned and circumscribed and particular. At the personal level, anything goes. At the social level, Burning Man is governed by ten principles that shape its community: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy. It is an urban–city plan, with named streets, law enforcement, engineering oversight, air strip, medical and legal facilities, and waste management. Yet, its climate is brutal and unforgiving and challenges all attempts at inhabitation—the city is a temporary imposition that cannot exist without constant reinforcement. My presentation examines Burning Man as a complex system in which the relationships between order and chaos, stability and instability, the conscious and the unconscious are embedded.

Keywords: Burning Man, Community, Experimental, Radical, Temporary, Impermanence, Transience, Events/Happenings, Installation, Performance, Public Art, Art Festivals, City, Nevada, Desert, Order, Chaos, Planning, Urbanism, Playa, Black Rock City, Building, Burners, Errata, Leave No Trace, The Man, Theme Camp

The International Journal of Arts Theory and History, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.89-96. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.993MB).

Dr. Samantha Krukowski

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, College of Design, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA

Originally from New York and St. Louis, Samantha Krukowski was trained as an architect (MArch, 1997) and art historian (PhD, 1999). Dr. Krukowski is inspired by the similarity and repetition of patterns and structures that are magnified by technology, attention and representation. She is curious about how images and places function in the context of a society where most information is inescapable, transformable, interchangeable, transferable, forgettable. Dr. Krukowski’s paintings, drawings and videos have been exhibited nationally and internationally. She currently teaches architecture at Iowa State University.