Portable Burning Man installation aims to extend physical/mental boundaries

In 2022, a fractal amphitheater of timber modules, titled Catharsis, was installed for the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Intended to symbolize a venture into the realm of dreams, the art installation was designed to be disassembled and later carried to other parts of the world—to give accessibility to audiences incapable of visiting Burning Man.

Designed by French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani, in collaboration with Ikona Collection and Therme Art, Catharsis served as a central pavilion in “Black Rock City,” a temporary city established to strengthen the connection between art, community, self-expression, and self-reliance.

According to the project’s concept statement, the installation is a physical representation of the infinite space of the world of dreams. The key motif in the fractal geometrical installation is an assortment of hexagonal gateways around a circular opening, lifting to the sky. The motif repeats in a circular fashion to create seven such openings. The geometric pattern is heavier around the openings, but it becomes intricate and more detailed as it extends further into smaller scale around the edges. As a whole, Catharsis is emblematic of a space found in the unconscious mind. The concept also relates to the idea of transporting visitors to a maze where they feel they are in “a dream within a dream, within a dream. A rabbit hole in which Burners will get lost, whilst finding themselves again.”

The installation provides spaces for artists to exhibit their work and engage in conversations with attendees. There are also spaces available for them to park their bikes.

Before Burning Man, Catharsis was a reality only in the Metaverse, where avatars could experience it. However, post-COVID, the project’s stakeholders wanted it to become a physical reality. The word “catharsis” comes from the Greek language, relating to how pain is processed after a tragedy. The project aims for the audience to find relief from grief, worries, and tragedies by engaging in the artistic process of purification.

“Burning Man invites us to join in a culminating and collective healing experience. Our presentation of Catharsis by Arthur Mamou Mani at last year’s iteration of Burning Man, Waking Dreams, marked our third year of bringing artistic participation to the event. Catharsis is a fractal gallery that invites Burners to co-create through a curated program of art, music, talks, and healing workshops,” says Mikolaj Sekutowicz, co-founder and curator of the project.

“Catharsis invited artists such as Refik Anadol and Joulia Strauss to present multimedia works for the Burner community, engaging with Burning Man’s central themes of creativity, self-expression, and radical self-inclusion,” adds Sekutowicz. “We now look forward to extending Catharsis’ infinitely fractal energy and lifecycle to different locations where it can continue engaging with broader and diverse communities.”

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