A few epithets come to mind when talking about Burning Man. For some, the happening in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert embodies the “worst of libertarian tech-bro culture.” Others see it as an opportunity to escape their office and convalesce with likeminded souls with psychedelics, EDM, and fun costumes.
Since 1986, Burning Man’s founders have invited artists to create signature installations for the occasion. In 2022, Bjarke Ingels and Jakob Lange built one, followed by a giant desert flower by Rachel Rein. Now, artist Caroline Ghosn has the honor of designing this year’s iteration. Dubbed The Temple of Together, the allegedly net-zero design (though it’s also been publicized as “carbon-negative”) espouses both neo-goth and art deco motifs. According to Burning Man spokespeople, the Temple of Together “beautifully portrays the light that emerges when we come together with all parts of ourselves and with the oneness we share with all living beings.”
Burners know Caroline Ghosn by a different name: In the playa, Ghosn answers to “Glitter Kitty.” To date, Ghosn is the first woman of color to design the main installation at Burning Man, an event which in recent years has garnered a reputation for being incessantly elitist, and very white despite the institution’s DEI plan it published in 2021, titled Our R.I.D.E. Pledge. (R.I.D.E. is a double entendre: It stands for Radical Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity while paying homage to Burning Man’s famous motorcyclists.)
The Temple of Together features a monumental, arched structure that’s 70 feet tall and 94 feet in diameter, surrounded by a porous hexagonal wall. Two sculptural hands positioned in front of the Temple reach up from the desert ground, creating a dramatic point-of-entry. The cladding, Ghosn says, is based on “reeded weaving techniques” that reference a wooden Khaizaran chair from the artist’s childhood. This weaving approach allows for the installation to be easily disassembled by volunteers of all skill levels, and its materials repurposed.
A central void offers space for burners to “grieve, celebrate, meditate, or even find revelation.” The altar, its accompanying spire, and rising lanterns are meant to direct the energy of burners upwards “and out as a shared journey.”
Each year, Burning Man artworks are built by volunteers and financed by donations. Burning Man will take place between August 25 and September 2, 2024.