Fashioning Community

August 28-September 4, 2006

Fashioning Community is an art installation highlighting the history and evolution of Burning Man fashion/costume/style, especially as it relates to/reflects community. Inspired by the idea of “costume as art” and traditional costume museum exhibits, the installation consists of a dense “forest” of figures, each dressed in an example of a certain aspect of “Burning Man style.”

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2006, the Burning Man festival encourages radical artistic expression and creation of community. Throughout human history, fashion and costume have been expressions both of personal style and also statements of societal participation. As Burning Man evolved, so too did its costumes, and patterns began to emerge.

Fashioning Community not only identifies these patterns and trends, but juxtaposes them. Taken as a whole, as a mass, the statement that ‘yes, there is a BM style, and here are the consistently observed repeated characteristics’ is much more obvious. Figures grouped together en masse are much more likely to catch the eye than individuals. The constant availability for examination day and night allows for participant interaction–perhaps even exchanging the clothes off their back with the clothes on the forms to create new outfits, reflecting the exchange within the community and the constant evolution of BM style.

As part of the overall theme of Dreamtime, the camp with which the project is affiliated, storytelling is key. Each outfit not only has a Burning Man story, but a personal one, and usually one that reflects community. A woman’s very first belly dance costume, made especially for her first public performance, which happened to be at Burning Man. A sarong and body paint ensemble: not just typical Burning Man garb, but a reflection of the freedom some people come to find the first time they feel safe enough to don such an outfit. Outfits made for the wedding of friends, from fabric distributed by the bride, each person making a unique creation from the same material. Every costume tells a story, about the person who made it, the person who wore it, and about their community.

The artist thanks Chuck Revell, Rebecca Wehmeyer, and Ryan Jesena for their photography skills, documentation of the installation, and use of the photographs on this site.
Also thanks to David Talley and Dreamtime for logistical help with installation of the exhibit, and for moral support.