An Artichoke Project

Sacredness, Solemnity and Memory

  • 15 March 2015

Crimson Rose, co-founder of Burning Man. Tells us about the significance of 'Temple' projects, at Burning Man and beyond.

Sacred ritual is a very old activity — almost as ancient as humanity itself, but not quite. There was a need that came first, a feeling that drove us to ritual. We may not have even known what we were doing when we designated the first sacred space or lit the first ceremonial fire, but we just knew we needed to do it, so we did.

That’s how the 'temple' at Burning Man was created. Before David Best created the first one in 2000, we didn’t know what we were missing. Now the 'temple' feels as integral to Black Rock City as Emergency Services or the Center Camp Café, the essential infrastructure that makes our city habitable.

The 'temple' counterbalances the mad masquerade of our community, with sacredness, solemnity and memory.

It makes room for grief and renewal, for people to bring those heavy parts of themselves and release them. Whether through a fleeting gesture or touch, a movement or prayer, or even through writing the contents of one’s heart on the wall, the 'temple' incorporates the energy of everyone who passes through, and all of it is released by fire.

The 'temple'’s role in Black Rock City remains, even as its design changes every year. But it’s also portable and flexible, as befits an institution of a transient, ephemeral desert culture whose reach is now everywhere. Summer 2015 will mark the 10th anniversary of the Hayes Green Temple, a David Best temple of renewal in the heart of San Francisco and the template civic project for Burning Man Arts. In 2008, Best and his crew built the Temple of the American Dream in Detroit. The international community of Burners has also taken to building 'temples', such as the 2012 Temple for Christchurch designed by Hippathy Valentine to help that New Zealand city process the devastating 2011 earthquake there. And now, Best is teaming up with Artichoke to build a 'temple' in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Derry will demonstrate one of the most potent effects of the 'temple': unification.

By drawing people into its structure, incorporating the energy of their emotion, and releasing it all at once by burning and crumbling down, can Temple bring people together? Can people who feel different come together there and have a moment where they feel the same? Those are the questions Temple can answer, and that’s why its ashes always represent a beginning.

To find out more about these projects and others, head to http://burningman.org