Out near the dusty perimeter of Black Rock City lies a different kind of museum. As you approach this intriguing and mysterious building with its unusually shaped galleries, appearing part machine, part creature, part abstract and surrealistic form, it may present as a blank slate, with an expansive exterior, the letters spelling Museum of No Spectators hovering above. Its dynamic shapes emerge as otherworldly yet grounded. It is waiting for you to approach and become a part of it….. to participate.
In a radically inclusive and interactive way, the Museum of No Spectators creates a space for everyone to make art and become an exhibiting artist. With art continuing to develop during event week, "burners" self-express by bringing original art, adding or subtracting from existing pieces or creating their own in this de-commodified space using art materials provided by the museum.
The Museum of No Spectators (MoNS) asks a question - what would a museum be like on the playa within Burning Man culture? It picks up the debate of the contributory nature of Burning Man culture in contrast to the Default World museum experience. MoNS turns the concept around and creates a fully interactive container by encouraging people to engage playfully with the idea of what museums and participatory art means in terms of creating and nurturing culture. Radically inclusive and highly interactive, MoNS creates a space for all citizens of Black Rock City to become exhibiting artists.
MoNS emphasizes inclusivity, in line with the wholly participatory nature of Burning Man culture. The visitor is no longer a consumer but someone entering a thoroughly inclusive space where the creative process is a key element in how the art is shared with others —an inherently de-commodifying experience. Reflecting on Banksy’s provocative statement about museum commodification, “exit through the gift shop”, here one enters thru the Gifting Shop. We have fundamentally changed the use of the word "shop" to mean "to make" instead of "to buy". MoNS challenges museum planning concepts as visitors are encouraged to make a gift of art before proceeding into the main museum. Artists in Residence take people through the ritual of creating art, by providing instruction and materials. MoNS also changed the use of the word “gift" from a noun to a verb "Gifting", gifting 5,000 photographs, 3,000 pieces of jewelry, and countless patches and stickers. Throughout the event, more than 60 artists of 14 nationalities posted artwork and 53% of the artists were BIPOC.
The 1,400-square-foot structure built of 17,000 pounds of tube steel framing and aluminum panels emerged from the desert after 10 days of building by a team of 40 volunteers. The main museum comprises eight galleries, each dedicated to a different theme—Social Justice: Truth, Lies, and Reconciliation; Snark: Tell It Like It Is—With a Wry Smile; Sparkle Pony: Whimsy, Love, and Joy; Wisdom: Paradox, Balance, and Transcendence; Discovery/Identity/Epiphany: Emergence and Transformation; Into the Darkness: Mystery and Vortex; The Future: Community, Kindness, and Forgiveness; Earth and Sustainability: The Ethereal Landscape.