Shrumen Lumen by the FoldHaus Art Collective. Picture:
In the low-lit, second-floor room of Washington’s Renwick Gallery, a cluster of three ceiling-height plastic mushrooms glows in a shifting kaleidoscope of neon colors. At each mushrooms’ base is a pad that users can press, causing the sculptures to heave, sigh, and expand in and out.

The installation, Shrumen Lumen by the FoldHaus Art Collective, was initially on view under the night sky at Burning Man, a week-long annual festival in the Nevada desert that celebrates the various joys of communal living, 24-hour dance parties, public art, provocative costumes, substance use, and a potpourri of spiritualties.

The event, wherein a 70,000-person temporary city is erected in a week and disassembled faster, is so singular that attempts to recreate it at other times of the year have fallen flat.

This is why organisers for the exhibit “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” (March 30-Jan. 21, 2019) faced a steep challenge when trying to transfer pieces of art from the desert to a museum context, specifically to the Renwick Gallery branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. What proves to be the show’s saving grace is that it doesn’t try to be about Burning Man; it aims simply to evoke what it’s like to interact with the festival’s art. Read more