Burning Man Comes to Venice
Post-festival Venice Afterburn art party takes over Windward Plaza on Thursday and Friday
By Christina Campodonico
Swirling lights, a sea of people and fake flowers on neon fire — it wasn’t an acid trip, but it probably was the closest thing I’d experienced to getting high while stone cold sober.
It was the Venice Afterburn, a block party of revelers kicking off the dust of Burning Man (or pretending to be there) that took over Rose Avenue between 3rd and 4th streets during last year’s Venice Art Crawl.
As The Argonaut’s cub arts and entertainment reporter, it was a wild first assignment.
A ‘60s-style outdoor living room seemed to spill out from the insides of a van made to look like the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. An artist tinkered with his LED contraption, an orb of spinning turquoise lights. Afterburners danced on a double-decker art car capped by a giant unicorn head, called “Charlie the Unicorn.” The whole experience was surreal, like walking through a psychedelic dream.
My senses only snapped to reality when a partygoer stumbled over my toe, leaving it purple and bruised. (Word to the wise: wear close-toed shoes). Though I left Afterburn with a limp, my curiosity for Venice’s whimsical art world had been piqued.
Well, here we go again. Following Thursday’s Venice Art Crawl, Afterburn returns for not one but two days of free-spirited fun.
Venice Afterburn producer Daniela Ardizzone became taken with the art of Burning Man 13 years ago during her first visit to the weeklong art and music festival in Nevada’s remote Black Rock Desert, which culminates in the burning of a giant wooden effigy.
“What really struck me from the first time I went to Burning Man was this amazing art, without being really pretentious, like it is in an art gallery,” she recalls, describing the large-scale, architectural art cars that mosey around the festival like outlandishly decorated parade floats. (Imagine the tricked-out cars from the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road” with a little less fury and a little more whimsy.)
“They were amazing and majestic and playful,” recounts Ardizzone.
These vibrant art cars inspired her to bring a slice of Burning Man to Venice Beach three years ago for the first Venice Afterburn to help wean “burners” off the emotional highs of the Burning Man experience. It also acquaints those who’ve never been to the festival with its values: uninhibited self-expression, generous sharing, the de-commodification of goods and services, leaving no trace after the festival concludes, and self-reliance.
In a way, Afterburn keeps the spirit of Burning Man alive beyond its desert environs.
“By doing these kind of decompressions — or Afterburns, in our case — people kind of bring that vibe,” says Ardizzone. “They bring it to their real life.
“… Or try to get over that nostalgic feeling of missing the playa,” she adds, referencing the 7-mile stretch of desert flatland on which the festival takes place.
This year’s Venice Afterburn happens over two days on an actual playa — along the Venice Boardwalk, just off Windward Plaza.
“[It’s] not the harsh environment of the playa, with the dust and the wind and the bad weather,” says co-producer and deejay Eduardo Manilla (a.k.a. LoboMan). “But we’re going to be right on the beach and we’re going to have our best friends and friends of friends in costumes dancing, running around, doing some art, creating experiences. It’s basically like a little taste: the closest you can get to Burning Man without leaving the 90291 zip code.”
For the event, Manilla has curated a lineup of local and global deejays, including KCRW’s Jason Bentley and Jeremy Sole, Venice’s own Marques Wyatt, and divaDanielle, Henry Pope, 2tight, massio, Erik Nelson, MC Everyman + Michael Vincze, Naira Hart and Ferdie Torres.
Art cars from this year’s Burning Man are a big part of the Afterburn, including a car called “Giant Cock” (referencing a rooster, that is), which showcases a feathery peacock
plumage and a car with a flying magic carpet theme.
There may also be a light up piano car with a playable electric piano and spaceship-style car, but their appearance at the Afterburn really depends on one thing: “whichever art cars survive Burning Man,” says Ardizzone.
“They’ll be lots of last-minute entries, so come and be surprised,” adds Afterburn co-organizer and Venice Art Crawl President Sunny Bak.
She encourages attendees to wear their best “dusty playa clothes” — in other words, the zany costume you wore to Burning Man that’s caked in dust (or what you would have worn had you gone).
“Expect a lot of dancing, a lot of good vibes and a community at its best,” Manilla says. “Every year that we do this, it makes us realize this is why we live in Venice: because this community does embrace the Burning Man principles, and it values this Burning Man culture, and we are so lucky that we get to do it in Venice.”
The Venice Art Crawl is from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, at various locations throughout Venice. The Afterburn happens from 2 to 10 p.m. Thursday and from noon to 10 p.m. Friday (Sept. 15 and 16) at Windward Plaza. Visit facebook.com/theveniceartcrawl for updates.
THURSDAY ART CRAWL HIGHLIGHTS (6 to 10 p.m.):
• Micro Experience L.A.’s “MicroTheatre” — three mini-plays of 15 minutes or less on rotation at Venice Breeze Suites, 2 Breeze Ave.
• “Painter Laureate of the Car” Harold Cleworth unveils a new painting of Clifton’s Cafeteria in The Gallery at Marco Place, 928 Marco Place.
• Poet James Berkowitz hosts ARTravenous, a mix of poetry, art, belly dancing, music and comedy at Danny’s Venice, 23 Windward Ave.
• A presentation of awards to Marina del Rey Film Festival honorees at Venice Beach Suites & Hotel, 1305 Ocean Front Walk.