Burning Man Artist David Best Will Build—and Then Burn—a Massive Covid Memorial Temple in England
Hundreds are coming together in Bedworth to help realize 'Sanctuary.'
In May, a monumental temporary wooden sculpture will be erected to honor U.K.’s losses during the Covid-19 pandemic. And then it will be burned.
Titled Sanctuary, the intricately-carved, 22-meter (65-foot) wooden piece is designed by the California artist David Best. The structure will echo the temples Best has previously built at Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where a “Temple Burn” has long followed the more famous “Man Burn,” with festival-goers leaving letters to lost love ones. Best built his first temple in 2000 as a tribute to a friend who died in a motorcycle accident.
Set for Miners’ Welfare Park in the town of Bedworth, Sanctuary will be created in collaboration with the local community of North Warwickshire in the West Midlands of England. The project is produced by the Arts Council England-backed Artichoke, which specializes in live art events and previously worked with Best on a 2015 temple in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The initiative also involves local creative company Imagineer, and support from various local councils.
According to the artist, Sanctuary is not just a piece of public art, but a spiritual occasion for the local community to grieve and let go of Covid losses.
“This past year and a half has not been easy for anyone,” Best said. “We have faced terrible tragedy and great loss. I believe in the power of collaboration and community—that by recognizing pain and sadness, and laying down our burdens, we can face the future from a place of hope and renewal.”
The collaborative project, which will be open to the public from May 21 to May 28, is expecting hundreds of participants. These include some 20 apprentices who will help with the building of the structure during the two weeks prior to the public opening, plus 100 “guardians” to help guide visitors while Sanctuary is open to the public, according to Helen Marriage, CEO of Artichoke.
A series of workshops and community events have also take place, she added. The overall cost of the project is expected to be £650,000 ($851,000). Visitors are invited to bring photographs and mementos of loved ones, as well as to write messages on the wooden structure itself.
The event will conclude on the night of May 28 when the structure will be “ceremonially burned as a symbol of catharsis and rebirth,” exactly in the way that Best’s soaring temples are burned at Burning Man, Marriage told Artnet News via email.
“Sanctuary belongs to no specific religion or belief system so that each visitor creates their own mythology for healing,” she said. “The burning of these structures symbolizes renewal and looking forward not back.”
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