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Camila Zager

Engaging the Liminal Realm: 

An Investigation of Transformation through Mindfulness and Playfulness at Burning Man

Burning Man is a temporary city that offers an experience with extraordinary transformative potential. Its Ten Principles are grounded in a profound respect for oneself, the community, and the environment. In my thesis, I foreground two major symbols at Burning Man, the Man and the Temple, to discuss how states of mindfulness and playfulness facilitate personal and social transformation. By first establishing this annual event as a work of Social Practice, I engage in a psychoanalytical and philosophical discourse in an attempt to obtain a greater understanding of the transformative experience and its contributing factors. Thus, I argue that optimal human functioning may be achieved by environments, practices, and artworks that stimulate self-reflection, collaboration, and a sense of meaning. When we become more open to the inquisitive spirit of play, we test the limits of our preconceptions. When we are mindful, we develop a deeper compassion and awareness. Burning Man serves as an example of a liminal realm; a transitional place. By immersing oneself in an ephemeral environment and intentionally nurturing a simultaneous balance between these states of mind, one may encounter the opportunity to learn, change, and grow. 

The intention for my installation is to create an environment that captures the essence of transformation at Burning Man. I present my own version of Brion Gysin’s Dream Machine to provide a space for reflection. The broken mirrors were intentionally added for the literal and conceptual reflective properties. This piece is effective when the viewer leans in with eyes closed. The darkness that usually partners the inside of the eyelids is replaced by color and light. The result signifies the self-reflective experience of transformation. 

Sector A: Philosophy and Science of Seeing


Advisors: Carin Berkowitz (HSOC) | Jennifer Cobuzzi (PSYC) | Jackie Tileston (FNAR)