Bringing BIM to Burning Man Burning Man Art Installation 2

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

-Edgar Degas

Through the collaborative efforts of one of its CAD detailers, BIM Designs, Inc. was able to play a role in this bringing an artist’s vision to life during the 2019 Burning Man Festival, an annual late-summer event in Black Rock City, Nevada. Described in an August 2019 article by Insider as a center of “radical self-expression,” the Festival stretches across nine days, hosts tens of thousands of people from across the globe, and features dramatic and unique art installations. Each year, a giant wood effigy in the shape of a human is burned to the ground: the eponymous ‘Burning Man.’

Burning Man Art Installation 3

Burning Man Festival: Illusion. DeMattia explains that her inspiration for Illusion was the place where humanity, art and technology intersect. “To me, manipulating different computer programs…is art,” she said. Illusion consisted of 56 half-inch thick 4x8 acrylic panels arranged in concentric circles; plus eight rigid, foam humanoid figures representing people around the world.

Burning Man guests draw on interactive figuresFestival visitors used markers to enrich the figures with drawings and comments. “They became the artists and the art,” DeMattia explained. She described the transparent glowing circle arrangement as representing time and clarity. “It’s not money nor knowledge but clarity that’s our greatest power,” she said. “Our best decisions are made through clarity, and time is our greatest resource because it’s non-renewable.”

Before the Illusion project, Burlbaugh had never done a Revit model for purely artistic purposes; though, he’s worked in the construction industry and virtual design space for 32 years. DeMattia emphasized how essential their collaboration was, adding, “In my mind, Brian is an artist. He provided me a foundation – that’s the art.” Burlbaugh admitted, “You get into these models and see the art take shape. It’s pretty cool!”

DeMattia, who hosts multi-sensory workshops, describes herself as a “re-humanizer.” She explains that as a species, we have created systems that dehumanize us. “The very thing that makes us human, we’ve taken away. Trying to get clarity can be intimidating.” Reactions from the festival-goers, DeMattia related, were quite emotional. She recalled being told by one viewer, “This is what it’s like to be free.” She said, “We never know the capacity we have to make a difference in someone else’s life.” She thanked BIM Designs, and Burlbaugh in particular, for contributing the knowledge, expertise and collaborative BIM technology that helped bring Illusion art to the lives of the Festival attendees. “That was art. It can’t exist without the work these guys do.”


2020 Burning Man Art Installation

DeMattia has already begun planning for the 2020 exhibition of Illusion; and Ty Christensen, another BIM Designs CAD detailer, will be collaborating with her this time around. Christensen explained that he has been working as a BIM artist for about five years. In addition, he has a background in plumbing, manual drafting, and custom furniture-building. “I’ve always considered myself an artist,” he said. “Designing with BIM has expanded our capability of producing drawings, and it’s great for bringing clarity to someone’s vision. BIM brings more clarity to jobs, materials, laborers, and projects.”


Visit DeMattia’s Facebook page for more information and photos from Illusion 2019 :


The BIM Designs engineers, designers, detailers, and artists are committed to the collaborative process. Specializations include Building Information Modeling (BIM), Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), engineering and design/build, and preconstruction consulting. Connect with BIM Designs to collaborate on your next project.


Brian Burlbaugh BIM Artist     Ty Christensen BIM Artist


Caitlin Dunn

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