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Tuesday, August 8, 2023

USD-based Artists Commissioned to Build Art for Burning Man

Written by Kroc School

In a world often torn apart by conflicts and divisions, there exists an oasis of collective creativity that embraces the human spirit and explores the ever-evolving relationship between technology and humanity. Unfolding Humanity is a sculpture undertaken by the Art Builds Collective at University of San Diego, and it has been commissioned as an honoraria project for this year’s Burning Man. Originally exhibited in 2018, this interactive sculpture has undergone a complete makeover, and its revival promises to captivate hearts and minds once more.

That’s undoubtedly why Art Builds exists in the first place. Launched several years ago by University of San Diego professors Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick at the Kroc School of Peace Studies, Gordon Hoople from Integrated Engineering in the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, Diane Hoffoss in Mathematics, and Nate Parde from Theatre Studies, the effort is supported with hundreds of volunteer hours every year and is now a registered non-profit organization.

“We’re keenly motivated,” says Choi-Fitzpatrick, “by the idea that art can be collective action, and that it can bring us together around shared projects for the public good.”

The Magic of Unfolding Humanity

Unfolding Humanity is no ordinary sculpture; it is a testament to the boundless potential of collective creativity and imagination. This steel dodecahedron, adorned with over 17,000 LEDs, illuminates the playa and beckons all who encounter it to ponder the intricate balance between humanity and technology. As the lights turn on and off, the sculpture comes to life, challenging visitors to explore the interplay between their own humanity and the ever-expanding realm of technology in the vastness of the desert landscape. This sculpture was conceived, designed, and built by a large group (80+) of faculty, students, and community volunteers.


Unfolding Humanity, Burning Man 2023. Photo Credit —Bob Mule

At the core of this awe-inspiring artwork lies a pentagonal wall that gracefully unfolds under human power. This simple yet profound act invites visitors to step forward and participate, becoming co-creators of the unfolding process. As they do so, they are rewarded with infinite reflections in the mirrored interior, prompting contemplation on the interconnectedness of all beings and the boundless potential that arises when we work together in harmony.

The Pathway to Peace

Unfolding Humanity goes beyond being a mesmerizing art piece. It serves as a metaphor for the journey towards peace. Just as the sculpture unfolds, revealing new perspectives, and reflecting the interplay of lights, the desert landscape, and the stars above, we, too, must unfold our hearts and minds to understand one another better. Through embracing our collective creativity and collaborating across big differences, we can navigate the complexities of our world and build a future that celebrates creativity and difference.

“Humanity faces an increasingly uncertain future – this is a clear invitation to create new ways of collaborating and creating, even if it’s across really big differences. Universities are the perfect place to be doing that thinking, dreaming, building, and creating.”

- Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, Professor at the Kroc School of Peace Studies

As Unfolding Humanity returns to Burning Man, it stands as a beacon of hope, inviting us all to explore the profound connection between art, technology, and peace. The Kroc School of Peace Studies celebrates this magnificent piece and its embodiment of collective creativity, encouraging us all to embrace our shared humanity and work together to unfold a brighter future for generations to come. May we be inspired by this art to harmonize the tensions between technology and humanity and build a world where peace and creativity intertwine like the infinite reflections within the sculpture's mirrored interior.


Kroc School

About the Author

Kroc School

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies' mission is to equip and empower innovative changemakers to shape more peaceful and just societies.