In the art world, he is known as the “temple builder” of Burning Man, this hybrid festival which brings together thousands of followers each year in the American desert of Black Rock, in Nevada: vast wooden structures which festival-goers set on fire after a week of festivities and artistic experiences.
Today, it is in the United Kingdom that the sculptor is temporarily anchored, the time of a tribute “to the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic” in Bedworth, a small town in central England, explains the site of the BBC.
“A path to peace”
Sanctuary, a wooden temple 22 meters high, is to be inaugurated on Saturday May 21 in a city park, the Miner’s Welfare Park. And “it will be set on fire a week later”.
Commissioned by the artistic event production company Artichoke, the work (which cost 650,000 pounds, or approximately 770,000 euros) can be visited freely. All those who wish can leave letters, photos or objects that remind them of deceased relatives. They can choose to recover them before the fire of the work or to offer them to the fire.
The structure looks like “a gigantic and incredible puzzle”, reports The Guardian, who spoke with Helen Marriage, the director of the structure. Taking up many themes dear to David Best, such as death, mourning, but also rebirth and resilience, the ephemeral sanctuary is intended, as the British daily formulates, a “path to peace”.
The specialized site Artnet evokes for its part a “spiritual opportunity for residents to mourn and express their grief”. In other words, the organizers and the artist are counting on this public work to offer an outlet for the bereaved of the pandemic. And they are many : The Guardian recalls that the Covid-19 has killed 177,000 people in the United Kingdom.
Is there also a political approach on the part of the artist? David Best told the newspaper that he wanted to relay the anger of part of the British nation: “This anger that I feel myself, that is felt all over your country towards Boris Johnson [le Premier ministre britannique, critiqué pour sa gestion de la pandémie]. I hear people say: ‘Look what happened, you abandoned mine to death.’”
More Sanctuary above all gives food for thought on the question of permanence, what lasts and what is ephemeral. The British daily analyzes the artist’s work as follows:
“This is one of the meanings of the word ‘sanctuary’: refuge. And what is mourning if not a form of loneliness and wandering ?”
In Londonderry already
To those who are concerned about religious proselytism concealed under a work of art, Helen Marriage assures that “Sanctuary does not belong to a particular religion or belief system, because each visitor must be able to find his own way of healing”. She argues this as follows:
“To deliver these structures to the flames is a process of rebirth, to move forward.”
This is not the first time that David Best (to whom the idea for the ephemeral temples came about twenty years ago, after the disappearance of a friend in a motorcycle accident) has carried out a project in the United Kingdom. Uni: one of its structures, called Londonderry, was set ablaze in 2015 in the Northern Ireland town of the same name to commemorate the Time of Troubles (the Northern Irish conflict that lasted from 1968 to 1998).