From my vantage, I will try to explain the difference between the Burningman artists vs. the artist.
I was working Scope Art fair a few months ago when I encountered this line artists draw to differentiate themselves from each other.
There was a piece called "Walk-In Cooler". The creation process of the piece was, how should I put it, not particularly noteworthy. The cooler, looks like your regular old warehouse cooler, with no special or enhanced modifications.
The presence of this large glob in the artfair presented a problem to other serious "high brow" gallerist who wanted to give an impression of wealth to their wares. They made it obvious how much they disliked being surrounded by the general public who continually flocked to the cooler to get free iced cold beverages. The casual, free-for-all, installation had the unintended effect of turning serious collectors away from the neighboring exhibit and installations.
So I took a smoke break and had an opportunity to speak to the artist about his work inside the cooler. I avoided the topic that the serious gallerist were complaining non-stop about his installation. Amongst many questions, I asked him what the point of his piece was. He explained that he wanted wealthy collectors to experience the typical cooler outside of the drugstore environment. He also wanted viewers to consider whether they should be taking from an exhibit. Normally exhibits are hands-off. Well, obviously, most of the viewers, me included, when faced with free beer, didn't pause to consider that the cooler was an artpiece--so here was a classic case of an art experiment gone wrong.
I also asked him how he was making money from this particular piece. Well, he was a little evasive on this--something about the drinks were sponsored which really didn't answer my question.
Finally, I suggested that his installation would be perfect for Burningman, where in the desert, a "Walk-In Cooler" installation would be greeted with cheers and open arms.
In the manner of the other dealers and artists at Scope, he responds, "No way. Burningman artists are a different breed of artists". Then he continues to say he's a serious philosophically thinking artist whereas Burningman artists are not really so.
Being a non-Burningman artist myself, I found this statement quite curious. I am familiar with Burningman art and I have to say some pieces on the desert are fantastically thought out.
Last night, I had the opportunity to hang out with Burningman artists--from the Overkill camp. They were having a fundraiser, to take not one, not two, but three art cars into the desert. If you're curious what an art car is, well, to describe the process simply--these team of artists/artisans/mechanics demobilize a vehicle, such as a Hummer, and transform it into i.e., a moving owl. Slightly intoxicating if you ask me! And why an owl? And why a Hummer? For what reason?
Philosophically simple really. NO, I doubt it has anything to do with some reference to an obscure literary piece.
I suspect, that aside from the party madness, it's a simple display of skills and opulence. Burner artists, in general, hope that the effect of displaying their prowess with machinery, lighting, and design, will allow them to gain sponsorships, commission, and ability to fund their large appetite for travel. Money begets money. I have to admit, the strategy seems effective.
So in general the bottomline is, the main difference between the "non-philosophically thinking" Burningman artists and the artists, is, Burningman artists have a no-nonsense know-how on making Mulah, loot, dinero, dollar dollar bills ya'll--
leaving it at, "If it looks good and it's hip, then it's a good piece of artwork".