When huge art installations emerge in the middle of a Nevada desert during the Burning Man festival, a stunning, surreal view opens up to the attendees.

Luckily, Kyivans have the chance to undergo a similar experience this summer, and without traveling far.

A massive wooden Merman installation, partially funded by Burning Man, was set up in the city center on July 6 and is now free to visit.

The piece was supposed to be displayed at last year’s festival, but the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the 2021 edition was canceled too, the Ukrainian team behind the Merman decided to find another way to share their work with the public.

“We wanted to have as many people as possible to see it at no cost,” project leader Pavel Sakharov told the Kyiv Post.


The installation will remain at its current location on the observation deck near the People’s Friendship Arch through July 12 and will then move to the area of Kyiv’s River Port. It is still set to display at Burning Man in 2022. 

An annual eight-day festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, Burning Man is one of the world’s most visually impressive events that promotes art and self-expression, community and self-sufficiency.

Every year, the festival selects art projects and funds them through their grant program. Merman was selected along with 58 other winners in 2020.

The Merman is a 12-meter-tall, hyper-realistic construction made of a total of 288 wooden blocks strung onto eight metal rods with bolts. It portrays the upper part of a swimming man’s body as if coming out of the ground like water. 

“A man who is swimming makes choices every second: either he sinks to the bottom, or he continues swimming,” Sakharov says, “It is a manifestation that everything is possible to overcome.”

The creation of the sculpture was a scrupulous month and a half long physical process in a workshop with twelve additional hours to put the pieces together on set, Sakharov explained, “but the result is some kind of magic.”


The project involved a team of five Ukrainian “burners,” as the festival enthusiasts refer to themselves, and Russian Sakharov, who has been attending Burning Man every year since 2017.

Merman had half of its expenses covered by the festival, but they didn’t disclose the sum. The team didn’t disclose the sources of the rest of the budget.

Ukraine has an active Burning Man community, which travels to the Black Rock Desert annually, sets up camps and constructs art pieces, sometimes financed by the state.

The 2015’s “Love” combined two gigantic forms of a man and a woman, picked out by a framework of iron pipes, sitting dejectedly back to back, while inside each the translucent form of a child reaches out to the other. The 2018’s “Ai.tlants” symbolized the future of the planet where technology and humans are united. 

Check Merman near the People’s Friendship Arch (Parkova Road) through July 12 and near the Kyiv River Port (3 Poshtova Sq.) after that.

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