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Did David Guetta and Nicki Minaj Steal From Burning Man for Their Billboard Music Awards Performance?

It seems someone has been caught dusty handed with HYBYCOZO's designs.

by Jemayel Khawaja
May 20 2015, 10:30pm

At the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas this past weekend, David Guetta and Nicki Minaj's performance of their tune "Hey Mama" drew headlines for the rapper's twerking, but the stage design itself is now bringing a much less desirable heat. Structures on stage with Guetta and Minaj nearly identical to those of a Burning Man art installation known as the HYBYCOZO series have prompted accusations the DJ and rapper stole someone else's work.

"We received several calls in the evening telling on Sunday telling us to turn on the TV to watch the David Guetta performance because our design was popping up all over the stage," designer Yelena Filipchuck tells THUMP. "It was so egregious that people who weren't even that familiar with the project sent us messages asking us if we did the stage design!"

2:15 into the performance, the structures are unveiled.


Filipchuck and her design partner Serge Beaulieu debuted the HYBYCOZO installation at Burning Man after a successful Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2014. The series of steel-wrought, laser-cut, light-emitting geometrical structures went on to become one of the most photographed installations in the festival world after follow-up appearances at Treasure Island festival in San Francisco and Further Future outside of Las Vegas earlier this month.

HYBYCOZO, a contraction of Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone, features a number of different geometric permutations placed in conjunction, but in particular, the pentagonal dodecahedron (12-sided structure of five-sided panels) is the design that the designers suggest was pinched by Guetta and Minaj.

HYBYCOZO at Burning Man, 2014.

a side-by-side comparison of the HYBYCOZO dodecahedron (L) and Guetta/Minaj's stage sculpture (R)

Even a cursory visual analysis suggests that the similarities are unlikely coincidental. "The size looks similar at six feet tall," says Filipchuck. "The pattern attempts to be a copy, we zoomed in and the composition of the pattern matched exactly [a circle in a pentagon] on a grid of lines coming out of the corners. The shape itself even had the same thicker darker edges, glowing from the inside and matched the distinctive laser-cut repeating patterns that we are known for."

Strengthening Filipchuck and Beaulieu's intellectual property theft case is the more circumstantial evidence in the "Hey Mama" video, in which Guetta and Minaj galavant in distinctly Burning Man-themed scenes, replete with dusty post-apocalyptic revelers, art cars, and a stage setup commonly used at Burner spin-off events like Desert Hearts.

Guetta enjoys burner vibes in the video for his and Minaj's "Hey Mama"

It's unclear as to whether culpability for the offense falls at the feet of artists or stage designers hired by their teams, or Billboard, which staged the award show. The HYBYCOZO team is hoping someone will own up to what they consider a forgery.

"The part that hurts the most is that we are young artists doing festival art and stage design. Now it feels like anything we do will just be copied by one of these huge corporate teams," Filipchuck adds. "If they wanted this aesthetic they should have contacted us to discuss the options rather than [create] what a appears to be blatant rip off of our art without our permission."

Guetta has not yet responded to a request for comment.

HYBYCOZO is on Facebook // Instagram // Official Site
Jemayel Khawaja is Managing Editor of THUMP

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