August 31st: Art Appreciation

Crude Awakening figure
Crude Awakening figure

Art
This afternoon I finally rode my bike out to the open playa and looked at some of the art installations. I feel like I’ve missed a lot of the art this year since I haven’t had much time to explore, so it was nice to get out there and just cruise around with my camp mates. We headed toward the oil derrick at Crude Awakening so that Tory and Justin could climb up the stairs to the platform. Unfortunately the site was roped off so the crew could prepare the derrick for tonight’s explosion. I felt lucky to have climbed up there twice yesterday considering the tower was only open for about 36 hours.

The Temple
The Temple

We rode over to David Best and Tim Dawson’s Temple of Forgiveness. From afar, the beautiful Temple is geometric and very sturdy looking, less delicate or intricate than years past. It’s composed of seven large cubes that form four entrance halls and a central altar that opens to the sky. It still features layers of intricately cut wood, and when I approached, one girl was writing a message on the surface. Another person was sitting on one of the benches, bent over with his forehead in his hands, clearly upset. I didn’t feel like sinking in to a deeply reflective mood, so I didn’t stay long.

Tory & Justin at Tasseograph
Tory & Justin at Tasseograph
Big Rig Jig
Big Rig Jig

Then we rode over to Tasseograph, a small temple made entirely of found objects and food packaging, and then on to Big Rig Jig, which is awesome of course. Mike Ross describes the project as ‘a visual metaphor for non-sustainability’ and it totally works. The two oil tankers are bent into a completely impossible position that makes you look at it again and again because your brain is so unfamiliar with the curves and the height and the way one is sticking out of the other. And then there’s the weight. The thing is so f**king heavy. For me, the sculpture itself is weirdly beautiful. At the same time, it’s as if the oil is so powerful, it has warped the tankers, like it has warped us.

For more information about the Honorarium art installations at Burning Man, go here:
http://www.burningman.com/installations/07_art_fund.html

Critical Tits
My friend Tory is a superstar. In addition to everything else, (she’s a firefighter, mountain biker, snowboarder, diver, surfer, photographer) she keeps feeding me delicious meals and she made matching green outfits for Kelly (also a firefighter), me (not a firefighter), and her to wear during Critical Tits. The three of us rolled out to the Man base at 4:00 and rode together in the parade.

If you’ve never been, Critical Tits is like Critical Mass, but topless women only, riding their bikes through the city to the delight and appreciation of the mostly male citizenry lining the streets. The stream of girls on bikes stretched out for a mile maybe- we couldn’t see the beginning or end from our vantage point. The half-hour ride ended at a party in deep, deep playa. Acavallo was there, with a really good band onstage and dancers on the horses, and the huge party area was surrounded by booths offering drinks and fresh fruit. It was beautiful outside, so we parked our bikes among the thousands that were there, checked our coordinates against the big landmarks, and went in through the front gate.

Within minutes, the wind kicked up and blew so much dust that my eyeballs got scratched. I had left my goggles on my bike. Such a rookie mistake! I tried waiting it out, but the storm got worse and I couldn’t see. I couldn’t even open my eyes anymore, so Kelly offered to take me back to our bikes and get my goggles. She took my hand and told Tory and Justin we’d be back in a few minutes.

Well, first we lost our bikes. We walked in their direction but couldn’t distinguish their location in the sea of bikes and impenetrable swirl of dust. We kept looking though, knowing in our hearts that we would come across them in the next pile of blown down bikes. Then we lost the party. We could no longer see the mass of people or the big stage or any of the booths or cars. At one point we couldn’t even hear the music. Then we couldn’t tell which music was which. Is it the Critical Tits party or an art car? When we stopped to ask a group of people if they knew where the party was, they pointed in opposite directions. Not a good sign.

We finally made our way back to the party after about 20 minutes, coming in from the opposite side near the stage, and realized we had made a big half-circle looking for our bikes. Next, we lost Tory and Justin. They were nowhere to be found. The storm was actually getting worse, so Kelly took me by the hand again and led us out into the void. We stumbled over bikes and people until we found an art car close by. She left me there and went to find our bikes. She came back a while later empty handed and ventured out again after making sure I was ok. I hadn’t opened my eyes in a long time (weird, try it) and I was sort of disgusted by the guy sitting next to me (way too friendly, drunk, obnoxious) but I was fine. After the second trip, she came back with both bikes and my goggles. I threw on the goggles and yelled hooray just in time to see that the dust storm was fast becoming a storm storm and everyone was making a mad dash from the open playa toward the grid.

We left the Critical Tits area and headed generally toward Center Camp into a fierce wind that knocked us both off our bikes and forced us to push them hard against it. Our progress was pretty slow. Then it started to rain. Then it got cold. And we still couldn’t see. Did I mention that we were wearing booty shorts, pasties, and go-go boots? We decided to change tack and aim for the Deep End- it seemed like a good time to go dancing. I thought a beer would be nice too, and the Paddy Mirage offered a great shelter, so we decided to stop there first if we could find it. We actually emerged from the worst of the storm right at 10:00 and Coral Reef. Nice navigation! We went inside, warmed up, and drank a Guinness. We were a mess- dirty and wet- but everyone was super nice to us, even asking to take our picture.

Double rainbow from the top of an RV
Double rainbow from the top of an RV

On our way out, we stopped by Crane Camp to see our friends Monte and Teresa, and they poured us a Margarita while we chronicled our epic adventure. We left a short time later and, as we drove down the street, someone said something about a rainbow. We stopped and got off our bikes because the scene was spectacular. The storm was clearing and in its wake was a perfect, end-to-end double rainbow. The color spectrum of the bottom one in particular was ridiculous. We hung out at that random spot for ten minutes or so, enjoying the view with everyone else who had stopped at that random spot to enjoy the view.

The stage at the Deep End
The stage at the Deep End

Kelly and I forged on to the Deep End, where we danced the afternoon away. The music was practically perfect. We ran into a bunch of different friends including Ben Long and Atma, and we watched the sun set behind the hills. It was so much fun. The whole afternoon was one of those amazing playa experiences I’ll never forget.

Adopt a Mohawk Night
I went to the Steampunk Treehouse tonight with Kelly and Scott French. The Kinetic Steam Works 1920 Case Traction Engine was there, and so was the one group of similar art vehicles with flame throwers, and so was Space Cowboys. It was such a great scene. We climbed up in the Treehouse and hung out a while, looking out across the Esplanade and listening to the INCREDIBLE train whistle.

Kelly, Scott, and me
Kelly, Scott, and me

At some point Kelly and I ended up at the giant dome at 10:00 & Esplanade, and we met a fantastic guy with amazing eyes and an orange Mohawk (Ok, ok, and a great body). We decided to adopt him for the night. We had a blast. I especially loved his whistle. Loud and metallic and unexpected. Like a marching band whistle. It was the most wonderful sound! I laughed and yelled for more.

The three of us went to a few different places, including the installation I thought was called Burninator X, but this is the one over by 7:30 that has the flame throwers surrounding a platform you stand on right in the middle while the flame throwers go off one by one, in order, all around you. Poof. Poof. Poof. Poof. Poof. Poof. Poof, poof, poof, poof, poof, poof. POOF POOF POOF POOF POOF POOF! It was totally intoxicating. We stayed there awhile, loving the heat and the noise and the light, and the stillness of the crowd on the platform. I hated to leave, but I was rightfully outvoted and our trio moved on.

We ended up at Opulent Temple for the duration, dancing together most of the night. The DJs were really good- I wish I knew who was spinning. (Maybe someone can let me know.) As we left, we walked over to the Cubatron Cone and watched the blinky lights. That was so beautiful. I think it would be beautiful any night, but it was especially beautiful tonight.

I warmed up at the fiery cactus installation in front of 4:45 and rode home at sunrise, another night gone. The Man burns tomorrow.

– Wanda Power

About the author: Marnee Benson

Marnee joined Black Rock Solar in 2009 as an environmental journalist and project manager who had recently organized a worldwide sailing expedition and global warming lecture series. While growing up in New Mexico, Marnee played tennis in the high-desert sun, ripped it up at local ski resorts, and rode bikes with her friends. She’s lived in Reno for more than ten years, after stops in Jackson Hole and southern California– where she played beach volleyball and studied math at San Diego State University. Marnee traded in her tennis racket and bikinis for carabiners and climbing shoes when she hit the Sierra Nevada, and she recently graduated from UNR with two master’s degrees in Environmental Science and Environmental Policy. She organized the Tour de Nez bike race for three years and sailed with Greenpeace International before turning her attention full-time to Black Rock Solar. In her spare time, Marnee counts her lucky stars for being able to work with the Holland Project and March Fourth Marching Band.

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