final prep

We watched the Man watch the sun go down
We watched the Man watch the sun go down

Are you packed?

Were you up all night? Have you wrapped up the loose ends? Have you finally decided what will just have to wait until you get back? I know, I know, no way. But just get your mind around it: You’re going to be away for a week, and I promise, the the minute you hit Gerlach the rest of your life is going to seem like it’s a long way away, I guarantee it. It’ll be ok.

Things are going to slow down and become more simple. Your customary items of conversation — the conventions, that new iPhone cover, they’re all going to fall away and you won’t miss them. In their place will come concerns about the basics: food, water, shelter. Oh, and love, friendship and fun. The basics. It’s what’s really important, and it’s pretty much what happens here. Things become more fundamental, and it gets a little easier to live in your true self. You’ll be less connected to the world, but more connected to people.

The Man actually has a heart, too. And a lot of the people who worked on him sign their names to it.
The Man actually has a heart, too. And a lot of the people who worked on him sign their names to it.

Sorry. I might have gotten carried away there for a second. It’s happened a couple of times now. I was out at the Temple yesterday, and ran into Shrine, the artist behind it, and I mumbled something about the “feeling” of the Temple emerging, that quiet, contemplative mood that will only get deeper when people start to bring out their own mementos, and you’ll look at the pictures and read the stories and your heart will ache. But I think there was just too much happening for Shrine, too much still to happen, for that feeling to have taken hold for him.

Speaking of the Temple, the major structures seem pretty squared away, and now all the amazing decorative pieces are being welded and attached. But I did hear that there was a bit of a problem with the second level, something about “wobbling,” which you’d have to view as a negative. This is an unconfirmed report, but this is a blog, so I’m going to take that liberty for now. And the only reason I do it is because I also heard that after some thought about keeping the second level off limits (not really a good option), an engineer arrived and figured out the way to make it all rock solid. So off we go.

The opening is really pressing down upon the city. (more…)

The Burning Man School of Art: 2008 Art Preview

Dan Das Mann handiwork, photo by John Curley
A Dan Das Mann devotional figure, photo by John Curley

The realities of creating artwork (or a theme camp, or anything else of reasonably large scale) at Burning Man fairly demand a communal effort. In fact, one of the most pertinent questions asked in the art grant discovery process is, “Who is your community?” This seemingly innocuous question is intended to determine whether the artist has identified a support network, a team with whom they will work, fundraise, and build their project.

This communal (and in some cases, consensus-based) creative model has several beneficial effects. First, the likelihood of the project’s success is exponentially increased. Secondly, the community immediately surrounding the artist invariably gels and becomes stronger by virtue of the team’s shared struggle. Finally, and most interestingly, team-based efforts become a sort of modern-day apprenticeship program. Burning Man has seen a number of artists hone their skills on somebody else’s team before venturing forth to head up their own projects.

Kate Raudenbush's "Altered State" in progress, photo by John Curley
Kate Raudenbush’s “Altered State” in progress, photo by John Curley

The compelling part of this dynamic is its cyclically self-perpetuating nature. It carries and nurtures within it the seed of its own continuance. As more artists succeed, in larger and more impressive ways, their community (read: team) gets better at working together in all aspects of the creative process, allowing them to attempt yet more ambitious projects. As these teams grow and improve their skills, more and more apprentices will spin off to become artists in their own right, further feeding the cycle. Indeed, what is sometimes half-jokingly deemed the “Burning Man School of Art” may not be a joke at all. There is certainly ample evidence to attest to the veracity of that seemingly fanciful description. (more…)

the skyscaper at the edge of town

This is Babylon, the 10-story steel tower that was built in four days at the far edge of Black Rock City. I have complicated feelings about this piece. On the face of it, it’s so un-Burning Man. It’s a union job, no DPW crew involved, and … it’s STEEL. True, there are lots of different materials used for art pieces, but this one seems a very radical departure.

One thing seems sure, though. It’s going to be a hell of a place to party. Ten stories, plenty of space to hang out, great views, and videos of the people inside broadcast outside on the side of the structure. Pretty damn amazing.

Let’s look at it as a new piece of furniture; give it a couple of days to see where it fits in.

one more reason to be happy

Just a little while after the last spire went in the ground, a dust devil came rolling right at us. When it blasted through, a big happy roar went up. You can\'t beat us, dust and wind ...
Just a little while after the last spire went in the ground, a dust devil came rolling right at us. When it blasted through, a big happy roar went up. You can't beat us, dust and wind ...

The last of the hundreds and hundreds of spires that have sprung up in Black Rock City was put in the ground late in the afternoon yesterday. A lot of the people who’ve been digging and pounding and putting up shade and everything else took a little time out to celebrate finishing the task.

It was funny to see all the Mad Max buggies and buses steaming across the desert floor (btw, I am consciously avoiding the use of the word “playa” from here on out. I can’t bring myself to say it or write it anymore. It’s a fine word, and useful, in that you can describe yourself as being “on the playa” instead of, say, at the Ranch or in Gerlach or Reno. But there’s something about “the playa” that’s beginning to grate on me (and yes, the event hasn’t even begun yet). What is it? What’s happening? Am I losing the glow? I don’t think so, but still …)

So anyway, there we were, in the golden light of late afternoon (which is something you NEVER get tired of!), steaming to a spot between 3 and 6 over near the Ghetto (where the DPW folks live), some music happening, maybe a beer or two being opened, to watch the rebar get hammered into the ground to support the spire. There was lots of hollering and whooping as the sledge got passed around, and when the post finally went up, people started to dance around it and hammer pieces of “art” on it to decorate. So check it out when you’re over there; it stands for a lot of what’s happened here so far.

So without anymore la di da, here are some of the folks who took some time out for a little party. (more…)

Burning Man Ticket Sales Deadline Extended

As previously announced, tickets are not being sold onsite at the Box Office this year. That policy still stands. As is common with the first year of a change in policy, a handful of participants may be caught by surprise as they make final plans. Also, traditionally advance sales have ended the Friday prior to the opening of the event. This was to allow time for the Will Call system to be prepared. Over the past several years we have been working to improve our electronic ticketing system, including computerized Will Call onsite. Our confidence in that system has grown to the point where we can accommodate online sales overlapping with the event opening.

We’ve heard from burners working to finalize their plans over the coming weekend, who are concerned about the lack of onsite sales, since they may need to arrange rides, get last minute approval for time off work, etc. We still want people to plan ahead and buy their tickets in advance, but feel that we can smooth this transition by extending outlet walk-in and online sales by a few days.

Online sales will now continue four more days through Tuesday, August 26th at 12:00 PM midnight. Tickets can be purchased here.

Bay Area and Sacramento walk-in ticket outlets will continue ticket sales two more days through the end of business day Sunday, August 24th. Our Reno ticket outlet will continue sales four more days through Tuesday, August 26th. For outlet locations and hours visit our tickets page.

Also, as a reminder all Will Call tickets MUST be collected at the Box Office no later than 12:00 noon Saturday, August 30th.

For all your ticket questions visit [para_end]

Some of the people throwing this party

Bean is everywhere there is something that needs doing
Bean is everywhere there is something that needs doing

So I know the pictures can make the desert look all pretty and gorgeous and everything, but you oughta know what’s really going on out here in the days and weeks before the gates open: A lot of work. A lot of hot, hard, dusty, back-breaking work.

You'd never know this was Blondage's first time
You'd never know this was Blondage's first time

There are blisters on top of blisters, aching muscles and even backs that don’t quite stand up straight anymore. There are cramps and sunburn and cuts and scratches and just pure exhaustion, both physical and mental.

There have been holes to be dug, lumber to lift, canvas to stretch, spires to construct, nails to hammer and about 8 million zip ties to tie. It’s ridiculous to even try to describe the thousands of things that need doing to put on this party.

Here’s a pretty lame attempt at trying: Imagine you’ve got a new place, and your in-laws are coming. You’re still in boxes, but you’re on the hook for dinner for 15. Oh, and the deck and the bathroom and the kitchen are in the middle of a remodel. And the nearest store is three hours away. And it’s the middle of summer, and the air-conditioning doesn’t work.

If you didn't tape up for fence day, you were in trouble.
If you didn't tape up for fence day, you were in trouble.

That doesn’t even begin describe what it’s like out here.

The DPW crew and others know that most people show up at the gate not really knowing or caring how this all got here. And that’s fine; that’s the way it is when you go to a party.

So who the hell ARE these people who do all the work? And why do they do it, exactly?

Playground is usually smiling, no matter how stressful the situation
Playground is usually smiling, no matter how stressful the situation

There’s no way to answer that question, really. Because people have as many different motivations as people have for coming to the Burn. And don’t forget, there will be absolutely no sign that any of this labor ever happened by the end of September or so. It’ll be gone. Leave no trace.

So what’s it about? (more…)