Posts during May, 2010


May 31st, 2010  |  Filed under Environment

Greetings Burners…a Memorial Day sermonette for your sinning pleasure…

I live next to the Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, where thousands of soldiers are on their backs, staring into the earth above them, their last memory a moment of pain in the Civil War. Their bullets were removed, and their bodies carried on wagons and trains back to New York where their loved ones stared at them hard and sang to them and wept, and then one by one they too lay down next to their fathers and brothers and sons.
Photo by magnetomotive via Flickr

Photo by magnetomotive via Flickr

In the United States, we won’t remember these things on Memorial Day. Not in the way of a strong memory that moves us. Our minds will be cleared of the images so that we are ready for our next directed act of consumption. For instance, we will be readied to experience war as visual entertainment, war as an event without meaning, battles as ads – so that we will forget Viet Nam and buy Iraq, forget Iraq and buy Afghanistan.
And personally, I live in a time of my life when my body is mimicking the memory loss of society at large. If the culture of the USA is memory-erasing, I too have to fight for the sensual details of my personal past. We are hyped literally out of our minds until Memorial Day turns into a three-day weekend. I hope today that we are able to remember the dead and resurrect the future.
The Massey coal blast, and BP’s poisoning of the gulf – these are interruptions that worry the corporate marketers because they revive our memory. These two disasters are man-made, but oil and coal is the Earth too and the Earth is finding inventive ways to excite our memory. That oil won’t stop because that bleeding wound is necessary. Nothing that comes from modern culture can shock us. There are no Picassos or Elvis Presleys anymore. But the Earth, the Earth can more than shock us.
We are Earth’s rogue species. The Earth says that this is the time that our drilling down into the ancient sunlight of oil and coal be replaced by a view of the millennia of life there, that we see the original life buried beneath the mountains and oceans, that we see it and remember it. Our personal ancestors live too, with untapped energy, beneath our mountains of disinformation. My neighbors died so that we would not enslave our fellow Americans. If we really remembered this on Memorial Day, we wouldn’t be afraid of the corporations and fundamentalists. Remembering is a radical act.
May 25th, 2010  |  Filed under Metropol

Changing Environmental Consciousness Through Urban Planning

[This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]

How do you get 50,000 people gathering in a remote desert to Leave No Trace of their having been there… without a garbage can in sight?  How do you encourage a bike, pedestrian and public transportation culture in a country addicted to the automobile?  How do you change the collective consciousness — and behavior — of a city’s population?

Jaime Lerner re-invented urban space in his native Curitiba, Brazil. He participated in the 2007 TED Conference in Monterey, CA, where he gave an inspired presentation about revolutionizing bus transit, awakening green consciousness in a populace accustomed to litter and blight, and changing the way city planners and bureaucrats worldwide conceive what’s possible within the metropolitan landscape. And he throws in a little song for good measure.

What are your thoughts about affecting social change through urban planning?

May 25th, 2010  |  Filed under Metropol

Managing Diversity: The Zoning of Black Rock City

[Harley K. DuBois is a founding member of the Burning Man Board, with over 15 years of project management, art and city planning experience. As the City Manager of Black Rock City, Harley oversees both the Playa Safety Council and Community Services departments. She originated theme camp placement, the Greeters, Playa Info, and Burning Man Information Radio, and has kindled the development of all other Community Service teams. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]

The zoning of Black Rock City began, from my recollection, by about our third year on the Black Rock Desert. There was nothing official about it at first; it was completely casual and self-governing. People simply camped with their friends or other like-minded folks. That meant that people who stayed up late and were loud at night camped together. People that had mad scientific projects involving explosions and fire clustered around each other, and those that liked the sunrise and afternoon activities created a spot of their own.

The First Theme Camp: Christmas Camp, 1993

The First Theme Camp: Christmas Camp, 1993

The origin of theme camp placement was the chaotic debrief meeting after the 1994 event. I raised my hand with an idea (… learning quickly that in the Burning Man culture, you’re likely to be tasked with doing the ideas you voice!). I suggested that instead of lining our city streets like the “default world” does with commercial ventures, why not use theme camps to help define the city? In 1995, there were about 10 camps placed (my personal favorite was Birthday Camp were it was everyone’s birthday every day), and they helped define Center Camp both physically and culturally.

In 1996, the amount of camps doubled, and placement included No Man’s Land. In 1997, when the growing population necessitated our first fully-conceived city layout (see Rod Garrett’s post Designing Black Rock City for more information), I placed theme camps along the Esplanade frontage, delineating the end of the city proper and the beginning of our central art space on the open playa. Placement was done largely to honor those creating the interactive camps, to curate an experience for citizens, and to activate an area that had significance. To this day this is still largely the intent of placing theme camps throughout Black Rock City.

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May 25th, 2010  |  Filed under Metropol

Running in Great Cities

[The Reverend Billy Talen is the founder of The Church of Life After Shopping, a project of The Immediate Life, a New York based arts organization using theater, humor, and grassroots organizing to advance individuals and communities towards a more equitable future. Reverend Billy has been preaching against consumerism since 1996. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]

And now, fresh from the “Condemned Diner Center for Urban Design” – a traumatized Burner jogs across Amsterdam and gives us a report of strange goings on. He needs so badly to get to Black Rock City this year, where he believes the nature of the staring eyes will change…

Photo by Amsters@m via Flickr

Today I jogged through Amsterdam from the Royal Palace on Dam Square to the mouth of the river. Like many European city centers, Amsterdam has evolved into a super mall, an old surface covered with the images of models posing with products, often in gigantic proportions. There is a spell cast on me, regardless of how much outright disgust I have for corporate marketing. By the end of the run, I’ve had thousands of these mannequin-humans stare into my eyes…

The expressions in the models’ faces are the whole range of human experience, from giddy to aghast. Whatever the emotion, they are intense. They make an emotional zone on the sidewalks or plaza before them. We are in the “view shed” of the eyes of these actors, who seem to see something unspeakably mesmerizing, shocking, threatening… Read more »

May 18th, 2010  |  Filed under Metropol, Spirituality

The Temple: Sacred Heart of Black Rock City

[Lee Gilmore teaches Religion & Anthropology at California State University Northridge and is author of Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]

As travelers, historians, and archaeologists can tell you, great cities contain spiritual and ritual centers–physical manifestations of the human quest for the transcendent and magisterial.  Grand cathedrals, imposing temples, and mosques with soaring minarets–each an attempt to intersect both divine and earthly powers.  For Black Rock City, that heart is perhaps best identified with the annual Temples–each an ephemeral locus of memory and mourning.

 

Rod Garrett tells us that the origins of BRC’s famous layout of concentric circles lay in pragmatic and organic decisions.  Nevertheless, when viewed through a symbolic lens, its template readily suggests a labyrinth or mandala.  The placement of the Man at the BRC’s center readily evokes what historian of religion Mircea Eliade called the axis mundi–a symbolic manifestation of the sacred center of the cosmos and the location of hierophany–the eruption of the sacred into the profane world. As both the spatial center and temporal apex towards which each annual event is definitively aimed, The Man forms axis of space and time in Black Rock City.

Yet over the course of the past decade, the sacred heart of Burning Man has shifted a few hundred yards outward.  Where the Burning of the Man can bring joy, catharsis, and transformation sharpened into a singular, ecstatic moment, Temples’ rites can engender a deeper and perhaps more difficult self-examination in asking us to consider our own mortality.

The Temples grew out of tragedy and immediacy when Petaluma artist David Best first transformed his 2000 playa installation called the Temple of the Mind into an impromptu memorial for a friend who had died in the weeks just before the event that year.

Temple of Tears, 2001

In 2001, a similar but significantly expanded structure would be called the Temple of Tears where all Black Rock Citizens were invited to inscribe memorials upon ornate wooden walls and to leave behind photos and other objects of personal significance. As my friend and colleague Sarah Pike has noted, through the physical inscription of memories on the Temple’s walls, and in turn through reading the inscriptions of others, participants were able to share, ritualize, and transform private grief into public expression in ways that are generally unavailable to many contemporary Americans.  Finally, on the festival’s final night, the Temple and its tokens were ultimately offered up in flame, dust, and ashes as thousands looked on in reverential silence.

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May 16th, 2010  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), Events/Happenings

“Duel Nature” coming to Reno Nevada

Duel Nature by Kate Raudenbush Burning Man 2006

Previously exhibited at Burning Man in 2006, Duel Nature, by artist Kate Raudenbush, is unique in its materials, (Plasma cut steel, steel tubing, red acrylic mirror) scale (38’ x 38’) and artistic vision. During Artown, fire dancers and spinners from Controlled Burn will entertain Tuesday evenings 8:00 – 10:00.  Hula Hoopers from Velocity Movement and bohohoops present “GET HOOPED” at Hoop Jams on Wednesday evenings from 6:30-8:30 – all levels and ages are welcome. Hula hoops provided or bring your own! Join us in celebration of Duel Nature at the opening celebration:

May 21, 2010
5 pm
Corner of Sierra St. and Island Ave. Reno, NV
Wine & Appetizers: Sierra Arts Foundation Gallery, and then along the RiverWalk

Hula Hoop Jam from 5-8,
followed by Fire Spinning by Controlled Burn,
Music by DJSource

“Duel Nature references the spiral of our human DNA. The struggle inherent to the duality of the human condition is expressed by the violence of the raw plasma-cut, bolted steel exterior, in contrast with the vitality of the interior blood-red mirror. As visitors gather inside the vibrant core of the sculpture, their myriad reflections remind us of our shared genetic bond and our shared humanity,” says the artist Kate Raudenbush.

“This is the third Burning Man art installation to come to Reno through the collaboration of the Civic Art Program of the Black Rock Arts Foundation, the non-profit art organization of Burning Man, and The City of Reno Arts and Culture Commission’s grant program. Duel Nature supports the mission of the Reno Arts program to involve its citizens in the community’s cultural life and encourage artistic excellence,” said Maria Partridge, Reno project liaison for BRAF and Advisory board member.

“We believe the exhibition of Duel Nature during Artown will serve the community in many ways,” said Crimson Rose, Member of the Board of Directors, BRAF and Board Member and Art Director for Burning Man. “By enhancing civic space through the temporary transformation of an empty lot into an inviting art park and creating a creative gathering spot for Reno citizens with weekly performances and workshops that provide entertainment and interactive possibilities that the community can enjoy for free.”

For additional photos and information about Duel Nature

photo: Kate Raudenbush

May 14th, 2010  |  Filed under Events/Happenings

Burning Man Film Festival-San Francisco

The Official Burning Man Film Festival will showcase 20 short and feature length films when it takes place on June 12-13, 2010 in San Francisco.  Produced by Andie Grace and Dave Marr, the Film Festival will offer theatergoers a unique look at Burning Man through the eyes of filmmakers who’ve documented various aspects of the event throughout the years. Saturday’s “Then” line-up will feature films shot between 1991 and 2003 and Sunday’s “Now” queue boasts an array of films shot from 2002 to 2010. On Saturday evening, there will be a special screening of Juicy Danger Meets Burning Man and a reception with art, roving performance, a raffle and more! The festival will be held at the Red Vic Movie House at 1727 Haight Street, SF, CA 94117. For a full listing of films and to purchase advanced tickets, visit: http://www.burningman-filmfest.com/home/.

“This festival is a rare and unique opportunity to see Burning Man from the beginning,” said festival co-producer David Marr.  “[The Film Festival] is a chance to see how [Burning Man] was created and what effect it has on us today.”

Over the past few years, the Burning Man “Film Festival in a Box” program has been a way for Burners across the world to bring their communities together and to educate others about the Burning Man culture and values. Recently, BM film festival screenings were held in Paris, Los Angeles, and Saskatchewan. In February,  the San Diego Burning Man Film Festival was held at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park and local hoop troupes, belly dancers, and musicians offered their talents up as part of the weekend program. If you are interested in having a BM Film Festival in your city, get in touch with your local Burning Man Regional Contact.

We hope to see you at the Red Vic in June!

May 13th, 2010  |  Filed under Environment, Technology

Grassroots Mapping the Oil Spill in the Gulf Coast Region

Oil Spill Mapping in the Gulf Coast Region Photo: Stewart Long

Last week Andrew Johnstone of Burning Man Earth said:

This morning Stewart Long, who does all our hi res aerial stitching, flies out to Louisiana with equipment designed for BRC to provide imagery for the clean up efforts. I am again humbled that our efforts to record Black Rock City are applied to real world problems to make a tangible difference.

I knew that Burners around the world would want to know more about how Burners are taking it upon themselves to make a difference. Stewart says we can follow their mapping of the oil spill at Grassroots Mapping.  And here is Stewart’s report posted today:

One week into the grassroots mapping of the Gulf of Mexico crisis, the first local New Orleans team is now in place. Support coming in from regional agencies, fishermen, universities, various media: PBS: DIY Mappers.