I Just Wanted to Say

In the spirit of Andie and Halcyon’s recent posts on sharing the concept of cultivation of “playa-spirit” year-round, I wanted to share the project, “I Just Wanted To Say,” a simple and engaging project that explores creating friendlier cities through the reprogramming of public transport and public seating space.

“I Just Wanted to Say” Artist Yen Trinh

This project was developed by self proclaimed, urbanist and designer, Yen Trinh, of Brisbane, Australia, with graphic design support from Steven Rhodes, also from Brisbane. It was developed in conjunction with PLATFORM, a project devised by the Public Art Unit, Project Services. It was curated by the Museum of Brisbane and the Brisbane City Council and received financial support through art+place, the Queensland Government’s Public Art Fund.

Concept mock-up of Yen Trinh’s work, with graphic design support from Steven Rhodes

Design is too often seen as a superfluous and elitist preoccupation. In this project, however, Yen moves beyond the realm of logos, posters and objects and uses design as opportunity and agent for change. This project re-imagines design concepts typically found in public transport signs as an opportunity for interaction and conversation. Namely, it takes the idea of “priority seating” and adds a unique twist.

Easily accessible seats on public transport are universal. They have traditionally been designated for elderly and disabled based on both a culture of courtesy and handicap access legislation. This project uses similar visual design to create “priority seating for people who want conversation,” helping to cultivate “a culture of friendliness.”

Excerpt from the Signage:
Conversations in public spaces present endless possibilities to build connections, create community, and just make someone’s day a bit more interesting.

What makes this project interesting — and relevant to the cultivation of Black Rock City spirit — is its call for participation: anyone can download the design and make their own priority seating for conversation.

The work is currently on view in Brisbane at the RBH Busway Station until March 2011. An adapted version was seen at the Williamburg Walks in New York last June. Where else will it be on display? Well, that is most certainly up to you.  Do you know a place that could be transformed into priority seating for conversion? I just bet you do. As the project designers say: Friendliness is contagious. Pass it on.

Download priority seating signs here.

Life As Theme Camp

Traveling through Amsterdam in fur pants – as a Theme Camp ambassador.

Burning Man is overflowing with lessons. One that I’m becoming increasingly aware of is that life is more awesome when you live as an ambassador from a Theme Camp.

Last week, during my Hug Nation broadcast, I discussed what Theme Camps are and how they have profoundly affected the way that I interact with the world.


Halcyon )'(

YAYYYY! (And you can, too!)

We got this note from a Burner named Janet (note: Happy Birthday, Janet!) this morning and we’re grinning from ear to ear. What’s a YAY!? Click the link to see this sweet little photo story and find out for yourself.

My campmates from Figment Slums/Figmint Cafe invented this a few years ago, and it’s a Burning Man tradition with them. In 2010, our next door neighbors took up the cry. YAY!

Now we’re spreading it to the default world. We’ve done it twice in Tucson, and once in Santa Cruz. YAY!
Playa love and joy spreading on the streets!
If you decide to try this where you live, don’t forget to bring a camera and tell us about it!

Black Rock Solar’s New Executive Director

Black Rock Solar, Burning Man’s sister non-profit dedicated to expanding the use of renewable energy through installation, art, education, and job training, is pleased to announce that Patrick (Paddy) McCully has joined Black Rock Solar, taking on the role of Executive Director.

Paddy is originally from Newtownards, Northern Ireland. He joins BRS from International Rivers, where he spent 17 years (six of them as Executive Director) working to protect rivers around the world from destructive dams and to promote human rights and sustainable water and energy practices.

Before coming to the United States in 1993, he worked with environmental non-profits in the UK and Uruguay. Paddy is on the advisory boards of two Indian non-profits and was formerly on the steering committee of the UN Environment Program’s Dams and Development Project. His book Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams, described by prize-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy as a “dazzling book,” has been translated into five languages.

With such an illustrious career in the environmental non-profit arena, and being a Burner himself, Black Rock Solar is very excited to have Paddy join the team, helping to further its mission.

For more information about Black Rock Solar, please visit their website.

Hawaii Part Two: O’ahu Boogaloo

Burning Man, Hawaiian style…the Ka Palina flag

“O’ahu” is Hawaiian for “The Gathering Place.” In keeping with its name, I found O’ahu to be the most diverse Hawaiian island I visited and also the most cosmopolitan. The pristine beaches and lush hills are sharply contrasted by the skyscrapers, highways, and factories of Honolulu and its surrounding areas. Amidst this duality, one finds business moguls, adventurous tourists, surfers and wayward souls who fled “The Mainland” for O’ahu and decided to stay. Such was the case with our two O’ahu Burning Man Regional Contacts, Geoff Hearl and Andi Cuniberti as well as with many other Burning Man participants who have created a home for themselves on this island in the middle of the Pacific.

In a dedicated effort to bring the Burners on O’ahu together and to keep the Burning Man spirit alive year-round, Andi and Geoff offer a warm welcome to those wanting to get involved with the Hawaii Burning Man community.

Upon our arrival in Honolulu, Andie Grace and I were greeted, leis in hand, by Andi, Geoff and Mike, a Hawaiian Burner who’d come to Black Rock City for the first time in 2010. Over a home-cooked dinner at Andi’s house on the North Shore, we learned a great deal about Burner life on O’ahu and the ways in which Andi and Geoff are encouraging year-round participation through a range of projects, Meet n Greets and other community gatherings.

Our gracious hosts,Geoff (left) and Andi (right), in line at Keneke’s BBQ

One way in which Burners can participate in Hawaii is through the first ever CORE Project (Circle of Regional Effigies). This year, Hawaii and over twenty-five Burning Man Regional groups from across the world will be building effigies on playa in a circle around the Man. These effigies will be burned ceremoniously on playa to celebrate the year-round communities that have grown out of the Burning Man event. Many Regional groups have chosen to create an effigy that symbolizes their city or state (for example, the Las Vegas Burners are building a showgirl) while other groups have chosen to recreate an effigy from one of their official Burning Man Regional events. The Hawaii Burners’ contribution to the circle will be “The Phoenix,” an effigy they built for Rebirth, an annual camping event that takes place on the Big Island. The design for “The Phoenix” was initially conceived by artist Mike Muang who travels each year from Boston to Hawaii to build the wooden sculpture that is burned, like the Man, on Saturday evening each year during Rebirth. Recreating “The Phoenix” on playa will take a lot of man power as well as some fundraising. Currently, Andi and Geoff are looking for artists and other creative spirits to come forward and share their ideas and skills.There are currently myriad ways to get involved with the CORE project as well as Burnal Equinox, an upcoming community event in Honolulu.Proceeds from Burnal Equinox event in Honolulu will directly fund the purchase of supplies and materials for ‘The Phoenix” effigy build. For more information, visit the Hawaii page in the Regionals section of the Burning Man website.

“The Phoenix” effigy burn at Rebirth, 2008 (Photo by Seth from Honolulu)

The CORE project is not only a way for the Hawaii group to come together through hands-on participation but also a way to let other Hawaiian Burners know that there are ways to stay connected to Burning Man year-round on O’ahu.  “Burners from all over Hawaii go to Burning Man but they don’t always know that we have a local community here on the islands,” Andi explains. “Maybe having ‘The Phoenix’ out out on playa this year will raise awareness.”

Another way in which Andi and Geoff have been encouraging year-round participation has been through hosting Meet n Greet events on O’ahu. During our visit, Andie Grace and I had the pleasure of attending a Meet n Greet at Bar 35 in Honolulu’s Chinatown. With a wide grin, Geoff told us about how the O’ahu Meet n Greets have, over the years, been a great way to bring local Burners together and to welcome visitors into the local Burner scene. “I get a call or email from a Burner several times a month. Sometimes they are just passing through but other times, they are new to the island and looking to connect,” Geoff beamed. “If there’s a beach burn or a Meet n Greet happening, I invite them. Otherwise, I make it a priority to meet up and show them around town.”

The twenty or so Burners that made it out for the Meet n Greet at Bar 35 ran the gamut from the seasoned Burner to the excited Newbie. As our luck would have it, Playarazzi Andy, a professional photographer who registers with us each year at Media Mecca, happened to be visiting O’ahu at the same time and made his way to Bar 35. Through chatting with other Burners at the Meet n Greet, Andy was able to get contact information for a local fire troupe whom he’d hoped to connect with and photograph during his stay on O’ahu. It seemed that other new friendships were being created and we ended the evening with a group photo (I will post photo asap for your enjoyment). Another Meet n Greet will likely be held next month and, as always, Geoff and Andi welcome any and all interested to attend.

Even though there are so many ways to get involved with the local Burner scene, Andi and Geoff explained that it can sometimes be difficult to get people together. On O’ahu, even the most ambitious and well-meaning Burners are easily distracted by the big waves and warm climate. But, Andi and Geoff are not easily discouraged. “We’ll continue to host gatherings and get the word out about what’s happening here,” Andi says, “and we’re always hoping more people will come out of the woodwork and make new things happen.”

After the crowd thinned out, we made our way back to the North Shore. Andi and Geoff seemed happy that the Meet n Greet had been so successful and also that they’d had the opportunity to “show off” all that O’ahu has to offer. Though Andie Grace and I were sad to leave O’ahu, we were looking forward to connecting with more Burners on our visit to the Big Island.

Playa de Venice

Fuzzy bikes on the boardwalk.

A few weeks ago some folks cruising the Venice boardwalk on fuzzy bikes encountered a group of people spinning flow toys on the Venice grassy knoll. Talk about two great tastes that taste great together!

The following discussions lead to a gathering last weekend of “Hug Nation & Flow Temple” in Venice Beach.

The day was AMAZING and we hope to do them every 2nd Sunday from now until the Burn.

Huge thanks to Marvin, Tea Faerie, Dmitry, and all the Flow Temple folks. If you could use some Flow & Hugs, join us next 2nd Sunday! (March 13)

It may not have been THE Playa, but there was definitely a Playa vibe in the air. In fact, one of the themes of my Hug Nation talk was cultivating a Playa mindset, year round:

Craft nights? Burner brunches? Playa bike parades?  How do you cultivate a Playa mindset year-round?


God knows how we found it, but isn’t that how all these stories start? We were wandering out near the Man on a clear night, the carnival was in full swing, and little loops of music bounced around from all directions. For a few minutes, we stood transfixed as a spinning steel globe cast white sparks of light in a whirling circle, projected on the dust.

Then, as if the Earth beneath us had simply switched one sculpture for another, we stood before a gyrating spire of boldly-colored lightbulbs, seemingly capable of casting any hue, creating the illusion of sending each wave of color up into the sky. People laid on their backs all the way around the base of the spire, their heads touching, their eyes breathing in the vivid display, their dusty boots splayed out around them.

The Earth moved again, and we began to hear some music.

Some rights reserved by mr. nightshade

Three glowing panels were arranged in a triangle around a twisted structure, which pulsed with sound and light and hissed with flammable gases. The beats and bleeps and bloops bumped in time with a sequence on the screens.

Someone danced animatedly at the panel closest to us, fiddling with the touchscreen grid and adding new, subtle elements to the song. Before too long, without me even having to scream “OH MY GOOD GOD, LET ME PLAY WITH IT!”, this Burner stepped aside, and the panel was mine. (more…)

Hawaii Part One: Maui’s Burgeoning Art Scene

After years of hearing about the art scene on Maui through my many friends who’ve migrated there from the Mainland, I finally made the trip out to Maui from San Francisco this weekend to check things out for myself.

Public Art in Maui: Ku’au Market Mural by Lanikila

I arrived Saturday into Kahalui airport and my dear friend and our resident Media Mecca decor diva, Fruit Loop, picked me up in her teal-colored hoopty and took me on a tour of this lush and laid back island oasis. I quickly found myself immersed not only in Maui’s beautiful environs but also in a vibrant, artistic, and highly driven group of Burners and creative spirits. As I explored Maui from Fruit Loop’s point of view, I discovered that with some focus and determination, artists can find a wealth of opportunities to pursue their passions and make a decent living in this tropical paradise.

Creative Inspiration: Maui’s Big Beach

Maui is a hub for international tourists, many of whom are enticed there by the artistic expression of the artists who call the island home. Art collectors are drawn to the tropical motifs, ancient symbolism and bright colors that they find in Maui’s public murals and inside her many galleries. If you were to hang out in a cafe in Paia or Hana, you might even spot a celebrity. In her short eight months working at Cafe des Amis in Paia, Fruit Loop has waited on Woody Harrelson, Paris Hilton, Pink and Flea. With such a constant influx of art lovers and high rollers, Maui is an appealing place to try to make an earnest go of it as an artist.

Burners and artists on Maui have pooled resources to create spaces to display their work to the wider world. Like the Brewery in Los Angeles or American Steel in Oakland, the Pauwela Cannery in Haiku has been converted by local artists from a manufacturing center into a series of artsty storefronts and studios. Fruit Loop recently signed a lease for her first storefront which she will soon be turning into a visionary art gallery. Getting your foot in the door is one thing but in order to thrive on Maui, Fruit Loop says, you have to be highly focused. “Everyone who comes here to be an artist was successful in their hometown. It’s tough. You have to constantly stay motivated if you want to make it work.”

Vibrant artwork at “Maui Open Studios”

One goal of Fruit Loop’s is to have her storefront included in the next Maui Open Studios.The first annual Maui Open Studios took place this month and I was fortunate enough to catch the tail end of it this weekend. Yesterday, we visited a series of studios where artists were displaying everything from beautiful fabric paintings, to stained glass, to sculptures. Sarah, one of the artists at the Pauwela Cannery, told us she had four possible sales on the horizon after yesterday’s  “Open Studios.” By having her act together enough to open her studio doors to the public this weekend, Sarah found doors opening up for her. Sarah’s story is proof that for the motivated artist, opportunities abound on Maui.
“It’s exciting,” says Fruit Loop. “I finally feel like I am able to fully be a professional artist.” I for one can’t wait to see the “Open” sign on Fruit Loop’s studio door.