There was a major clash of cultures when the DPW met the Otic Oasis artists crew out at the Man base on Thursday, and a little bit of history was made, too.
It was the first time an art group had been invited to collaborate on building the Man base, and with much of the work on this year’s base finished, it was time for the Otic folks to begin installing the Pistil, which will sit in the middle of the cathedral-like base and provide another place for people to gather and find refuge at the Man.
The clash of styles couldn’t have been more dramatic. The rough and tumble DPW, shouting and hammering, and the gentle, serene (most of the time!) personalities found at Otic.
While the Man base crew was putting up the 20 flower-like LED lighting pods that Mr. Blue had designed in each of the arches, The Otic crew gathered near the perimeter of the work zone and had a little group meeting. Gregg Fleishman, the designer and soft-spoken heart of the art project, had said earlier out at Beeometry, their art support camp, that he wanted the Pistil build to be quiet and contemplative – a slow, peaceful, build. He wanted the people to take their time, to soak in the moments. As Syn said later, “Why would we want to rush it?”
Then the group walked in a procession into the Man base, carrying a 1/6 scale model of the Pistil. Some of the DPW workers put down their tools and watched curiously, and others just kept on pounding. “What language are they speaking?” one observer muttered as some the rallying speech was overheard.
Once inside, the Pistil crew formed a circle in the center of the Man and joined hands in unity and intention. Syn said again how honored they were to be in what may be the last Man base to be designed by Rod Garrett, and that the work of both the Man base crew and the Otic crew would honor his memory.
By this time some of the carpenters and builders from the DPW were gathering around the scale model, looking at the intricate design. The Pistil, like the Otic Oasis itself, is a geometric series of pods that are made of interlocking wood pieces. Not a single nail is used in construction, nor any glue or fasteners. Yet this graceful presence will easily support the weight of the people who will no doubt find refuge and companionship in the pods.
This is the second go-round for the Otic Oasis, although some additions have been made to the main structure, plus seven new satellite pods in the far reaches of walk-in camping, where the beauty of the desert can be experienced without the loud music and blinking lights of Black Rock City. Larry Harvey his own self had seen the Otic Oasis last year and asked Fleishman and Lighting and Syn if they would be interested in collaborating on the Man project this year. And yes, of course they would.
So now the two distinctly different crews were warming up to each other and mingling in the Man base. Then Fleishmann and some crew members started raking the area around the golden spike, cleaning the desert floor of moop. Then a couple of the DPW builders helped string guide lines across the axis of the golden spike, so the Pistil would get a precise orientation point. Before long, most of the two crews were telling each other stories, and the women were hugging, and a fair amount of swag was handed out by both sides.
As the wind picked up and the dust started to blow a little harder, it seemed that things had gotten off to a pretty good start.
A note about the conditions:
A few words about the weather: It has cooled off a bit. The high temps are in the low 90s, and after weeks of 100-degree-plus in Gerlach and as high as 117 on the playa, this feels like a great relief.
The dust has been … moderate. Worse than last year? Yes. Howling hours-long whiteouts? No. At least not yet, and of course we’ve got our fingers crossed that it’ll stay this way. The wind picked up the past couple of days, with sustained winds of 20 mph or so, with occasional gusts stronger than that. The dust has come in squalls. When you’re in one, it’s not fun, but it doesn’t last for long.
But then there is the smoke. When you first pick up the scent of fire, you think, oh yeah, of course stuff is burning, it’s Burning Man. But then you remember that there hasn’t been much burning yet around here, and you realize that what you are smelling are the wildfires in relatively close Plumas County. The path of the smoke from those fires is right over Black Rock City. The sunrises and sunsets have featured really red skies, and at night the moon looks like it has entered eclipse, it is so pink. The conditions should make for some fabulous photography, if some labored breathing.