The Pistil Complete

Completing the Pistil

48 hours after the Otic Oasis crew entered the Man Base to build the Pistil, the last of a tirad of finials atop the piece were put into place. The Pistil is composed of Gregg Fleishman’s interlocking wooden pieces and it spans most of the middle of the Man Pavilion, climbing up to just below where the Man stands above over the open oculus. It’s an elegant sculpture that swirls around in a series of modules connected by stairways with a flowing symmetry suggesting both a honeycomb and very much this year’s theme of Fertility.

Scott and Gregg with a node

The crew climbed all over the sculpture working, and as the last pistil top was lowered, there were many deft fingers in there making adjustments, with bodies intertwined, twisting and raising the graceful piece into place. When the node slid down to a stop there was applause. Then one by one, curved vertical pieces were inserted and pins placed, then each crew member took a turn knocking the pins into place with their mallets. It was all very deliberate and with the absence of power tools, it seemed very ritualistic and beautiful to behold. (more…)

Countdown to Blastoff

Dylan and the Spires crew

They put down the last spire in Black Rock City yesterday, which is one of the more significant events that marks the end of the preseason around here.

The city structure is is virtually complete. Dylan and his spire crew have put down about 300 of those tall wooden spires, after Lexy and her assembly crew have put them together. And we can report with complete accuracy, thanks to the meticulous record-keeping of Art Art Art, that the shade crew has built 113 structures of various sizes, using 6,191 feet of 12-foot shade cloth. Oh, and they’ve dug an average of 63.29 post holes a day to do so. The power crew is still installing spider boxes and connecting them to miles of electrical lines hooked up to mobile generating stations. The Heavy Equipment folks are doing lots of the heavy lifting, and Makeout Queen gets trailers and water where they need to go. Sweet Thang makes sure that people and camps are where they should be, the IT team has had wifi banging all week long, and Hayseed and the catering crews and Spectrum  keep the various armies well-fed. While all this and more has been going on, the devoted and ever-bubbly Fluffers have supplied water and snacks and sunscreen, plus lots and lots of smiles.

The Gate and Perimeter crews are gearing up for their big night – the gates to the city open at 6 pm Sunday, and it’s up to them to make sure that all who enter have tickets. The number of inspection lanes has been increased from 8 to 12 this year, and they are hoping to keep wait times to 4 hours or fewer. Then the Greeters have the new arrivals ring the bell, roll in the dust and get a hug to welcome them home to Black Rock City.

Some of the Fluffers who gathered for a team picture when the last spire was put into the playa. (And remember, one finger in the air means “We Love You.”)

All of this preparation and all of the work behind it is celebrated when the last spire is put down. Crews gather from all over the playa to do some last pounding and janky decorating. There’s also a sledgehammer-tossing contest, and Marlee was  blasting 100-pound anvils into the air. Refreshing adult beverages were readily available.
So once again we’re coming down the home stretch. It’s the end of one thing, and the beginning of another. One door closes, another one opens.  And we can’t wait till you get here to get this party started.


The Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace: MOOP Mania

The MOOP Squad is an international litter-fighting phenom!

Well folks, this is it. Burning Man starts in two days, the Man burns in seven — and as we Playa Restoration crew members like to say, it’s just ten days to cleanup!

That’s right: While you’re preparing for the biggest, weirdest week of the year, we’re already itching to get out there and start picking up MOOP!

Why are we so excited to clean up our city? One simple reason:

When Burning Man cleans up after itself, Burning Man gets to happen again next year.


A Lighthouse to the Future

A bunch of longtime DPW folks have gotten a new opportunity to kick ass at Burning Man, and without even trying, they’re at the center of where  the organization wants to go.

A group of North Coast burners have been getting together in the woods for years to do their thing and keep the playa spirit alive. Officially, they’re part of the Northern California regional, but that region stretches from the Bay Area to the Oregon border, and that’s an awful lot of territory.

Up until now, these North Coast burners haven’t played much of a role in the official regional group. Instead of driving to Santa Rosa to attend meetings and plan their participation, for the past six years they’ve been going to the beaches and  beautiful North Coast forests around Eureka to burn stuff in creatively significant ways. They’ve held 21 burns so far, but this is the biggest one yet.

Goatt and Jeremy are DPW members who have worked on the Center Cafe for years; they’ve dug the holes and strung the wires and been at the center of the building of Black Rock City. They’re valued crew members because they’re skilled and  they work insanely  hard. When one task is finished, they start looking for the next one. You don’t have to tell them, that’s just the way they’re wired. Goatt will keep up a stream-of-consciousness conversation that is often as hilarious as it is thoughtful and insightful. Maybe being a philosophy major in college will do that to you. More often than not, he’s wearing a red clown nose, making him that much more difficult to categorize. Jeremy makes and sells finely crafted furniture in and around Eureka, and there seems to be a quiet confidence underneath his enthusiasm for the lighthouse project.

Putting driftwood around the base, the better to make a big burn.

On this last weekday morning before the gates are opened and the Burning Man party gets started for real,  both of them were decorating the base of the lighthouse with artfully placed driftwood that they hauled out to the desert from  Crab Beach, another place where they like to burn stuff. Crab Beach is also the place where a Northern California regional contact “discovered” them. (more…)

The Pistil and the Man

Face to face with the Man (with special thanks to Altheus, Aristotle and Chaos for letting this happen).

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.

Eva, Hannes, Brian and Lou affixing the light structures before the Pistil team arrived.

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. (more…)

Idols Rising from the Dust

Flux Foundation’s Zoa, photo by portaplaya

The ARTery is in full swing, with projects beginning to pour in by the truckload. Where once was open playa and the original four projects with their encampments, now a cornucopia of projects grows every day. Bands of dusty artists arrive in caravans following long trucks packed with wood and steel and those artists are beginning to match the population of those building Black Rock City. Flux is here setting up Zoa, the EGO project, Reno Star Cosmic Thistle and Anubis among other pieces are all placed and building, rising up like tiny desert tribes, settled in and circling whatever tall idol they’re erecting.

Zoa, photo by portaplaya

Out at Zoa Flux heavy equipment (HEAT) was helping to put together the three steel structures that are the underlying “sculptural array” for the project. They’re named Billy, Etta and Nina and large star shaped wooden pieces that will form part of their wooden Seapod exoskeletons lay off to the side awaiting numerous adjustments, placements, riggings and gas lines installations before being fitted to the outsides. Flux is a whirr of energy with crews working all over and last night and tonight they’re testing flame effects. Jess Hobbs was out there and she had a button her hat that read “Chaos is my Bitch” and Masha showed us the orb on Etta that she’d cut from a huge pipe then shaped and sculpted. Zoa is located past the Man, before the Temple out toward 2:00 and will be burning Wednesday night at 9:00.


Collexodus wants YOU

Exodus photo by Danger Ranger

You know how every year when you leave Burning Man after partying your butt off, interacting with amazing art, seeing your friends and making new ones, and wandering around an amazing city unlike any you’ve ever encountered that magically rises up out of a prehistoric lakebed; you go home and take a shower and maybe have a beer and think about how great that was? Well, there are people still out in those dust storms and that searing heat making sure everything is torn down, stowed and shipped and any little bits of trash you possibly, accidentally were inconsiderate about not taking home with you are being all picked up so we can throw this little event again next year.

DA and crew, photo by fling93

I was talking with DA who runs the Playa Restoration (or Resto) Crew and he told me how when the event is over they spend weeks tearing down Black Rock City’s structures and then walking miles each day in the sun over grids, making sure to pick up every last bit of trash that may have made it to the playa floor. The goal is to leave the playa as clean as it was before the event and it is hard, grueling work. They start early in the morning and DA tells me that around 3:15 in the afternoon someone will invariably yell “Morale!” and the crew will stop, go to the shade and drink a couple cold beers and eat some snacks. This makes the remaining two hours go by faster.

That beer and snacks are donated by you, kind citizen of Black Rock City.


Raising the Man

When you think about Burning Man, you think about a lot of things – the desert, the dust, the art, the people, the party –  the whole conglomeration of things that make up this extraordinary experience in the middle of nowhere. But at the heart of it all is the Man himself, the big wooden thing that gets burned on the Saturday night of the event.

The Man’s origins are a mystery wrapped in an enigma. We know that in 1986, Larry Harvey and Jerry James and a small group of pals built an eight-foot wooden man and thought it would be a kick to drag it out to Baker Beach and set it on fire. Stories have been told and legends have been propagated as to exactly WHY this happened. Most often, you hear that Larry had had a bad breakup, an this was his attempt at catharsis. But as is so often the case, the simplest explanation seems best: Burning a wooden man just sounded like a fun thing to do.

It was the reaction of the people on the beach that made the event noteworthy. A crowd gathered, there was singing and reveling, and Larry and the others suspected that they might have touched a collective nerve. So they decided to do it again. And then again. And eventually here we are in Black Rock Desert expecting 60,000 to watch the Man burn this year.

(And forgive the capitalization issues in this post: It seems like a deification to refer to the effigy as “the Man” instead of simply “the man,” and we don’t want to layer any errant spirituality on the proceedings. But we’ll give the big guy his due and go with the capital letters.)

Wednesday morning was the culmination of months and months of work for this year’s Man crew. On a beautifully still and calm desert morning, the Man was placed ever so gently atop the base.  There was a relatively small number of people on hand to witness the lift and place. The other night, there might have been a couple hundred people around to wax the Man to make sure he burns brightly and quickly. But on this morning the Man base felt like a work site, which in fact it was. (more…)