Meet the Builders of CORE: Preparing in Reno

24 teams of builders are converging on Nevada over the next week from around the world. Portland, Vancouver, Victoria, and Idaho are all loading up and driving south. New York, Washington D.C., Minnesota and others are lumbering down I-80, heading west. And around the world, teams are flying in their work crews and gathering locally to buy materials and pre-build their projects.

The Generator is vast and currently supports four CORE projects, four other Burning Man projects and various art cars
The Generator is vast and currently supports four CORE projects, four other Burning Man projects and various art cars

On Saturday at the The Generator in Reno/Sparks, there is a bustle of construction and chatter in foreign tongues.  Several teams are busy preparing to transport their work to the playa. The Generator is a free workspace in an industrial area that has high end tools and hammers, metal working and dance practice space. It is run by Burners and holds true to decommodification and community as part of their creed.

Currently, it is buzzing with crews from Hawai’i, Israel, Holland, France and other locations.

Arlo from the Dutch CORE team testing the chain on their windmill's power source
Arlo from the Dutch CORE team testing the chain on their windmill’s power source

Arlo Laibowitz, Construction Lead/Fire lead for the Dutch CORE project, says “The Generator is great. If everyone [knew about it], we would have big problems. Everyone would want to build here. It is like a pre-playa gathering of souls, more or less on the same wavelength. All helping each other out. Cooking happens communally, stuff like that.”

Arlo is a really entertaining and self-deprecating fellow. He looks the part of a ten-year-plus Burner, but is actually only headed to his second Burn this year. A director and producer, he is slowing down on his professional work to live a more satisfying, less material life.

Here he is using his skills to manage a team of builders and communicate to the designer of the project–who is not on site yet–what changes have been required in the transition from “a plan” to something that has been built. He also has to reassure the artist, Daniella Rubinovitz, who created panels to cover the external walls of the art project, that the pre-made fabric panels are still in perfect condition.

He describes their experience in Reno as this: “Got in Tuesday night. Wednesday buying materials. And now [Friday] we have 15 or 16 hours left until the schedule truck arrives to head out. Hopefully the pieces will go together like an Ikea package once we get to the playa.” All of this accomplished with just three other crewmembers, Mattijs Busman, Ronald Kloos, and Albert Holtslag.

Source Maui CORE team poses on their incomplete art project
Source Maui CORE team poses on their incomplete art project

Michelle Field and Brian Axtell of the Source Maui CORE project have similar feelings about their preparation time in Reno. Collaborating in experience, knowledge, materials and equipment has been critical. Brian, the build lead told of one encounter. Jeremy, a local who spends a lot of time at The Generator was a big help in getting them caught up from their slow start. He asked if there was anything they were lacking and when the team explained some of their problems, he told them I’ve got the machine you need at my shop, let’s just go and do it.

Things were tough when they first got on site. Brian “Papa Ops” Axtell says “Four days ago, when we showed up, I was ready to have a minor aneurysm. The wood was late. “Today they have the two key structures of their project built, benches in the works, and painting and wood staining are underway. Alaska artist Mavis Muller will be weaving an outer covering from colorful lengths of dyed cloth once she arrives; after the structure has been transported to the playa.

Michelle “General Squirrel” Fields, overall project lead, explained that this is the second build. The team build a full-size replica, 15-and-a-half feet tall, which was burnt at a small event back in Hawai’i. This test run and a great team is another part of the reason they are on schedule to ship their work to the playa.

But this wasn’t the original plan. “Tony K The Man In Pink’” (yes, that’s his full playa name, and everyone uses the entire phrase), who is a builder on the project says that the original plan was to build the elements and then ship them stateside. While more expensive, it was thought there would be advantages from this plan. Instead the building has taken place near Burning Man and he feels that this plan worked out better than the original would have.

Yakir "Journeyman" Rettig makes illuminated necklaces to gift at the Midburn CORE project
Yakir “Journeyman” Rettig makes illuminated necklaces to gift at the Midburn CORE project

Tireless work is another way to shorten schedules. Yakir “Journeyman” Rettig, one of the media coordinators for the Midburn CORE project, told me that they have “not rested since we got here. If you look over there you can see the entire hand just sitting there, complete. And this is the middle of the fourth day, so I feel good.”

Their structure is a twenty-foot-tall hand and the team installed the last structural braces that afternoon. They’ve been so dedicated they are nearly a day ahead of schedule. They are packing up at The Generator on Monday the 19th, in the morning, and hopefully finishing the unloading onto the playa the same night.

Itmar “Coosh Coosh”, the lead builder, is a friendly and smiling man in his twenties. Probably the youngest lead builder from any of the teams on site. He has been spending months working with the engineer that turned the

Midburn CORE team from Israel works on the inner supports for their project
Midburn CORE team from Israel works on the inner supports for their project

design into a build plan, learning the methods used, and then teaching them to the rest of the team. Noam, Moran and about a dozen others have been working under Coosh Coosh and Sharon Avraham, the art director for Midburn. They all share a spirit of love for the project and enjoyment in being part of this team.

The team has been blogging about their travel to the U.S. and their project. Read more about their progress here.

Also onsite are Ludale and his wife, from the French CORE team, discussed in an earlier entry found here.

Derek Gaw is testing a platform's strength for the China/Taiwan CORE project (photo by Kenny Yu)
Derek Gaw is testing a platform’s strength for the China/Taiwan CORE project (photo by Kenny Yu)

These aren’t the only teams on the West Coast. Goku, project lead  of the Lithuania CORE project says that they are taking their materials directly to the playa and building there through the week before the event opens. Meanwhile, the Chinese/Taiwan CORE team is in Palo Alto where Gemini will be working with the rest of their team team and aiming for a Wednesday August 21st delivery.

With the delivery of the Reno CORE project to the playa, the first of the large scale projects is now represented here. But there is still a lot of work to do and more stories to tell about these regional teams.

Tony K The Man in Pink tests the lighting for the Source Maui CORE project
Tony K The Man in Pink tests the lighting for the Source Maui CORE project
Noam climbing on the Midburn CORE project to fasten the support struts
Noam climbing on the Midburn CORE project to fasten the support struts
Moran of the Midburn CORE team
Moran of the Midburn CORE team

 

 

About the author: portaplaya

Todd Gardiner, aka "portaplaya", is a professional photographer in Seattle and a long time documentor of Burning Man. After years of working with CameraGirl, he moved on to documenting the event for various other teams, such as the ARTery. Back in Seattle he was part of the regional arts group, Ignition Northwest, acting as a member of the art funding council. A perennial volunteer, he is a five-time Black Rock City Ranger, a past theme camp laborer, has done his time with DPW, and is currently a supervisor for Exodus Flagging; in addition to being a photographer every single year. Some say he is just an obsessive collector of official-looking laminates to wear to high school reunions. Either way he spent time working for others ever since his first year at Burning Man in 2001.

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