Things come to a head

The Man rises from behind the souks that ring the perimeter
The Man rises from behind the souks that ring the perimeter

The Man got a head today, and he’s a better Man for it.

Actually, he’s had a head for some time now, but it just hadn’t been put on his body. That was rectified this morning when Bruiser, Joe the Builder and their crews lifted the 3,400-pound thing and put it atop his torso.

His enormous face is lined with blue neon, and the skull will glow with red light from within. The neon color scheme is similar to 2008’s American Dream, and the combined colors will cast a purplish/reddish glow. “Larry said he wanted a subdued effect,” Dana was saying as he watched the Man’s head lifted into place.

The Man site was quickly transformed from a work site to an installation site, and Oopah and his crews were putting the finishing touches on the tent-like Souks that ring the man on the ground. The Souks replace the Regional art installations this year, and rumors are flying about the guests who might make anonymous appearances in them to talk with Burners, so you’ll definitely want to check them out.

Bruiser and his dad before the lift began. "I'm just here to supervise," dad said
Bruiser and his dad before the lift began. “I’m just here to supervise,” dad said

This morning’s lift was almost anticlimactic from the drama of a couple of mornings ago when the Man’s legs were raised and his torso was put on top of them. All was smooth sailing, as Bruiser’s crane didn’t seem to strain in the slightest. Pirate maneuvered a boom lift to keep track of the guide wires, and Goatt was back on playa to help lower the head into place.

The process of building the Man’s head was quite a departure this year. Normally, the Man Krewe heads to the work ranch at the end of June and spends a week or so building the normal Man, then many of them head to the desert for Fourth of Juplaya. This year, though, most of the work was done right on site, right next to the Man Base crew, which did the construction on the Man’s body.

“Honestly, I’m kind of ready to be done with it,” Bodie was saying the other day. “It’s been a lot more intensive this year.”

Instead of building the same Man as they always do, with slight variations and embellishments to distinguish each year’s Man, this year the head had to be invented before it could be built. So it meant for long days, some setbacks, but at the end, a very worthy dome. “We were bent over, leaning backwards on 12-foot ladders,” Bodie was saying.

“There the head flies, and now I fly,” Commander Bob said as he watched the lift.

Commander Bob watches the lift
Commander Bob watches the lift

For Andrew Johnstone, who did the design of this year’s gargantuan Man, the feeling was a little different: “I feel like a giant weight has been transferred to the Man’s shoulders from my shoulders,” he said.

The design of the Man germinated a couple of years ago, even before last year’s giant flying saucer was built. Andrew said Larry came to him asked what seemed to be a rhetorical question: “What if we built a giant Man?” Andrew started ruminating on the idea, and now here it is.

The man’s head seems quite nicely perched on the spine, and there was a bit of wiggle room built into the process to allow for that. After that head was lowered onto the 20×20-foot spine, holes were drilled through the wood to fix its place.

And now that the head is where it belongs, and now that Black Rock City has its focal point, the big structure will go from being various pieces lying on the ground to perhaps the most-photographed object since the Golden Gate Bridge.

And it also seems that we’re that much closer to being ready for the gates to open, and that’s a fine thing, too.

 

The Man rests on the side before the lift began
The Man rests on the side before the lift began
Getting ready for insertion
Getting ready for insertion
The first lift
The first lift
Getting ready to receive the head
Getting ready to receive the head
Bruiser during the lift
Bruiser during the lift

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The side of the Man's head
The side of the Man’s head
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Metal Shop Heather getting ready to go

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Brandon, Pirate and Joe the Builder held the guide wires in a boom lift as the Man’s head was lifted by the crane
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It was a choreographed dance as the Man’s head ascended

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Close to the top
Close to the top

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There was an opening with half an inch clearing all around that had to sit on the Man's spine.
There was an opening with half an inch clearing all around that had to sit on the Man’s spine.
And at the end, the Man stood tall
And at the end, the Man stood tall

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: John Curley

John Curley has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

5 thoughts on “Things come to a head

  • The head has an open top. What is being done to prevent someone from flying a drone into the head and lighting an incendiary device like that king of assholes, Paul Addis did?

    Nothing would ruin Burning Man more than the head lighting on fire on Friday night before the burn.

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  • I believe operators are required to register their drones this year and have an id tag affixed to their drone(s), sort of like a hybrid between camera and art car registration. Beyond that, I think the idea is to treat burners like adults capable of making good decisions until they demonstrate themselves unwilling or unable to do so. (Like the US legal system used to work before they started going nanny state on us and preemptively banning all the fun stuff lile civilian fireworks to keep us “safe”) Then Rangers or LEO get involved as necessary.

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  • this is a superb story of the making of the man

    I think it would be enhanced by a section at the end regarding how the man is Lit and showing some photos of the lighting install and the results of the lighting.

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