R-Evolution Has Begun!

I have been writing about The Bliss Project, created by artist Marco Cochrane and his crew, since 2010. The project includes three sculptures intended to demand a change in perspective … to be catalysts for social change. They are intended to challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge that has developed around the female body — which has been used for power and control — to see the human being. They are intended to de-objectify women and inspire people to take action to end violence against women, thus allowing everyone to live fully and thrive.

The Pantograph – a medieval-era enlargement tool
The Pantograph – a medieval-era enlargement tool (Photo by Jay R Houghton)

I had never seen sculpture being created like I did when I was there to see them assembling Bliss Dance for the first time. Bliss Dance pushes the limits of scale and engineering, and is as ambitious as she is breathtaking. So I loved watching the crew’s precision and grace as they assembled this incredible sculpture. They acted together on the assumption that it would all fit together once they got it to Black Rock City.

In 2013 I was lucky to be in the Bliss Dance Studio the day they were lighting up Truth is Beauty, the second sculpture in the series.

R-Evolution is the third and final sculpture in the series. R-Evolution continues with the theme of a woman expressing her humanity. At 48-feet tall, R-Evolution will debut at Burning Man 2015. When I visited the studio in 2014, Marco and Deja (the model for all three sculptures) were there. Marco used a Pantograph — a medieval-era enlargement tool — to create a 15-foot clay version of R-Evolution by hand from a ¾ life-size original, using classical sculpting techniques.

Welding R-Evolution (Photo by Jay R Houghton)
Welding R-Evolution (Photo by Jay R Houghton)

The next step was to begin the second phase enlargement to her final metal form — the metalwork for the second half of R-Evolution is well underway. They need to complete the sculpture; paint her for rust protection; design, build and install the lighting; place the mesh skin and construct the base — all before Burning Man 2015. And you probably already know that the Man burns in 137 days.

If you’d like to follow along and watch the progress of R-Evolution check out her Facebook Page.

Harley Dubois Shares Burning Man with ‘The Feast’ Attendees

feast logoBurning Man Founder and Chief Transition Officer, Harley K. Dubois, spoke at the 2014 Conference of The Feast in Brooklyn, New York. The speakers in 2014 were asked to address building new skills, offering and receiving each other’s new perspectives, and supporting projects and innovators in realizing the future together.

The mission of The Feast is to connect makers, doers and innovators around shared vision and to work together to transform each other, communities and the world.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 6.14.45 AMHarley began her talk (which you can watch online) by asking how many attendees had been to Burning Man, and if they had not, had they heard of it. Lots of hands went up in the audience.

In her presentation, Harley referenced the image of Black Rock City, and how the horseshoe shape of the City centers around the Man as a constant reminder to be present and participate. And she explored the 10 Principles and how they infuse themselves into daily life in Black Rock City and beyond.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 6.29.25 AMHarley noted that most of the attendees were at the conference because of a shared desire to make the world a better place — when you met someone in the hall, you could assume you have this mission in common.

That should ideally be the case at Burning Man as well. The 10 Principles are the same kind of shared context, making it easier for Burners to trust each other’s intentions and strike up an interesting relationship. And in their various, sometimes counter-intuitive ways, they’re also all about improving the world.

“Burning Man: Art on Fire” Goes to Haiti

Sidney Erthal and Haitian President Michel Joseph Martelly
Sidney Erthal and Haitian President Michel Martelly

Sidney Erthal, co-photographer with Scott London, and author Jennifer Raiser of Burning Man Art on Fire, which is topping the charts at Amazon, was packing to leave Burning Man last week and noticed he had several calls from his good friend Claude-Alix Bertrand, the Captain of the Haitian Polo Team. When he got Claude-Alix on the phone, he wanted to know if Sidney could “Please come with me to Haiti?” Claude-Alix explained that he was about to be awarded the honor of being an Ambassabor of Goodwill for Haiti, and could Sidney please come, and take photos of the event. The Haitian Polo Team had just won their first Championship Trophy.

So Sidney traveled home to San Francisco, packed a few things and off he went on the red-eye to New York City and then a jump to Haiti, and at that point, Sidney had not even been off Playa 48 hours. As Sidney said,

That moment when you thought you were going to have a very slow decompression and life surprises you big time… A life changing experience after a life changing burn. Embracing the mission.

He was in Haiti for just less than a week, and what an adventure it was.

Claude-Alix Bertrand granted his "Ambassador for Goodwill for Haiti" title from Haitian President, Michel Martelly
Claude-Alix Bertrand was granted his “Ambassador for Goodwill for Haiti” title                        by Haitian President, Michel Martelly

But without a doubt, the highlight of the trip for Sidney, was meeting the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, when he presented the Ambassadorship to Claude-Alix. Sidney had the opportunity to give President Martelly a copy of his book, and chat a little about Burning Man, which Martelly had heard of and was excited to know more about, and the President’s vision of Haiti’s future, to perhaps be a destination point for polo, to create more jobs in Haiti and improve the country’s economy. Sidney and President Martelly also had a moment to talk about the work that Burners Without Borders has been doing in Haiti to support Haiti’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake and help artists with their job skills; to read more that program, click HERE.

After meeting with the President, Sidney and Claude-Alix were taken on a tour of Haiti by Haitian Minister of Tourism, Stephanie Villedrouin.  They saw a broad cross section of Haiti in their travels. They also attended a lot of meetings, or as Sidney said,

Meetings, meetings and meetings. I always knew my degree in Tourism would be very useful at some point! YEAY!!!



The Shrouded Man

man seidney erthalThis is my first little post from the Playa. It is a beautiful day, the temperature is in the mid 80s, there is a mild breeze, the theme camps are arriving and the city is getting populated. I have spent the day meeting new people in my camp, the pretty newbie from Georgia, and ever smiling photographer Fonzi, and hanging with 20 year veterans like Eggchairsteve. New family and old family. And then I ran into Sidney Erthal, my friend and a fabulous photographer, and we decided you might like to see a different view of the Man. Whether you are already on the Playa, on your way here, or staying home this year, this is the new Man, bigger and better than ever, topping off at over 100 feet. More later…

Photo: Sidney Erthal Photography 

Have You Ever Slid Down Into a Volcano?

photo: Aleks Stirajs
Truth is Beauty 2013 photo: Aleks Stirajs

I have been writing about Bliss Dance Studios for several years. They are my friends and I am a BIG fan. My favorite blog post was when they were assembling Bliss Dance before Burning Man 2010. There were some pretty scary moments and from where I was sitting, it was a miracle when it all fit together.  It was their first try at art of this size, you can see that post HERE.

So I believe art begets art. For example, one of the Bliss Dance crew, last year she was the operations manager for Truth is Beauty, Katy Boynton, created Heartfullness with her crew in 2012 and brought it out again in 2011, you can read about that HERE.

But it was a huge surprise to me when one of the Truth is Beauty crew announced a few months ago that she wanted to create a volcano, Paha’oha’o, about 30′ tall, and bring it to the Playa this year. So then it started, the vision, what it should look like, what it should be made of, would there be fire? Then there were structural drawings and discussions of materials. I found it all very exciting. Although I am not on the crew, we have a potluck on Tuesdays so I got to see materials testing, the structural engineer stopping by, the stairs getting built and tested, and oh yes, the slide, or as the artist Kahai Sumida Tate says:

The only way down will be to take a leap of faith into the belly of the volcano via a 22’ drop slide or lava tube that is made with an organic linoleum.

Building the last few weeks has been at a furious pace and I have had the chance to see the pieces come together, the sides of the volcano being built, the drums being created, and then this happened:

And just to bring it back to art begets art, Katy Boynton is the Project Manager of this project and Marco Cochrane has sculpted a eight foot high hula dance, who is making an offering to Pele, the fire goddess, to live in the belly of Paha’oha’o.

I wanted to know a little more about the volcano and what it meant to Kahai, this is what she has to say about it:

In Hawaii, eruptions are viewed as beneficial, as acts of creation, and Hawaiians often see their lives mirrored in the level of volcanic activity.
On those islands, an eruption usually begins with lava gushing from a long crack in the earth. The hot, highly fluid material leaves a smooth, skin like texture along the eruptive fissure. Because the structure is reminiscent of a huge vagina, native Hawaiians traditionally regarded an eruption as the menstruation of the goddess Pele, with the red lava always flowing toward the sea, the same path taken in ancient times by women to cleanse themselves. Participants will be able to sacrifice themselves into the volcano burning away their outer shell to start a new beginning.

The volcano will stand 30’ tall by 60’ in diameter layered in burlap which will look like molten lava. The lava will be illuminated wall washer led volcanolights that will be programmed to look like flowing lava. There will be a ladder to allow to people to climb to the top of the caldera and sacrifice themselves into mouth of the volcano. Inside the volcano will be an enclosed room with a 12’ ceiling, Marco Cochrane’s sculpture, and Hawaiian pahu drums.

If you would like to see Paha’oha’o burn at Burning Man this year, read about the burn HERE.

And did I hear you say you would like to volunteer to help Paha’oha’o? They are looking for volunteers at Burning Man this year to help participants at the the top and bottom of the slide. Participants will sacrifice themselves into the volcano burning away their outer shell to start a new beginning! 3 hours of fiery fun! Sign up for a shift using the link on the event page HERE. Mahalo!

Burners Without Borders Helps Clean Padre Island Shooting Range

bwb corpus christiBurners Without Borders (BWB) is a community led, grassroots group that encourages innovative civic participation that creates positive change locally.

In Corpus Christi, Texas, Burners Without Borders Corpus Christi — made up of Patrick Brown and his friends — recently stepped up efforts to clean a stretch of Padre Island after having started the initiative about a year ago. Partick was quoted on KRISTV as saying:

There were places in this area where you could actually like, literally wade through shotgun shells.

They heard about the makeshift shotgun range from the folks at National Sea Shore. He then got permission from the General Land Office to clean the area up. The group had their first clean up in February.

During those first cleanups we removed about 600 pounds of shotgun shells, said Brown.

At the time Brown only had eight people helping him, and they were able to clear out most of the area. But now, five months later, it’s all trashed up again. Brown says his group will meet in a few weeks to plan another cleanup of the area. The alternative to a community-based solution was to have police patrol the area to prevent people from littering the place with shells, at the cost of taxpayer money and law enforcement distracted from more important issues.

It is very exciting to see this local BWB group bring one of the Burning Man’s Ten Principles, Leave No Trace, to their local community and making an impact.

Would you like to get involved? Burners Without Borders was founded and continues to grow because of people just like you.

About Burners Without Borders

Burners Without Borders was born in Biloxi, Mississippi during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort. When the hurricane struck during the Burning Man event that year, several groups of volunteers traveled directly from Black Rock City to the ravaged area, employing the Burning Man principles of civic responsibility, communal effort, participation, radical self-reliance and gifting, in a coordinated effort to fill in where government relief efforts were falling short.

Since then, Burners Without Borders has grown to facilitate volunteerism all over the world for anyone interested in gifting their time and talents to a variety of causes, from disaster relief to community building to beach clean-ups. BWB volunteers have provided assistance in places such as Peru, Haiti, Japan, Alabama, and now in Corpus Christi, Texas, while their annual grant program helps would-be volunteers to realize their vision of making a difference in their communities.

If you would like to get involved, please contact BWB through the Burners Without Borders website.

Exodus Traffic Pulsing = One-Hour Neighborhoods!

Gate road, 2008
Gate road, 2008

During Exodus (when oh so many of you depart Black Rock City for your other home), wait times can run from anywhere to 3-9 hours to get from camp to the highway. And to state it simply, we cannot get vehicles off of the playa any faster than we already do.

To make the inevitable Exodus wait more sane, we’ll be implementing Pulsing on Sunday and Monday this year, 24 hours a day (or until the need dissipates).

Pulsing is a system of moving vehicles at regular intervals toward the highway on Gate Road to avoid the long slow creep that challenges the sanity of even the most patient among us. With Pulsing, vehicles stop and turn off their engines. Then, every hour, vehicles are “pulsed” a mile forward all at once. (Tune your car radio to BMIR 94.5 FM or the Gate Advisory Radio Station 91.5 FM for Exodus info.)

Pulsing does NOT get you out of the city more quickly, it just lets you take a break from driving.

Pulsing is the perfect time to create One-Hour Neighborhoods. Pack water, snacks, instruments and anything else to make the wait more fun. Have a one hour dance party and meet your neighbors in line. Jonathan did … here’s what happened:

My friend and I had such an amazing Exodus the night of the Temple burn I feel compelled to share.

It all happened accidentally. It was my first Burn. I knew about the Pulse system, but wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. After the first pulse, I started my watch to see how long we would stop. It was an hour, to the minute.  During that time, I talked with a couple strangers enthusiastically about my Burn experience.

After the next pulse, I started thinking about all that I could do in the next hour, if it really was an hour in-between pulses and not random. I could go for a run in the desert straight out from my car. I could go talk to more strangers. I ended up putting 3 lighted candles on my car so I wouldn’t lose the car if I wandered too far.

I met another Burner named Taryn. She had the brilliant idea that ended up being the spark for the “after-burn” as we so fondly called it later. She asked, “Why aren’t there tents out there [pointing to the open playa next to the 16 lanes of cars leaving BM] hosting parties, food, etc?” I replied, “you are absolutely right! There could be art cars hosting dance parties to keep people awake. Small camps giving out coffee for safety.” But then, it hit me. We could do that. We could actually do that after the very next pulse.  s long as the break was predictable, we could do this and a lot more. We waited. Like clockwork, the next pulse started 1 hour after stopping.

Taryn was up for helping me unpack and pack the van to get our stove and other supplies out. So, we spent 10 minutes getting stuff out. Then we fired up the stove and made dinner – from scratch! It was delicious. Spaghetti with sausages and a bit of sauce. We then started planning the next phase (we still don’t have a good name for those hour long stretches — micro-burns?). We wanted dessert and coffee. After 50 min, we knew it was time to pack up and get ready. We did it with no problem and were ready to go when the pulse started again.

Dessert was fried macaroons with Nutella. Simply amazing! French press Peets coffee. Perfect combination. It was this break when we really knew we were on to something. We were flat-out loving the Exodus from Burning Man! We started talking about how cool it was — to have these breaks to look forward to, to meet someone new, to have deep conversation on the way out of the playa instead of bemoaning how long it was taking. The “Burn” vibe was very much with us.

We did this 4 different times. I had been calculating our distance to the road by the marker that said 4 miles to the highway. We had potentially one more break. It was going to be our best break – a dance break. We were going to wake up Taryn’s RV and get them outside dancing to our Jambox speaker. However, we hugged good-bye in case there were no more breaks.

As it tuned out, we did exceed our .4 mile average pulse and made it all the way to the road. My friend Rico and I looked at each other. We saw it in each other’s eyes — we were disappointed. We did not have 1 more hour together to enjoy our dance break. Then, we thought — this is crazy! It is 3 AM and we want to stop for another hour?! But we did and it was magical.

The Generator, A Community Art and Builder’s Space

The Generator with LOVE by Jeff Schomberg and Laura Kimpton being moved
The Generator with LOVE by Jeff Schomberg and Laura Kimpton being moved
Gene kids2
Youngsters making things

There is a new art kid on the block! The Generator is a non-profit, inclusive, community art and builder’s space in greater Reno, Nevada (actually in Sparks). It’s open to anyone who wants to make art and be part of a creative community, and they run on their version of Burning Man’s Ten Principles.

I went for a tour a few weeks ago, and I was amazed. There is every sort of tool, and many different kinds of artists: painters, sculptors, woodworkers, Burning Man Honorarium artists, brand new artists of every sort, and children learning art. And the best part is there is no cost to anyone who wants to participate in making any kind of art.