[Dan Miller was housemates with Larry Harvey in San Francisco from 1982 to 2000. He managed the construction and raising of the Man from 1990 to 2000 and contributed several design modifications to the Man including rigging, mechanical arm raising and the infamous straw bale pyramid bases 1996 – 2000. He took a break from raising the Man to raise his own son, born in 2001. He still brings various art pieces to the playa with his family, such as the “Yot Tub”, and lives in rural Northern CA. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]
1990 Black Rock Desert
“We need your help, could you help pull this big fat rope to raise the Man?” …(it takes a village they say)…
The title, “Raising the Man,” can be taken literally, or metaphorically… The first raising in this sense, that was the seed of our current metropolis, could be construed to be the first burn when Larry Harvey and our friend Jerry James took the sticks of the commonplace, would-be summer solstice beach bonfire, and janked them up into a stick man. This was a simple, passionate act of radical self-expression. Something we can all relate to apparently, or is it more simply, the unadulterated, unmediated, redemptive power of play. Whatever it is that draws us out to such a god-forsaken, remote, desolate locale for a total ass kicking from mama Nature must surely be somehow to raise ourselves.
Since back in the early years, or the Man’s childhood so to speak, for the practicality of lugging him by hand down the long, steep sand embankment to Baker Beach, he has been constructed in six separate parts (head, torso, two arms, two legs). The Man was then assembled lying in place and then raised to a standing position by those gathered. One group lifting to an incline, then a second pulling him by rope the rest of the way up to standing.
In 1989, on Baker Beach with the Golden Gate Bridge looming to the east, we had a defining moment — due to the lack of engineering prowess and the shear underestimation of the dynamics of the growth of the Man vs. physics, when raising him, his legs, head and pulling rope snapped. I remember shuddering in horror at the mess amidst the penetrating, salty gales; first, that someone might have been skewered underneath (luckily not) and that there was no hope of repairing our broken Man in this desperate moment. Then it dawned on us that we could burn him right justly in his humiliating pile and slink back to the drawing board for our next year’s invocation.