Oh how things have changed from the Rainpocalypse of Monday’s downpour, hail, and lightning strikes that shut down the city and kept gate closed for hours. Black Rock City is in full force with roaming dusty bands of painted and festooned citizens and with flowing flocks of decorated bikes ridden by enthusiastic, wide eyed merry makers. There are shiny newcomers all acclimated and fabulous, as well as those who’ve been out here a while and who are now relaxing and taking it in. Art has burned, parties have been thrown and like all cities, we’ve weathered this together and become closer. There are peals of laughter and general hilarity across the city, howls as the sun drops behind the granite range and the magic hours begin, sizzling grills smoking at all times of the day, be it bacon hour or the dinner cocktails time, with art cars of all types and sizes: cats, ships, dragons, camels, rolling slow, shimmering disco and techno as they slowly cruise and create temporary ambient environments prowling up and down the avenues of our city.
When you’re on the playa a certain number of hours, you acclimate. That number of hours depends on your constitution, but after all the preparation and anticipation, the packing, driving and making it to the event sign on 34 and pulling off the pavement then making your slow progress through the Gate and later, through Greeters, you find your camp and get your essential shit together. You unpack everything you brought with you because we have a tendency to bring everything just in case we need anything and you set up your essentials shelter and water. For a few hours you’ll spend time with camp mates who were already here and have acclimated, or you’ll wander, or you’ll just collapse into sleep, submersed in an ambient glowing soundscape of a City that is coming alive around you.
That first sleep comes on strong, cool and windswept beneath shivering shadows cast by tents and shade structures, to sleep and to dream in this wide open space where nature is the ultimate governess. And each breath away from the barrage of the default world we are all complicit in creating, complete with alluring suggestions regarding what you should believe and buy, each breath will clear your mind of any unhappy maniacal anxious material monkeys that our society packs on your shoulders all year, those screeching little rascals who crawl up your spine and tend to make you insane daily. You’ve worked on your art to gift, planned and set aside some of the tribute you pay to the world behind to come and camp out here to contribute to a community that’s one some of us believe is something that could be better than the one we leave behind. We’re experimenting each year, trying to fine tune this on playa situation and some of us are hoping enough of here seeps out into there.
For those of you who come to Burning Man to see the ART in store for you, I have traveled the playa and met with many good artists and can most joyfully tell you that the State of the ART in Black Rock City, despite the previous weeks’ weather is very, very good.
The largest project closest to the ARTery, up around 6:30, is Dan Fox’s Alien Siege Machine. This beast is growing daily, with all but the top floors installed, and it will eventually reach 40 ft tall. Participants can climb all over and inside this beast of a machine that will burn on Friday. I met Dan Swain, aka Dolphin, the project architect, who told me the structure should be completed by end of day today. Fox and his crew built Anubis and the Trojan Horse. They like big wooden sculptures that end in the most impressive burns, so this one will be a must see. They’re based out of the East Bay, Oakland and the project prefabrication is done at NIMBY. When you arrive in Black Rock City, please be sure to climb up in the Machine for the view and for a sense of back in the day when you had your forts and tree houses, complete with “NO GURLS (or BOYZ) ALLOWED” signs, however this time you’ll be inside an Alien Siege Machine that is ready to pilot into battle and lay waste to everything in its path. And there’s a really big bomb loaded in the bomb bay waiting to drop.
Following the Promenade to the Man, I ran into the fine folks at The Toilet Bowl along the 9 o’clock Promenade. Tracy Gillan, Don Rider and Gaylen Hamilton of Bathroom Beacons: Welcome to Fabulous Black Rock City (their group is collectively known as StarPony Labs) and hung out with them a moment. Tracy told me, “I bought all this bowling alley stuff on Craigslist and I wanted to make a bowling alley here on the playa. Don and I are in the same hula hooping class and I told him I wanted to call it the ‘Dust Bowl’ and asked if he wanted to be part of it. He asked if we could incorporate it into his Bathroom Beacons art then we decided, Toilet Bowl! History was made: a melding of bowling and bathrooms.” “The Big Lebowski” will play on continuous loops on the bowling lane consoles and their group is also building Bathroom Beacons: Welcome to Fabulous Black Rock City, the redux of the Las Vegas sign, guiding participants to spots of relief. They are also installing Twisted Bristles in the 3 o’clock plaza – a large toilet brush featuring optic fiber and LED lighting.
Our friends over at iBurn have released their Version 5.0.1 of iBurn for your enjoyment. Each year they gift this app to the community and it can come in handy when you’re out on the playa looking for art or trying to hook up with friend or try to beat “playa time” and actually make it to an event “on time”. It is self contained and doesn’t require 4G or internet to work.
iBurn has a map of Black Rock City featuring listed Art projects, Themecamps and Events with a filter ability to sort on types of events. It also has a favorites functionality where you can add your friends or favorite camps and Art. Full descriptions with other data like emails. locations, Home towns, etc are also available.
The folks over there are not affiliated with Burning Man and they gift this useful piece of technology for you. If you’re up for it, go check them out on the web at http://www.iburnapp.com/
The information in iBurn is locked until you reach Black Rock City.
Are you packing and getting ready to make the journey to Burning Man this year, buying fresh playa essentials and becoming all giddy like a kid getting supplies ready for the first day of school? If so, while you’re busy arranging your tents, coconut water and fuzzy boots, bikes, baubles, sparkly bits and bottles of liquor, mannequin heads, sound systems and shade structures, chill space ephemera, swamp coolers and cases of beer, stickers, misters, boxed wine and hats you don’t wear anywhere else but at Burning Man and all your fabulous costumes so YOU will be a piece of art at Black Rock City, may I suggest that you take a moment on the ride out and read about the wonderful ART that is being built this very moment on the playa to amaze and delight you?
This year our esteemed leader, Mr. Larry Harvey has proclaimed that the theme shall be called “Caravansary “, which evokes the great crossroads of trading routes of yesteryear, traversing across deserts from the Far East to Europe where travelers and traders would stake temporary encampments to exchange ideas and goods. These were groups of dusty adventurers with camel towed transports overflowing with gold, silver, teas, silk and other fabrics colored by exotic dyes. They were intent wanderers alive with fertile transactional minds; effusive to overflowing with enthusiastic proportions of good will, and even warring tribes would set aside their differences long enough to celebrate together, to amaze and tell stories, recite poetry and make music, to exchange camels and goods in a spectacular gathering full of mystics and seekers, craftspeople and performers in the Souk, an extravaganza of the odd and bizarre. This was an era of “fully integrated culture”.
Evidently Burning Man’s theme this year is “Burning Man”.
Our artists have been working their asses off all year to GIFT you with ART you won’t encounter anywhere else. There are 270+ projects listed and they are all thought provoking and by the looks of things, we have yet another banner year of projects that will delight and inspire you. On your ride out, grab the Compendium for some in depth reading about the ART this year, and download and listen to the self guided tour with your guides Jim Tierney and Evonne Heyning.
There are SO MANY AMAZING PROJECTS that caught my eye and while not in any way exhaustive, here are a few to pique your curiosity. I’m well known to miss the absolutely coolest piece to hit the playa (see Piss Clear 2006 where I missed “Uchronia” aka the Belgian Waffle) but this year may I humbly offer you MOZE’s 2014 ART PICKS and MORE.
Embrace by the Embrace Crew
The crew who brought you the Pier, Pier 2 and La Llorona have been working in Reno’s Generator for months to bring their latest installation to fruition and right now on playa to the right of the Man, they are building their seven story structure of two quite large people in an embrace. The piece is dedicated to the now and like everything we’ve seen from this group it is expertly conceived, finely crafted, beautiful and something I suspect will become a grand meeting place crawling with Burners caught in its embrace.
Sure, every year the Man is cool. We like to see him there all week and we like to see him finally burn because really, we have to do SOMETHING with him at the end of the event. We’ve had some Men on spectacular bases, and last year’s saucer was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, especially when it burned, but this year we have a very, very large Man standing directly on the playa. What does this mean? I’m not quite sure, but as people have said, in addition to just how awesome these two projects sound, “Embrace” and the Man look like they’re also going to be cool because, well…. BIG.
There’s a lot of buzz about SHOGYO MUJO by Bart Kresa and Joshua Harker that is a 30 ft high geodesic skull that will have 3D projections wrapped on all sides with nightly video interactions between the skull and participants. As the artists write, “the skull becomes a vehicle for experiencing and channeling our visions into the physical world.” This sounds stunning and the images they’ve created provide high expectations. The Creators Project has written a comprehensive piece on SHOGYO MUJO here.
This year we also have Eternal Return by Peter Hudson. Hudzo has brought us some of the most iconic sculptures to grace the playa including 2011’s Charon and 2007’s Homouroboros to name only two and as usual he’s holding back on the details because, as he told me once, he wants participants to discover his art in the same way he discovered a piece of art that truly moved him on his first Burning Man. Peter works with big concepts and this piece discusses “cyclic existence”, something perfect for his Zoetrope iconography. He writes, “the eternal return speculates that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form, an infinite number of times across infinite time and/or infinite space.” Based on his past work, we can expect something amazing and truly splendid.
David Best is bringing the Temple of Grace to the playa this year and it is going to be splendid; a 70 feet high structure in a huge courtyard. This year’s Temple has a gracefully curved body and intricately cut wooden panels and that team has been working double time to provide our community with a sacred space this year.
Another piece that sounds exciting is Paha’oha’o by Kahai Tate (who also worked on Truth is Beauty). The piece is a 30′ tall with a 60′ base that will be illuminated with LEDs to simulate lava flowing. “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.” Climbing and sliding into the mouth of an active volcano sounds perfect for Burning Man. Affinity wrote a great blog on the entire project with more details here
The Lost Tea Party by Alex Wright aka Wreckage International sounds intriguing, the images we have look pretty cool and there’s a great article about it here. It “is a camel train like no other. Lost in the sands of time it has lost not only its way but it has lost its original form, it has trans-mutated into a procession of giant teapots.” One imagines steam inspired walkers mixed with a healthy dose of Dali-ese Darjeeling madness. Along the same lines of odd and somewhat striking in description are Eidolon Panspermia Ostentatia Duodenum (epod) by Michael Christian and Dallas Swindle and Lost Nomads of Vulcania by Joe Mross and Archive Designs, “featuring the Teluriz, one of the few remaining Vardo Class Steam Walkers built by the last surviving members of Captain Nemo’s crew”. Enough said.
In addition to all the installations that will burn this week, interactive fire sculptures abound. Merope II and Angel of the Apocalypse Feathers by Flaming Lotus Girls, interactive fire in the form of “feathers from the Angel of the Apocalypse will create a warm and inviting space for the weary playa traveler” and a “filigree stainless steel star with seven points that emit powerful flames”, Infinite Infant and the Trail of Toys by Charlie Smith brings us a flaming infant pulling a trail of toys on fire, Wheels of Zoroaster by Anton Viditz-Ward is a spinning, sparking firewood filled blazing project.
Celestial Mechanica by Jessika Welz features our solar system complete with a flaming Sun, and Wheel of Fortune by Anne Staveley, Jill Sutherland and Kasia Bilhartz includes a burning hearth and is a “interactive installation and divination tool featuring the 22 Major Arcana cards of the tarot”. Also, we have Dragon Smelter by Danny Macchiarini that will be in the 4:30 plaza. Bring a your cans to RECYCLE CAMP then stop by 5:30 and Rod’s Road with a couple cans to smelt some coins.
If you are looking for a Womb with a View, there’s The Dining Womb by John Lum and Bret Walters, a location at the axis of Sunrise and the Man that is a “24 hour lounge observatory for celebrating the passage of time and our internal clocks of hunger.” I’m told that dinner will be served.
Speaking of people gathering to dine, if you are interested in the great Wagon Train migrations caravans of the 1850s in America, Donnerarium by Badier Velji, Mikel and Sandi Kovach-Long explores some little known history of the US Camel Corps where participants “are are encouraged to pose with the articulated skeletons or ride a camel.” The piece also pays homage to “The Donner party which passed close-by in Wadsworth NV. Signs will provide historical information as well as whimsical comments.”
Will there be camels this year? I have heard from several entirely unreliable sources that there very well may or may not be LOTS AND LOTS of CAMELS on playa this year. There might be a petting zoo in the Souk. There could very well be camel spitting contests and a great albino camel that wears shaded goggles and sparkle calf pink fuzzy hoof boots. The last camels I saw out here were in 1998, and this is their environment after all, so if they do show up, try to find them because camels are works of art in their own right.
For those of you who enjoy wandering the playa at night, looking for light and soundscapes to explore, Zymphonic Wormhole by J-Kat and Shelly is an emergent, layered symphony of light and sound follows those pass through it. The Field of Echoes by Sean Coffin that is a reverberant space where sound echoes and decays slowly as it would in a cathedral, Percussion Sphere by Lucas Jones – a place to gather and unleash your musical capacities and inspirations on a giant interactive instrument.
Wind Sound Sanctuary by Robert Hoehn “is a vintage windmill-driven set of playable pipe organs, flanked by a pair of Aeolian harps made of copper, canvas and birch”. There are Musical Swings by Ron Simmer and Super Pool by Jen Lewin that is an environment of interactive light: “Imagine a giant canvas where you can paint and splash light collaboratively”. Marac Anderson brings us Rings of Light, a daylight reflective curved sculpture and a nighttime interactive rainbow ring of colors. Additionally we have a Visual Orchestra by Greg Ames/Dawn Crat and a SoundPuddle by John English that is an “interactive space of visual-acoustic synesthesia”. I suspect that cuddle puddles may spontaneously appear at or near this piece.
There are some serious projects out here this year, and I image Resticles by Deborah Colotti is at the top of that list as it explores “cojones … vajazzled with LED strands” that are “two parachutes salvaged from the British military have been tie-dyed and tailored to be tugged and stretched over a nutsack-like structure built atop two tightly tucked 14-foot trampolines” so that these Resticles can bounce on said trampolines, bringing enlightenment to all.
Along a similar vein, we have big towering sculptures including, the returning Minaret by Bryan Tedrick that you may remember from the 2010 Keyhole described as “a power spot suggestive of a totem, spinal cord, and mushroom all rolled into one”. There is The Divine Masculine by Jack Allen and Tres Fontaine, a 22 ft tall sculpture of one of the “most enduring and personal symbols of the masculine”, that may compliment Cosmic Condom by Brett McIntosh.
Also be on the look out for The Vulvatron by the Cliterrati that is “a visually iconic mobile art piece, empowering women, goddesses, and the feminine identity. The form is inspired by the often politicized and stigmatized vulva.”
There are SO MANY projects this year. Dan Fox (of Anubus and the Trojan Horse fame) brings us Alien Siege Machine, a ghost ship that “travels through space and time imperiling all it encounters”, Sean Orlando and Orion Fredericks’ are bringing Armagan, “an interactive fire art piece located at Opulent Temple. Armagan means ‘the gift’ in Turkish” and Laura Kimpton, Jeff Schomberg and Steve Atkins are building The Pyramid of Burning LOVE and there will be LandSharks by Todd Williams swimming on our ancient lake bed.
We have quite an ART SCENE out here in the middle of this god forsaken desert, monstrous structures, sublime and anarchistic, all brought out by people who LOVE ART and who work hard to craft, build, ship and then make their way out here to install something to make you think, to make you delighted like that kid on their first day of school. If you meet artists at their projects let them know you appreciate what they do. Tell your friends to go visit installations, take pictures, get inspired and find YOUR FAVORITE pieces this year.
The MP3s are great to listen to while packing, on the drive to BRC, or on playa, as you’ll have your own personal art tour guide. They should import into your music player as an album and are easy to drop into a playlist.
Your tour guides are the ever fantastic art fanatics Jim Tierney and Evonne Heyning. Blurbs for each piece are written by Jim Tierney or the individual artists.
Spread the word far and wide and bring your own Art tour to the playa.
One thing that keeps me coming back to Black Rock City each year is the ART.
It has been said many times that the playa is a blank slate, a tabula rasa, a seemingly infinite empty space that all of us who are the Burning Man community fill up for a week with so much art that it is bursting at the seams, and seeing how the playa challenges artists is a thing of beauty.
Our artists are playa hardened. They are well aware of how a massive, not unexpected dust storm affects agility of machinery and mechanics. They know how a rain storm stops all forward momentum and that a wind gust can topple the mightiest monument. In the environment of Black Rock City, just spending months building an art piece and transporting it is only a small part of the challenges that artists face to fill up that space. They are planning for an art show at the edge of the apocalypse, with insidious alkaline powder invading every electronic device, with huge and heavy sculptural forms being moved across the soft packed playa surface all using an infrastructure they and Burning Man set up for only a few weeks a year.
Our artists are aware of the vastness of the space they are attempting to fill up. I believe they are basically mad to even attempt to do what they do every year and those of us who are not building art out there are so fortunate to be at this point in history; to be a part of this thing we call Burning Man.
Sometimes on playa, we can take the art for granted. You will always stumble into something wonderful on your journeys to and fro and that is indeed planned. But for you art junkies out there who want to see it ALL each year, the ARTery is Black Rock City’s portal for Art Tours, and this year there is a panoply of options to explore.
A web page with all the information you need is in the works, but here are some details for now. You should stop by the ARTery at 6:30 and Esplanade, next to Everywhere, if you are interested in any of these tours. The ARTery’s hours are 9am to 6pm every day (closed for lunch from 1-2pm) and they would love to see you! Keep reading for all you need to know about Art Tours this year.
With the Bay Lights as a glittering backdrop, the Flaming Lotus Girls have installed their beautiful and interactive 2009 sculpture, “Soma”, at Pier 14.
San Francisco has been showcasing art at Pier 14 for a while now and Soma is the third art piece to have debuted in Black Rock City that will now grace this breathtaking corner of the City. The piece was installed over the last two weeks and has already become the toast of San Francisco.
The sculpture is 60 ft long, dendrite to dendrite “depicting two communicating neurons connected by an axon bridge. A soma is the cell body of a neuron, with branching dendrites projecting away at different angles, and an axon which conducts the nerve signal electrochemically to its neighboring cell.”
Soma is the combined work of over 100 Flaming Lotus Girls volunteers and the fire that glowed on the playa has been replaced with 97 LED lights that mix wonderfully with Leo Villareal’s Bay Lights behind them.
… represents the communication between two neurons: She transforms the neuronal flow of electricity that forms the foundation of consciousness from a molecular to a monumental scale.
Built of stainless steel and LEDs, SOMA leads us to ask fundamental questions about human thought and neurological transmission. What is consciousness? What is communication? How does our physical and cultural environment shape us? What makes us human? Soma invites us to explore individual, collective and cosmic consciousness, the ego, and the hidden potential within us all for a more connected future.