I’m SO excited to be taking this year off Burning Man. I just wanted to let you all know.
The last month has been a bit of a drag, following online art project and theme camp arrangement discussions along with noticing random shopping Burners all a flutter in mad rushes at various building supply and thrift stores, picking through bins of clothes, pulling out the unseemly, ironic or costume re-purposeful stuff. I see them there, hoarding Boy Scout shirts and tuxedo tops, grabbing odd hats, bridal getups, impossible shoes and other affluent refuse donated by a spoiled culture steeped in planned obsolescence. I noticed them at scrap and big builder outlets buying pipes and steel, tarps and wood and screws to build something they have no business erecting anywhere without zoning permits.
Yea, I saw you buying up all the solar lights and goggles and dust abatement gear, filling your bags with anything that glows or blinks, anything that can entertain off the grid. I see you loading your almost-clean-of-playa-dust-after-a-year trucks all covered with BRC stickers. I know what you’re up to.
Ah, to avoid the hassle of going to Burning Man! Have a good time this year suckers.
I’ll be fine here, back home.
There’s plenty to do when skipping Burning Man. I can log some extra hours at work and avoid this blog that’s brimming with stories and images of how fantastic things are on the playa. Some friends may get together to have drinks on Saturday night. I doubt we’ll webcast the Burn, or perhaps we will. We certainly won’t talk about Burning Man, no, not at all. We won’t tell stories of Burns past.
So tell me, what’s going on this week?
Also there is always this awesome list of ideas that goes way back. It made the email rounds back in the day and I have no idea who originally wrote it but it’s always been one of my favorites, with such great ideas to experience Burning Man at home such as:
“Stack all your fans in one corner of the living room.
Put on your most fabulous outfit.
Turn the fans on full blast.
Dump a vacuum cleaner bag in front of them.”
As you’re preparing to hit the road to Black Rock City, take a moment to grab this year’s Audio Art Tours brought to you, as always by the ultra wonderful folks at the ARTery.
You can load up these mp3s and be the learned one in your group to give details of all the amazing art that’s in store for you this year when some one asks, “I wonder what THIS one is called?”
From the Bathroom Beacons to Neverwas Haul, we have it all. And while you’re out there, I highly recommend trying to get on one of the ARTery art tours that leave from the ARTery daily. Stop by on the Esplanade and reserve a space the day before since space is limited. They’re a whole hecka fun and a great way to spend an hour or two.
Guides: Jim Tierney, Evonne Heyning
Written by: Jim Tierney, Douglas Wolk (and the respective artists)
Since the year 2000, there has been a Temple at Burning Man, and when we talk about the Temple, most people think of what started that year with David Best and Jack Haye, and became a long line of temples that have graced the playa. The Temple has evolved from what became a memorial to their friend into an “emotional nexus” of our community, where thousands make pilgrimage each year to remember those they have lost, to celebrate and affirm life, to heal and to forgive.
In 2012 I was fortunate to meet many of the people who are involved with building the Temple each year and to research what I came to believe are some of the essentials of understanding what the Temple at Burning Man has become. It is a place where our community goes to unburden itself and it is a representation of our maturity as a community as well as a natural manifestation of something sacred in the City of Black Rock.
Proposing to be the one who builds the Temple at Burning Man is serious stuff involving quite a bit of work within an existing structure of volunteers and other Temple minded folks to create something for the community. One question that was raised over and over again as I spoke with people who have done this before was that you should not ask yourself “WHAT am I doing this for?” but rather “WHO am I doing this for?”
For many Burners, the Temple is a vital place where those who build it possess a solemnity and a respect for that process. It is also a place for those who attend the event to use for grieving or celebration of life in an environment that is in contrast to a lot of the rollicking and outrageous things happening elsewhere on the playa that week in late summer.
Walking around the Temple at the middle of the week, I personally get overwhelmed by the amount of emotion that is focused like a beam in there. It is as if, from its inception each year, to all the planning and all the hands that build it, then when the event begins and it becomes “the largest collaborative art project” on the playa; that the energy of so many caring people turns whatever sublime Temple structure is built that year into something far greater than any art project.
Stopping to read the remembrances of so many loved friends, family and pets who have passed on, seeing the pictures of so many of them, pausing at the altars and shrines where people have lovingly placed tokens of their lost one’s lives, well, that can really get you right in your plexus where you feel that big sorrowful empathy wave. The Temple is a profound space where some of us who have lost loved ones can let them know that they are still loved and missed, but that it is all ok, they can pass and we can move on.
I’m a large, somewhat dim and oafish fellow, and I can only stay in there for so long before I have to walk away from it out onto the blankness of the playa with the Temple behind me, and breathe deeply so as to not betray the tough guy façade I live behind.
It is a heavy place. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.
Regardless of who builds the Temple, it is always something spectacular and special. There are bona fides and expertise that are a prerequisite to building the Temple at Burning Man and I was privy to finding out what some of those were this year.
I’ve written an article about what I discovered after being on playa (and attending the Temple construction before leaving for Black Rock City) for the building of this year’s Temple of Juno. I was able to research and read some of the intellectuals who’ve written about the concept of the Temple, including Lee Gilmore, Sarah Pike and Larry Harvey; and I had the pleasure of speaking with some of the folks involved with building Temples through the years including David Best, Jessica Hobbs and Jack Haye. The article is on the Burning Man website and is titled, Spirituality and Community: The Process and Intention of bringing a Temple to Black Rock City.
Burning Man would like to have a conversation that explores what you feel about the Temple and to get your insights on it since it is really your Temple. Please read the article as it is meant as a starting point to stimulate discussion. Our community loves discussions and the Temple is something many of us have very strong feelings about. Feel free to read the article and post your thoughts here.
This year I was fortunate enough to spend time with some of the Temple Crew and I was privy to the energy, values and belief they put into building the Temple of Juno. I found that talking about the Temple soon becomes a discussion about something ethereal, something bigger than an art project and rather something that is a significant locus not only in Black Rock City but also within each of the people who are working on constructing it, including those who fill it up once the structure is finished. The Temple is something vital and real to our community. It is a sacred place amidst the dust.
I’m not an expert at these kinds of things, but from what I’ve encountered, the Temple Crew is a group who feels deeply about what they build. Many have been touched by grief. They are all unified in their sense of purpose, even if they all bring different points of view and motivations to the creation of the Temple.
I hung around the work site, then at their camp and they were a hard working bunch, but they always had time to talk to me when I asked about what they were doing. That seems to be a running theme among the crew.
Building Art in Black Rock City isn’t easy. Schedules mean something very different on the playa. You have to do all your pre-fabrication off playa and may never see the whole thing built before you get out here. You have to tow all your stuff out there, set up camp on a desert floor, stirring up fine alkaline particulate that seeps into every tool, utensil and tent you have, and you have to include “dust days” in your set up time. Sometimes the weather just won’t let up and cranes and other heavy equipment can’t be used until it calms down. We saw a lot of dust days this year during set up. And there’s heat, and swarms of stinging ants and frogs raining. Actually, I haven’t seen the ants and frogs, but it really is hot out there. Regardless, despite the challenges, every year artists bring out their installations to grace Black Rock City for the short week of Burning Man.
Monday night they began tearing down the Center Camp Café. I was walking back from dinner where entire camps were disappearing with great expediency, leaving gaping holes in the once urbanized wall of themecamps that were there only one day before. Gone were the Home Brew camp, the Beacon and Eggs bar. As I passed the Café I saw two of the last stragglers; a tall naked man stood with his back to me next to his female companion who wore a flowing paisley robe, both staring wistfully into the Café that had become a deconstruction zone. I could tell they only wanted just one more Tai Chi or Chai Tea but the Café is closed for business.
The Art is disappearing out here overnight, with a couple of the non-burnable huge pieces like Zach Coffin’s The Universe Revolves Around YOU and Pier 2 in the process of being taken down. The playa’s pretty much empty now with only the Man pile still burning, the Dragon Smelter and Bone Tree hanging around the Esplanade, and I’m told about four pieces out there waiting to be pulled up. Burn piles out where David Best’s Temple of Juno, The Man and Otto Von Danger’s Burn Wall Street stood, are being tended to by those cleanup crews.
As you’ve no doubt heard, there were a couple Burns out here last night. We had a strong showing by our valiant Man who held on as long as he could before slipping in a mass of fire and embers below to howls primeval. His pavilion lasted much longer than he and it was probably the most substantial structure I’ve ever seen the Man stand upon since he’s been on top of them. It was a fitting and beautiful tribute to the man who designed it, Rod Garrett.
Tonight the Temple burns and all of the emotion we’ve put in there this week will wash up in a cathartic column of fire, sparks and ash that will send those notes of love and loss and of grief and forgiveness swirling into the night sky. Dust tornadoes will form and dance around us as if they are our loved ones lost, caressing us in the firelight’s glow, saying do not worry, everything is as perennial as the seasons, or the plants that return each spring or the love that brings us all together eventually.
Princess Blahblahblah came by the ARTery with her pony that she’s been bringing out here for years. She’s with Kentucky Fried Camp and someone stole the pony a day or so ago and the camp was predictably bummed until yesterday when the pony mysteriously re-appeared and had been Sparkle Ponied, with new faux fur on her mane and sides, hearts and sparkles glued all over her. A Polaroid was left; a picture of the Pony with another smaller pony out near the Temple at sunrise, with a note that read “Thank you for dancing with me all night.”