The ARTery is Open for Business


Yes, as you’ve heard,  Black Rock City’s infrastructure is coming along nicely due to the efforts of our valiant DPW. We’re seeing shade structures going up for the various Burning Man departments and we experienced a little population bump yesterday when people began arriving to ramp up their departments like Gate, ESD and Greeters. The Center Camp Café structure is built thanks to Monkeyboy and his team who pretty much worked with such efficiency and focus to build a structure that provided shade to continue working beneath, that it made me stop several times just to take in the talent and skill that oozed off them. Now Café décor is moving in and containers are being unloaded of dusty couches, carpet and other pieces of the Café.

Greeters collating – photo portaplaya

We’ve arrived at that point where all the departments moved over to their own channels from the main DPW channel. Those once quiet nowhere channels are now chattering with communications for things like Art Placement, Gate and IT. Main Gate at 8 mile is complete, at least six lanes wide leading from the new Gate to Greeters and the lanes are set with traffic cones like candy corn as far as the eye can see. It is all brand new awaiting your thousands of conveyances, empty and neat and clean, except for all the dust of course. Currently there are 30 Greeters in a container out there collating 70 thousand maps, “What Where When” guides and other things to give to you when you finally make it through the gate wait next week.

Random weird quotes abound around here these days. Moving about town I met Anika who was making a stencil “Practice Sustainable Jackassery,” Jackassery being a predominant pre event meme. At breakfast I shook a guy’s hand who said, “I’m Dustin” and I laughed then told him that was a good playa name. He said, “Oh, no my playa name is V.D. You might want to wash your hands” so I laughed … then washed my hands in the Tunnel of Love. As they passed along, someone said, “We put the DP in DPW.” New groups from different departments are moving in, setting up shade and generally staking their space that was so empty only 3 days ago. The hive mind is alive and buzzing.


The Early Burn, a photo essay

What follows is a short photo essay of last night’s Early Burn. These photos and captions are from Todd “portaplaya” Gardiner, who will be working with some of the bloggers here during the event this year.

portaplaya writes

The Early Burn is a celebration of the accomplishments of the staff and volunteers. Many of the people out this early have been building the event for more than two weeks without a day off. and this short event allows each team to make an expression of their specific contribution and provides an evening of R&R before going into the last week before the event opens.

Small core teams of artists were formed by various larger groups. The projects are rather competitive and the results range from crass to classy. The next few photos show what these builders created in two day’s time, often from scrap materials.



an Angel from EGO


Placing Otic Oasis 2.0

Bucky placing art

I’ve got my feet in several worlds this year on playa, working for the ARTery, documenting art projects to share with you all, and I’m doing some placement with the Artist Support Services (ASS) folks and I’m pretty much there to do whatever else they want me to. I’m also helping out with some Tech stuff since in my year round job I work on this here web site about the whole Burning Man thing. My ARTery mentor is Awesome Sauce, and yesterday, under her steady tutelage,  I had the pleasure of placing my first art project EVER, Otic Oasis.

My most awesome mentor, Awesome Sauce

Basically the ARTery places art once you hit the playa with your project. You roll into the ARTery and register, and then one of our team will set a time to take you out on the playa with what is called a “floofy” which sounds like “flew fee” with the plural being “floofies”. The ARTery has a rigid lexicon to describe what they do.

There are two main reasons for registering your ART. First and most obvious is to have a map of where the projects are, so people searching for them can find them, and secondly to be able to list projects on the MOOP map to make sure we all Leave No Trace.


Big Art, Early Art

The Pier trucked in

With less than two weeks before the event starts, some of the largest art is here already setting up. There’s four so far, David Best’s Temple beyond Man Base, Otto Von Danger’s Burn Wall Street around 9:00 off from the Man, the Man Base and the Pier 2 who showed up Tuesday night and are placed at 4:30 and Esplanade.

I’m following the art this year on playa and one thing I really like about Burning Man artists is that they’re building not only huge things to enthrall you participants, both with physical interaction, and some will burn the whole thing eventually, but they do it in the middle of this harsh desert as just an extra, “Oh and if that wasn’t enough”.

Pier 2 survey

Matt Schultz and Paul of the Pier rolled into our newly shaded ARTery from the Salvagery in Reno. Some of their wood came along with the Burn Wall Street crew when they came in over the weekend . If you missed the Pier last year, it was a magical stroll along an actual pier above our dry lake bed, complete with the ambiance sounds of water below, dinghies, a Master Bait and Tackle shop and people fishing at the end. It was pretty fun hanging out with others on the pier. This year I’m told by Orlin and Fish that a Spanish Galleon has crashed into the end of the pier and it will feature a Captain’s Room, a main room, crew quarters with hammocks and a stowage area. Also this year you’ll want to have a fishing license and have it stamped if you’re going to fish.

The Pier structure built

They’d set up camp the night before (in one of the four storms we’ve had in the last 4 days), surveyed the project footprint and were busily unloading trucks full of props as wood was being moved over from Burn Wall Street’s Camp. We met with them when they went over some engineering aspects of the piece yesterday afternoon and they were intent of finishing the Pier part of their project by midnight last night. If the crew could finish by midnight last night, they would get a keg of beer. Despite the total white out from 8 to 9:30ish, they finished at 11:55 and there was beer all around. Now they will build the ship and I hear it is amazing from the artist who worked with them in Reno.


Commissary Love

Commissary Dust Night

A dust storm Sunday night at dinner came on like a monolithic white swirling entity with enough force to sand blast the surface of Mars and the huge Commissary tent where we ate creaked and shivered. You could hear the plywood walls out back straining against buckling as the Commissary crew and us ran into the white out to tighten straps and ropes, attempting to keep her from launching. Brad, the drink Man from Spectrum said he’d rushed out to the kitchen tents to keep them in place.

Afterward, as always, those pounding white walls of grit cleared like passing phantoms and glorious towering clouds hung over the mountain range to the west, moving slowly in the darkening sky into a long twilight of infinite sunsets.

And the Commissary cleaned up.

Drink Man Brad standing

Much has been most eloquently written of the DPW by Mr. Curley who’s captured the spirit and tenacity, the skill and true steel forged strength of these roughnecks who build Black Rock City and also the raising of the Commissary Tent. I can attest, after being here as DPW is setting up structure after structure in the 100 plus degree heat, working hard to set up the template upon which you will bring your insanity, that they do, indeed, deserve your beer.

However, I’ve been hanging out at the Commissary, helping Mr. Barcoderino and Sgt. Slaughter set up meal databases and meeting Hayseed’s crew of 10 or so people plus the Spectrum folks who are doing the cooking and they’re all actually also pretty baddass.


East Bay to the CORE

Burners sometime muse, “What if Burning Man were year round” but would you *really* want to be living in Black Rock City year round? There’s tons of dust and you form an uncomfortable intimate bond with our blue friends the Porta Potties. There’s Exodus (assuming you ever left the playa to resupply) and there’s the heat in the summer and frozen bone chilling wind in the winter I am told.

No Pilgrim, when the event is over, it’s probably best to go home to return again someday.

Ouroboros, the Austin CORE project photo by Alvaro Barrios

Ouroboros, the Austin CORE project photo by Alvaro Barrios

And once home, all cheeky and clean in your post Burn warm fuzzy stupor, you can always hang at regional events. The Regionals have grown in leaps and bounds and starting last year we even celebrated them specifically in our Circle of Regional Effigies, or the CORE that are wooden sculptures representing the identities of each Regional that participates.

This year the Circle of Regional Effigies consists of 24 effigies in a 600 foot ring around the Man with an additional two circles of five effigies each. Last year’s Burn had 23 Regionals representing.

From what I’ve heard, the idea of putting Effigies around the Man to represent regional communities was first discussed in advance of the 25th anniversary of Burning Man. A perfect storm of the community growing larger and Regionals becoming more and more defined, hit at the same time Mr. L. Harvey was working on the Rites of Passage theme. With the anniversary and the Rites theme, a sense of forward movement, where the event is the epicenter of our culture but the Regionals really carry forth the flame out into the world congealed. This all dovetailed nicely with this year’s Fertility 2.0 theme. I suspect there is some kind of method to this madness.


Burn Wall Street: An Update from Otto Von Danger

Burn Wall Street 2012

I was fortunate enough to receive an update from Otto Von Danger on the progress of his large scale installation for this year’s Burning Man: Burn Wall Street.

Otto’s been part of the Burning Man landscape for quite a while now, first as part of the Man Crew, building the Man and Man base and then branching out to work on other projects such as the yearly return of his Frog Bat , Burning Man 2010’s Megatropolis and his Hippie/Raver Powered Lawn Chair. If you know him, you know he is driven to create large tangible things with a sense of humor and his work is not only interactive but he enjoys blowing it up before he burns it much to the delight of all.

Burn Wall Street is his most ambitious project to date and he told me,  “I’ve always been political, but this is my first art with a political meaning” and his aim is simple. Burn Wall Street is a fiercely “non-partisan to the core” installation that touches on everything from the Bill of Rights and Voter turnout to what Otto says are the two main goals of his piece:

Get Money Out of Politics and Regulate Wall Street.

Otto explains this as only he can,

 Both left and right, the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement, they’re always fighting about these wedge issues, but Burn Wall Street wants them to put that BS down for a minute, put away your Bibles and Manifestos, and come together to accomplish two things. We need to TAKE THE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS and make it an even process with a constitutional amendment so the courts can’t come back and fuck us, and then we have to actually REGULATE WALL STREET. If they can put a kid in prison for selling drugs, they should be able to put a banker who steals millions of dollars in jail… really in prison, where they can introduce him to his new life partner Bubba. No more slaps on the wrist. These people are robbing your grandmother and my grandmother and everyone’s kids and walking scot free.

Once that’s taken care of, right and left can go back to bickering over their wedge issues, but this needs to be done now.

Mike Matel paints the Bill of Rights

The press loves tension between the Right and the Left.  Mr. Von Danger says, “There is both left and right at Black Rock City but Burning Man supersedes that kind of shit. It is the perfect place for a project like this.”  He was interviewed by NPR at KUNR this week and you can hear the interview here.

In keeping with the idea of coming together, Burn Wall Street is trying to get speakers from all sides of our politics to speak at the 9 am keynote speeches throughout the week including Sharron Angle to give the Tea Party point of view, Ron Paul to deliver his Libertarian thoughts and Reverend Billy to discuss Occupy Wall Street.


The Universe Revolves Around YOU: an interview with Zachary Coffin


I’ve believed Zachary Coffin was part of a select group of great Burning Man artists ever since I first encountered his Temple of Gravity in 2003. He is one of the artists out there who builds something you can’t help but see. You will visit it throughout your week there and you will use as a landmark. He fills up the space because he works on such a huge scale and he fills it with awe. His works on playa include 2001’s Rockspinner, 2003’s Temple of Gravity, 2005’s Colossus and this year, as you’ll read below, he’s bringing us The Universe Revolves around YOU.

Colossus by Zachary Coffin

Zach is an artist who works with really big things and by big things I mean twenty thousand pound spinning and hanging boulders, heavy steel structures that allow you to interact with the weight of freight trains, and the pull of the Moon on the Earth to power Tidal Indicators.  He’s like a bright spark, excited about what he’s doing yet low key about it even though he’s larger than life in many ways. Talking with him about his art you get the feeling you’re talking to an incarnation of some great God of the mountain who is pulling out stones so large that more than one would pulverize a semi with its weight. And he’s building these structures to handle that weight, then loading the whole thing up and bringing them out to Black Rock City to make those stones seem as light as a row of birds on a wire.

He and I sat down over beers across from the Burning Man HQ last week and Zach told me,

“You see a huge boulder. Ever since you were a little kid, you were never able to move that boulder. I can make it possible for you to move that boulder and through that process you can begin to understand what’s possible through engineering and through technology.” He stopped and thought a moment then added, “on a visceral level.”

He has a bit of a twinkle in his eye when he tells you his ideas, like he’s in on something so large you’re only going to get a small glimpse of what lives there, but that glimpse is big enough to blow your mind. I’ve met a fair share of artists and Zach’s one of the sincere ones. He smiles a lot and has a good humor about him and he gives off a genuinely kind vibe.  Update:  There is now a KickStarter campaign for the project. Please donate if you can: