Eva told Mike and I a story yesterday when we were at Eggchair’s bar in Center Camp and I cannot attest to the facts nor the timelines, but our discussion of art tours took a bit of a detour and she said something very close to this.
“Back in 1993 Larry Harvey wanted to bring a porta pottie to the playa for what they were calling ‘Burning Man’ and he came over to my place and helped me pack my van for the trip. He helped me entirely pack but I think he was waiting for that twenty dollars we all were putting in to pool our money for the porta pottie because none of us had much money.”
“We finished packing, I gave him the twenty dollars and he took a napkin and wrote down the directions to the playa with ‘get off the playa here’ and ‘go 3.5 miles this direction then go 1 mile that direction.’ He then wrote ‘Paid 20$ for porta potties’ and signed it Larry Harvey.”
“So, I came up here to Black Rock and followed the directions. It was Wednesday and we didn’t burn the Man until Sunday then so I finally find where they are and Larry is in a pup tent and the Man is in the back of a pickup with about twenty people camping there. On Sunday it was a great burn and about a thousand people showed up, a lot of them from Reno.”
Mike took a sip of his drink and said, “Do you still have that napkin? That might be worth something. It sounds like one of the first tickets to Burning Man ever.”
Eva thought a second then said, “No, there wasn’t any toilet paper in the porta potties so I had to use it to wipe. I’d already followed the directions and found Burning Man.”
Despite four days of nightly white outs, including the mother of all sandstorms and 12 hour delays on I-80 over the pass, being surrounded by hundreds of wild fires burning, and rumors of a fuel line break that would make gas impossible to procur, somehow most of the art for this year is either complete or almost there. This is indeed a fertile year for art as it springs up seemingly everywhere on the playa.
A few of the larger pieces are still putting on finishing touches. The Temple of Juno is built and there are only cherry pickers affixing the intricate decorations to the outer walls as they finish the altars inside the courtyard and Burn Wall Street has all their buildings up and at night you can see the neon signs.
Now that the gates are open, playa citizens wander along in fresh packs wearing clothes that have yet to be brushed with the color of playa. They ride through the art on blinking bikes as mutant vehicles boom or blast disco and the city now hums with the sound of construction as themecamps spring up along the Esplanade, and points beyond are filling in. Scaffolding rises, Pink furry places with fluffy couches and Shipwreck Tiki Lounges are close to being open for camaraderie. The graceful French Quarter, BaalMart, Spankys and large scale sound camps of pyramids and enormous domes lit from inside at night out at the ends of the city are appearing with wild abandon in this frontier town.
48 hours after the Otic Oasis crew entered the Man Base to build the Pistil, the last of a tirad of finials atop the piece were put into place. The Pistil is composed of Gregg Fleishman’s interlocking wooden pieces and it spans most of the middle of the Man Pavilion, climbing up to just below where the Man stands above over the open oculus. It’s an elegant sculpture that swirls around in a series of modules connected by stairways with a flowing symmetry suggesting both a honeycomb and very much this year’s theme of Fertility.
The crew climbed all over the sculpture working, and as the last pistil top was lowered, there were many deft fingers in there making adjustments, with bodies intertwined, twisting and raising the graceful piece into place. When the node slid down to a stop there was applause. Then one by one, curved vertical pieces were inserted and pins placed, then each crew member took a turn knocking the pins into place with their mallets. It was all very deliberate and with the absence of power tools, it seemed very ritualistic and beautiful to behold. (more…)
The ARTery is in full swing, with projects beginning to pour in by the truckload. Where once was open playa and the original four projects with their encampments, now a cornucopia of projects grows every day. Bands of dusty artists arrive in caravans following long trucks packed with wood and steel and those artists are beginning to match the population of those building Black Rock City. Flux is here setting up Zoa, the EGO project, Reno Star Cosmic Thistle and Anubis among other pieces are all placed and building, rising up like tiny desert tribes, settled in and circling whatever tall idol they’re erecting.
Out at Zoa Flux heavy equipment (HEAT) was helping to put together the three steel structures that are the underlying “sculptural array” for the project. They’re named Billy, Etta and Nina and large star shaped wooden pieces that will form part of their wooden Seapod exoskeletons lay off to the side awaiting numerous adjustments, placements, riggings and gas lines installations before being fitted to the outsides. Flux is a whirr of energy with crews working all over and last night and tonight they’re testing flame effects. Jess Hobbs was out there and she had a button her hat that read “Chaos is my Bitch” and Masha showed us the orb on Etta that she’d cut from a huge pipe then shaped and sculpted. Zoa is located past the Man, before the Temple out toward 2:00 and will be burning Wednesday night at 9:00.
You know how every year when you leave Burning Man after partying your butt off, interacting with amazing art, seeing your friends and making new ones, and wandering around an amazing city unlike any you’ve ever encountered that magically rises up out of a prehistoric lakebed; you go home and take a shower and maybe have a beer and think about how great that was? Well, there are people still out in those dust storms and that searing heat making sure everything is torn down, stowed and shipped and any little bits of trash you possibly, accidentally were inconsiderate about not taking home with you are being all picked up so we can throw this little event again next year.
I was talking with DA who runs the Playa Restoration (or Resto) Crew and he told me how when the event is over they spend weeks tearing down Black Rock City’s structures and then walking miles each day in the sun over grids, making sure to pick up every last bit of trash that may have made it to the playa floor. The goal is to leave the playa as clean as it was before the event and it is hard, grueling work. They start early in the morning and DA tells me that around 3:15 in the afternoon someone will invariably yell “Morale!” and the crew will stop, go to the shade and drink a couple cold beers and eat some snacks. This makes the remaining two hours go by faster.
That beer and snacks are donated by you, kind citizen of Black Rock City.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.