In Derry, a city historically split by religious and political divisions, there is a long-standing tradition of burning and building extreme bonfires. UK-based charity Artichoke, who specializes in large-scale interactive public art installations, wants to bring David and his crew to build a temple with the local community that will turn the notion of bonfires and burning in Northern Ireland on their head. The temple will serve as a source of healing, uniting people as they come together for the epic build. Four people from Derry came to Burning Man this year and studied with David as he worked on the Temple of Grace.
The Burning Man Project is thrilled to support this collaboration with its first official grant from the new Burning Man Arts program. Burning Man Arts has also awarded a grant to support longtime Burner and documentary filmmaker Laurent LeGall, who is working on a full-length film about David Best’s life and work. He will shoot the temple project in Northern Ireland for the film, which is expected to be released sometime in 2015.
Sidney Erthal, co-photographer with Scott London, and author Jennifer Raiser of Burning Man Art on Fire, which is topping the charts at Amazon, was packing to leave Burning Man last week and noticed he had several calls from his good friend Claude-Alix Bertrand, the Captain of the Haitian Polo Team. When he got Claude-Alix on the phone, he wanted to know if Sidney could “Please come with me to Haiti?” Claude-Alix explained that he was about to be awarded the honor of being an Ambassabor of Goodwill for Haiti, and could Sidney please come, and take photos of the event. The Haitian Polo Team had just won their first Championship Trophy.
So Sidney traveled home to San Francisco, packed a few things and off he went on the red-eye to New York City and then a jump to Haiti, and at that point, Sidney had not even been off Playa 48 hours. As Sidney said,
That moment when you thought you were going to have a very slow decompression and life surprises you big time… A life changing experience after a life changing burn. Embracing the mission.
He was in Haiti for just less than a week, and what an adventure it was.
But without a doubt, the highlight of the trip for Sidney, was meeting the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, when he presented the Ambassadorship to Claude-Alix. Sidney had the opportunity to give President Martelly a copy of his book, and chat a little about Burning Man, which Martelly had heard of and was excited to know more about, and the President’s vision of Haiti’s future, to perhaps be a destination point for polo, to create more jobs in Haiti and improve the country’s economy. Sidney and President Martelly also had a moment to talk about the work that Burners Without Borders has been doing in Haiti to support Haiti’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake and help artists with their job skills; to read more that program, click HERE.
After meeting with the President, Sidney and Claude-Alix were taken on a tour of Haiti by Haitian Minister of Tourism, Stephanie Villedrouin. They saw a broad cross section of Haiti in their travels. They also attended a lot of meetings, or as Sidney said,
Meetings, meetings and meetings. I always knew my degree in Tourism would be very useful at some point! YEAY!!!
After the rainstorm cleared it was pretty easy to find anyone who wasn’t huddled in a building: with no cars on the streets and no bikes that could get traction in ground this muddy we were all out walking, but the mud stuck to our shoes so quickly that we didn’t get far. Augustus St. James actually came to me, collapsing next to me on still-dry couch inside BMIR’s shade structure. We were both waiting for the ground to harden, so he had nothing to do but tell me his story.
The art bus picked me up just before sundown and we started touring around the metal insects, glowing skulls, giant flowers and strange geometric shapes that had been stationed out in the desert. A number of pieces weren’t even up yet, which was good for me, but it still looks like Hieronymus Bosch designed a playground out there. There’s something a little threatening about art that isn’t kept in a museum, but I suppose that’s the point.
What I didn’t see was anything that someone who believed he had the secret to happiness would obsess over. What are happy people even obsessed by? Is happiness like money or sex, where you just keep wanting more because enough is never enough? Or is happiness the one thing that can extinguish the desire for itself?
No, I didn’t go to college. But I once watched a YouTube clip about Schopenhauer. Also vacuum cleaner repair. (more…)
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.
Augustus St. George is never easy to track down, but fortunately I know all his favorite bartenders. Playing a lucky hunch, I was able to find him at the Jazz Cafe in Center Camp late the other night. I found him saying terrible things about Miles Davis to the patrons and staff in an attempt to get kicked out. He’d only tell me what happened to him after I agreed with him about Fusion Jazz. This has made my friends at BMIR very upset with me, but I think it was worth it.
Everyone who knows anything about First Camp knows that it has two levels.
Two levels. Sure. And David Best doesn’t lace the temple with Illuminati Symbols. Uh huh. Of course not.
Two levels are for chumps. The Rangers took me to the third level – an underground bunker beneath the playa built out of 100% recycled materials by a special “black ops” squadron of the DPW. I don’t know what their call sign is, but I’ve seen them at work: they can do things with rebar and plywood that prove there is no God.
The bunker goes down beneath the Black Rock Subway system and into what I’ve since learned that Burning Man calls its “War Room” – a collection of conference tables, computer monitors, and translucent naked statues representing the eternal feminine. Together it looks like a cross between the Pentagon and an art history teacher’s sex dungeon.
Big Bear, who’s responsible for connections with law enforcement, and Board member Harley DuBois were there waiting for me. (more…)
After the events of last year, I was stunned to bump into Augustus St. George on the play last night! It was four in the morning, and he was walking with a couple of rangers out of Decadent Oasis, a camp I’d never known his to associate with. I asked him what was up. He didn’t seem happy to give me the answer, but then he never seems happy. Here’s what he told me:
I’d said I wasn’t coming to Burning Man again, and I always keep my word to criminals, bartenders, and women with low expectations. Duchamp’s team of layers had been on me like a pack of rats on a cheese plate after last year’s showdown, and I was happy to retire. I took my savings and bought a little place in Half-Moon Bay, right by the ocean. The ocean’s expanding and the coast is eroding, and it will be gone in 30 years. But so will I.
I hate Half-Moon Bay. It’s a town for people who have very high expectations of their children. But I love sitting on my balcony with a glass of something strong at sunset, watching the sun change the color of the ocean. I was planning to live like this. Unless there was something good on television. Then I was planning to watch it.
But on Saturday, there was a ring at my door.
I turned on the intercom. “What?” It’s what I say instead of “Who.”
This is my first little post from the Playa. It is a beautiful day, the temperature is in the mid 80s, there is a mild breeze, the theme camps are arriving and the city is getting populated. I have spent the day meeting new people in my camp, the pretty newbie from Georgia, and ever smiling photographer Fonzi, and hanging with 20 year veterans like Eggchairsteve. New family and old family. And then I ran into Sidney Erthal, my friend and a fabulous photographer, and we decided you might like to see a different view of the Man. Whether you are already on the Playa, on your way here, or staying home this year, this is the new Man, bigger and better than ever, topping off at over 100 feet. More later…
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.