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.
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.
Almost one year ago to date, Joshua and I were running around the playa with a recorder capturing soundscapes, bikes, art car tires, wind, art project bass tones, fire, the burn, thoughts, moments, tears, anxieties, and messages of love. The goal: to create a piece of audio magic that embodied the soundscape – sampling, creating drum kits, crafting music all with nothing but sounds from the playa and using the words of the burners that inhabited the dust as the lyrics. A job we knew would be full of sweat, time, and technically detailed passion. A job that would be well worth every moment. *EVERY SINGLE SOUND ENCAPSULATED IN THIS PIECE IS FROM THE PLAYA, 2013, NOT ONE OUTSIDE PIECE OF AUDIO WAS USED.* This is a piece of audio magic whose soul intention is to be a gift to you. To you, our fellow burners, to you the ones who’ve never been, to you the ones who aren’t going this year, to you the ones who are already en route, to you the ones who are just a bit curious of what our magic tastes like. After almost one year, Volume 1 of what we hope to be a yearly gift for your auditory pleasure is complete. Please enjoy a journey into the dust…a massive thank you to the art projects and burners we recorded: $tephen Ra$pa, Carmen Mauk, Madeleine Belle, Joe Everyday, Davina the Dragon Crew (Christian Breedon, Kristin Bowdy, Parker Galore, Carter Smith, etc…), Shanna, Ted the Weather Pimp, the Playa Jazz Cafe, Cleu Camp, the Center Camp Cafe Marching Band Competition, Keno Mapp, Matt Fusello, Polaris from Media Mecca, Nick Sunderberg, the Cathedral of Celestial Mathgic, Ilya Pieper, the whole BMIR crew, the fires and drums of conclave, the Man, the Temple, Orson Welles, all of your damn P’s that were popped throughout the recording process… and everyone else who contributed to this anonymously…we love you all! Burn bright…)’(
I have been writing about Bliss Dance Studios for several years. They are my friends and I am a BIG fan. My favorite blog post was when they were assembling Bliss Dance before Burning Man 2010. There were some pretty scary moments and from where I was sitting, it was a miracle when it all fit together. It was their first try at art of this size, you can see that post HERE.
So I believe art begets art. For example, one of the Bliss Dance crew, last year she was the operations manager for Truth is Beauty, Katy Boynton, created Heartfullness with her crew in 2012 and brought it out again in 2011, you can read about that HERE.
But it was a huge surprise to me when one of the Truth is Beauty crew announced a few months ago that she wanted to create a volcano, Paha’oha’o, about 30′ tall, and bring it to the Playa this year. So then it started, the vision, what it should look like, what it should be made of, would there be fire? Then there were structural drawings and discussions of materials. I found it all very exciting. Although I am not on the crew, we have a potluck on Tuesdays so I got to see materials testing, the structural engineer stopping by, the stairs getting built and tested, and oh yes, the slide, or as the artist Kahai Sumida Tate says:
The only way down will be to take a leap of faith into the belly of the volcano via a 22’ drop slide or lava tube that is made with an organic linoleum.
Building the last few weeks has been at a furious pace and I have had the chance to see the pieces come together, the sides of the volcano being built, the drums being created, and then this happened:
And just to bring it back to art begets art, Katy Boynton is the Project Manager of this project and Marco Cochrane has sculpted a eight foot high hula dance, who is making an offering to Pele, the fire goddess, to live in the belly of Paha’oha’o.
I wanted to know a little more about the volcano and what it meant to Kahai, this is what she has to say about it:
In Hawaii, eruptions are viewed as beneficial, as acts of creation, and Hawaiians often see their lives mirrored in the level of volcanic activity.
On those islands, an eruption usually begins with lava gushing from a long crack in the earth. The hot, highly fluid material leaves a smooth, skin like texture along the eruptive fissure. Because the structure is reminiscent of a huge vagina, native Hawaiians traditionally regarded an eruption as the menstruation of the goddess Pele, with the red lava always flowing toward the sea, the same path taken in ancient times by women to cleanse themselves. Participants will be able to sacrifice themselves into the volcano burning away their outer shell to start a new beginning.
The volcano will stand 30’ tall by 60’ in diameter layered in burlap which will look like molten lava. The lava will be illuminated wall washer led lights that will be programmed to look like flowing lava. 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. Inside the volcano will be an enclosed room with a 12’ ceiling, Marco Cochrane’s sculpture, and Hawaiian pahu drums.
If you would like to see Paha’oha’o burn at Burning Man this year, read about the burn HERE.
And did I hear you say you would like to volunteer to help Paha’oha’o? They are looking for volunteers at Burning Man this year to help participants at the the top and bottom of the slide. Participants will sacrifice themselves into the volcano burning away their outer shell to start a new beginning! 3 hours of fiery fun! Sign up for a shift using the link on the event page HERE. Mahalo!