The 10 Principles are most potent when offered to Strangers

StrangerDangerLast year I brought an art project with me to the playa – my first. It was a piece of “oracular playa magic” in which I would offer someone a personal experience: we would combine the serendipitous power of the playa with the deep insights provided by art to discover the person’s destiny and true nature.

It did not go the way I expected. Instead of being a fun little gift I could offer people, more often than not it stopped their burn in its tracks. I had people burst into tears; people go into deep conversations about their lives; one guy literally ran away. Other people told me, long after Burning Man, that they were still thinking about what I had “shown” then.

That was not supposed to happen. You can read about the whole experience here.

A number of people who witnessed this last year or read the story asked me if I was going to bring the project back for the 2014 burn. After a great deal of thought, I did. Unchanged except for the addition of a couple of new stories tacked on to the end.

The “divination game” was an immediate hit this year, and in my first few days I had a lot of people ask to participate, or bring me friends or people from their camps who were having various kinds of problems and therefore “needed” a reading.

But it wasn’t like last year: the effect was completely different. Instead of being an experience that stopped people in their tracks, my art project was a fun art gift that people really enjoyed and recommended to their friends. Which is great – I’m not complaining – but it made me wonder: why was it so different? Why was the exact same project getting a 180 degree response from the year before?

Part of it, surely, is just that no two years are alike – a fact that I gratefully acknowledge. But was that all there is?

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Licked by Kittens Camp

The Man
The Man

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.

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Cop Whispering: A call to unity

Working DPW and Gate at Burning Man has given many of us on staff our first taste of what it feels like to be an Enforcer. Of any type. In order to build and run a city out of thin air, sometimes a bunch of anti-authoritarians have to figure out how to tell other anti-authoritarians what to do, in the way we’d like to be told ourselves.

We workers are enforcers of necessary rules like: Don’t bring your guns or dogs here, don’t run towards the burning thing, and what if you’ve tried to stow away a hippie and now they’re suffocating underneath your bad plans.

Yes, it can be fun to role-play alpha tribe-protector out here, all fancy with a radio. Yes, the Stanford Prison Experiment was real, and we’re sure the lead Black Rock Rangers have had to pull some “excited fake cop” people off their Burning Man Ranger routes and take their radios away. That’s human nature. Working through it is what happens next.

For us regular blue-collar workers in Black Rock City, sometimes in this heat we get to feeling harsh, whether from a long work day, a few bad apples’ stupidity, or their mis-assumption of our stupidity. Worse yet, sometimes, as Enforcers, we harsh someone who doesn’t deserve it, because someone else tried to run and hitchhike through fast-moving intake lanes just a minute ago.

So the workers of Black Rock City have a heightened sense of empathy for Burning Man’s law enforcement. In Black Rock City, we have DPW who builds and stewards the town, we have Rangers who walk around and interact with the community, we have Emergency Services which provides medical and fire protection to anyone and everyone who needs it, and we have Gate and Perimeter as our internal “border security.” Together, these Burning Man departments handle all the regular, run-of-the-mill problems a society might have, such as power outages, dehydration, or domestic disputes.

Then the big guns are also here — the BLM and local law enforcement — whenever we need them.

We have always been glad they’re here. We workers have dealt with some scary shit, and while we talk a big tough game, DPW doesn’t know what to do with a transient one-armed man who’s wandered in from the desert during setup 2003, bleeding from his crazy-eyed head, talking about having just murdered a friend and his dog. Uhhhh, that’s beyond our scope of knowledge and ability.

We call the cops. We need cops. End of story. (more…)

Audio Art Tours are live!

The wonderful folks in the ARTery have completed your 2014 Audio Art Tours.

Download the entire zip file or get individual MP3s now at the new Art Installations Audio Tours page.

The MP3s are great to listen to while packing, on the drive to BRC, or on playa, as you’ll have your own personal art tour guide. They should import into your music player as an album and are easy to drop into a playlist.

Your tour guides are the ever fantastic art fanatics  Jim Tierney and Evonne Heyning. Blurbs for each piece are written by Jim Tierney  or the individual artists.

Spread the word far and wide and bring your own Art tour to the playa.

Also, the ARTery has created a page devoted to everything you need to know about  Art Tours in Black Rock City this year

Enjoy!

Where do I find the Pinhole Cameras this year?

Pinhole sampleIt’s not as well known as that one art car that shoots all the fire, or that sculpture that does the thing when you touch it with the lights – but for years the Pinhole Camera group at Burning Man has been producing some of the playa’s finest back-and-white photography, and they’ve developed a following.

For years the group has been based out of Media Mecca, using one of Mecca’s shipping containers as an on-playa dark room.  Putting on gloves, sploshing chemicals – I’m pretty sure some people have gotten it on in there, too, but sadly it wasn’t me.

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Involving and Engaging Kids at Burning Man

Zebra riders (Photo by Omer Sehayek)
Zebra riders (Photo by Omer Sehayek)

Black Rock City relies on the efforts, diligence and ethics of the Burners that build the city, run departments and set the stage to make Burning Man possible, and kids are some of the most enthusiastic volunteers who love contributing their time, and have fun doing it.

From the very beginning, playa kids learn survival skills, playa ethics like Leave No Trace, and ultimately how to contribute to their community. When taught the Burning Man principles on playa, kids get it right away. They learn it, live it and incorporate it into their core values as they grow up.

Through programs like Black Rock Scouts, kids get to volunteer and train with departments like Lamplighters, Gate, Greeters, ESD, Media Mecca and DMV. This kind of behind-the-scenes exposure teaches them invaluable skills and often inspires kids (and their parents) to join a crew, which some Scouts have gone on to do.

What are the Risks?

Adult content is concern for some — mostly to those without kids — but exposure to such things challenges parents to talk about tough subjects. Kids are not shy about asking questions, so most parents look at it as an opportunity to talk openly with their children about sexuality, drug use and human nature.

Mobile classroom (Photo by Roth Hall)
Mobile classroom (Photo by Roth Hall)

As far as nudity goes, kids love being naked so when adults don’t react negatively, it’s no big deal. In the end, it’s the parent’s responsibility to decide what their child should see or not, so Burners should simply be themselves around kids. If your behavior seems unsuitable for kids, it’s up the parents to remove their children from the situation. No biggie.

How About the Rewards?

Interacting with kids on playa can be a rewarding experience for child-free Burners. Do you remember having that ‘aha!’ moment during your first Burn? You relearned how to play, how to be generous and how it feels to be unconditionally accepted. Children who come to the playa are already there. They see the world as one big playground. Their open minds are not tainted with prejudice or judgment.

Playing with children helps us experience the magic of the playa through their fresh perspective. Playa kids raised at Burning Man have the advantage of on-the-playa training with inspiring Burners (like you) as role models. When you encounter a baby Burner this year, take a moment to have a conversation, share your wisdom or simply play with them.

Playa-raised kids are the next generation of Burners and they’ll be the ones keeping the flame alive at Burning Man.

You’ve got the KLAP

As of this week, Gerlach’s one and only radio station, KLAP 89.5FM, moved physically from the garage in town to Mama Loella’s old hotel next door.

ye olde garage, now housing Quinn's new pizza joint
ye olde garage, now housing Quinn’s new pizza joint

KLAP 89.5FM sounds like KPIG — playing a vast array of cowboy, country, rock, roll, jazz, reggae, folk, Cajun, Latin, Dixieland, and soul music, in random playlists which skillfully ride the thin line between eclectic and familiar. And that’s because Jeff Cotton, who programmed KPIG, started the KLAP four years ago.

You could listen to KLAP 89.5FM right now, and forever, streaming here.
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Gerlach Senior Center – Donations Wish List

Gerlach’s elders could use a few things, y’all.

The Nevada town just outside the Black Rock Desert where Burning Man occurs is home to a small but thriving population of senior citizens. Rather than head towards the nursing homes of Reno, the elders in this dusty Western hamlet pretty much decided to hunker down and stick together. A Senior Center was created, where they can rely on each other for support, which allows them to live at their own homes for what seems like longer than most old folks get to, or maybe ‘til the last, as most of us would prefer.

Senior Center painting of Gerlach's iconic Water Tower, by someone named Livermore, done in 1978
Senior Center painting of Gerlach’s iconic Water Tower, by someone named Livermore, done in 1978

Weekday lunches and frequent activities with your friends? Constant contact with your support network? Sounds like a better way to spend those golden years than locked in a bleak hospital for the aging, somewhere far away from the ones you love.
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