Posts in playa

September 2nd, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

In Dust We Trust

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.”
– Neil Gaiman

We love to hate the dust. It gets into everything, it sticks to anything. What it touches is marked for the remainder of it’s  significantly shortened lifespan. I believe we ingest a lot more of it than we imagine. Fighting it — believe me, I’ve tried — is useless.

But I find that when I quit fighting and embrace the dust, and I mean truly become one with it and of it and in it, it becomes almost impossible to become actually dirty. And my camera gets a magical Shield of Immunity against playa, and so I go out and shoot what the dust reveals.

Hawaii CORE project

Dusty Couple

Read more »

August 28th, 2011  |  Filed under Building BRC

The Playa is Really Big

As anyone who has walked back to camp after watching the sun come up out at the trash fence will tell you: the playa is big. Really big. Gigantic and huge to boot. But it’s even bigger than that. Really. Really. Big.

It’s so big the only way I can explain it is to show you a picture and hope that you click on it:

110 megapixel panoramic image of the Black Rock Desert

This is a 110 megapixel panoramic image I shot of the Black Rock desert last Wednesday. It’s made out of 42 individual images, and stretches all the way from the Temple of Transition all the way back to Gerlach. Click on the image to see the whole thing in high-rez interactive animated detail.  Requires Flash and a full water container. Extra sunscreen would be a good idea, too.

April 26th, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Black Rock City, Population: 1

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

If you’ve never been to the Playa in the winter, you’re missing out on quite a powerful experience. Benjamin “Jets” Wilner was out there this winter, and he recorded his thoughts, and took some striking pictures. While he sent us this back in February, we thought you’d enjoy it … even in the springtime. He writes:

“I’m sitting in the Reno airport, and thanks to the free wifi I have something to do besides waste the money I barely have in the slot machines they have here.

Playa in Winter, Photo by Benjamin Wilner

I came up here to this cold city in the dead of winter for one reason: I just wanted to see the Playa in the opposite state of how I’m used to seeing it. For no particular reason, really, other than just being there. It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since my first Burn, in 2008. The Black Rock Desert is barren enough even during Burn week each year, but I couldn’t imagine what it was like in the winter when it’s completely empty, so I wanted to see it for myself that way. Read more »

August 15th, 2008  |  Filed under Building BRC

look, ma, a city …

Center Camp is going up fast. Really fast.

Center Camp is going up fast. Really fast.

First, an admission.

I was off the playa for most of two days. The details are boring; just mark it down to the demands of the default world.

Still, you can tell the people who’ve been out of the dust and the sun for even a little while. Their eyes aren’t as red, their clothes aren’t as dirty and their mental state isn’t quite as blasted as those who’ve been out in it each and every day.

So I’ve become one of “those” people now, and it’s not a happy thing.

Everything got bigger when I was away. Three of the platforms for The Man were constructed, and one of them was even hoisted on top of another one, creating a second level. Eventually, there will be three levels, each of them 16 feet high. And there’ll be spiral staircases inside that you’ll be able to walk up  when the the construction is finished.

The platforms for the base of the Man have been assembled

The platforms for the base of the Man have been assembled

“It’s like an obelisk,” said Brian as he squinted into the sun and worked to make the fittings just right. “You know, like the Washington Monument. Or a big prick.”

Oh yes. A mighty big prick.

Center Camp is also taking shape fast. The headers are in place, and the crew even finished the cabling by Wednesday. By Thursday, the netting was going up for shade. Believe me, you will appreciate the shade. And you simply have to marvel at the work ethic of the Center Camp crew. They are just unstoppable. “Everyone on the crew is trying to impress me,” Joe the Builder said. Whatever the reason, things are  ahead of schedule.

Out a little further at the Temple, more of the pieces have arrived. Huge wooden poles will support giant walkways are lying prone in the dust, waiting for a three-crane lift later in the week. There will also be a “double-helix” circular staircase in the middle, the handiwork of Brandon, who’s got years of experience building stairways and took a lot of that knowledge with him out to the desert. Read more »

August 12th, 2008  |  Filed under Building BRC

flag day

Flags are everywhere.

Posts, beams, cables, spikes … eventually, all these flags will have something put in the ground where there are only flags now.

Surveyors have been out walking, consulting maps, stepping off distances, trying to make sure that drawings and plans become actual facts on the ground.

the orange flag marked the very center of where Center Camp is being constructed

the orange flag marked the very center of where Center Camp is being constructed

Yesterday, Monique and Danny were working their way around the rim of Center Camp, repeating the same process over and over and over again: Go to the pink and green flag, put a stake on the digging machine, slowly rotate it into the ground,  adjust the sheath, put it in a little further, adjust the sheath again, then sink it so that only a  loop of steel was peeking out of the dust.

Later, cables will be attached to keep the shade sturdy.

Danny is very much like a lot of people out here: He’s got another life in the default word, but more and more the Burner life and the default world are intersecting.

Earlier this year, he went to Peru in the wake of the earthquake there to help put devastated villages back together again. He’s got a variety of skills — plumbing, electricity, carpentry — so he brings a lot to the party. He planned on spending a week helping out, then he’d spend a couple of weeks traveling around. “Two months later, I was still there,” he said.

Danny adjusts the sheath

Danny adjusts the sheath

The villagers were accustomed to having water for only an hour a day, and that was before the earthquake.  “But they were happy,” Danny said. “They’d just say, hey, it’s Peru.”  So he and the other Burners Without Borders were building concrete tanks that would gather water, so the villagers would have water when they needed it, not just when it was running.

So how does a guy find it possible to go helping people out around the world? “I sold a software company at the right time,” Danny said.

Monique in the cab

... and just because we've declared this flag day, and because of this year's theme, here's one that seemed appropriate ...

... and because we declared this flag day, here's one that seemed appropriate.

August 10th, 2008  |  Filed under Building BRC

king posts

how we began the night

how we began the night

I’m told the raising of the “king posts” used to be a pretty big deal.

The king posts are the 11 big beams that hold up much of the rest of Center Camp. The whole shebang is really a stationary sail, Devo told me, and he oughta know. He’s not only been working on the Build for years, but he also knows his way around boats. (He’ll be teaching disadvantaged children the joys of sailing when the Burning Man event his finished.)

So last night, after the big barbecue at the Saloon hosted by Camp Q (and oh god was it good: ribs, chicken, steak, mashed potatoes … completely fantastic. Absolutely delicious. And  they worked liked dogs for four hours to  feed the DPW crew after another back-breaking, sun-baking day of labor. The lines for the food sucked, but hey, even the liquor was free, and what’s wrong with that? Nothing.)

laying them out

laying them out

So after the big feast, we went back out to the playa in the gathering gloom. The sun was already down, and the big big sky had all those shades of pink and purple and blue that make a light show even before the first generator is fired up.

There was a time, Joe the Builder and Niko were telling me, that the raising of the beams was a pretty major deal. Everyone would be partying, and after each post was laid in the ground, it’d be time for another round. That didn’t sound too bad, honestly. Read more »

September 17th, 2007  |  Filed under Environment

Ten Days In Ten Minutes–the playa time lapse movie


Congratulations to Peef for this great project, shot from the top of the Black Rock Solar array Powertainer. Direct link to this and satellite image of the playa available here.

September 5th, 2007  |  Filed under Building BRC

August 31st: Art Appreciation

Crude Awakening figure

Crude Awakening figure

This afternoon I finally rode my bike out to the open playa and looked at some of the art installations. I feel like I’ve missed a lot of the art this year since I haven’t had much time to explore, so it was nice to get out there and just cruise around with my camp mates. We headed toward the oil derrick at Crude Awakening so that Tory and Justin could climb up the stairs to the platform. Unfortunately the site was roped off so the crew could prepare the derrick for tonight’s explosion. I felt lucky to have climbed up there twice yesterday considering the tower was only open for about 36 hours.

The Temple

The Temple

We rode over to David Best and Tim Dawson’s Temple of Forgiveness. From afar, the beautiful Temple is geometric and very sturdy looking, less delicate or intricate than years past. It’s composed of seven large cubes that form four entrance halls and a central altar that opens to the sky. It still features layers of intricately cut wood, and when I approached, one girl was writing a message on the surface. Another person was sitting on one of the benches, bent over with his forehead in his hands, clearly upset. I didn’t feel like sinking in to a deeply reflective mood, so I didn’t stay long.

Tory & Justin at Tasseograph

Tory & Justin at Tasseograph

Big Rig Jig

Big Rig Jig

Then we rode over to Tasseograph, a small temple made entirely of found objects and food packaging, and then on to Big Rig Jig, which is awesome of course. Mike Ross describes the project as ‘a visual metaphor for non-sustainability’ and it totally works. The two oil tankers are bent into a completely impossible position that makes you look at it again and again because your brain is so unfamiliar with the curves and the height and the way one is sticking out of the other. And then there’s the weight. The thing is so f**king heavy. For me, the sculpture itself is weirdly beautiful. At the same time, it’s as if the oil is so powerful, it has warped the tankers, like it has warped us.

For more information about the Honorarium art installations at Burning Man, go here:

Critical Tits
My friend Tory is a superstar. In addition to everything else, (she’s a firefighter, mountain biker, snowboarder, diver, surfer, photographer) she keeps feeding me delicious meals and she made matching green outfits for Kelly (also a firefighter), me (not a firefighter), and her to wear during Critical Tits. The three of us rolled out to the Man base at 4:00 and rode together in the parade.

If you’ve never been, Critical Tits is like Critical Mass, but topless women only, riding their bikes through the city to the delight and appreciation of the mostly male citizenry lining the streets. The stream of girls on bikes stretched out for a mile maybe- we couldn’t see the beginning or end from our vantage point. The half-hour ride ended at a party in deep, deep playa. Acavallo was there, with a really good band onstage and dancers on the horses, and the huge party area was surrounded by booths offering drinks and fresh fruit. It was beautiful outside, so we parked our bikes among the thousands that were there, checked our coordinates against the big landmarks, and went in through the front gate.

Within minutes, the wind kicked up and blew so much dust that my eyeballs got scratched. I had left my goggles on my bike. Such a rookie mistake! I tried waiting it out, but the storm got worse and I couldn’t see. I couldn’t even open my eyes anymore, so Kelly offered to take me back to our bikes and get my goggles. She took my hand and told Tory and Justin we’d be back in a few minutes.

Well, first we lost our bikes. We walked in their direction but couldn’t distinguish their location in the sea of bikes and impenetrable swirl of dust. We kept looking though, knowing in our hearts that we would come across them in the next pile of blown down bikes. Then we lost the party. We could no longer see the mass of people or the big stage or any of the booths or cars. At one point we couldn’t even hear the music. Then we couldn’t tell which music was which. Is it the Critical Tits party or an art car? When we stopped to ask a group of people if they knew where the party was, they pointed in opposite directions. Not a good sign.

We finally made our way back to the party after about 20 minutes, coming in from the opposite side near the stage, and realized we had made a big half-circle looking for our bikes. Next, we lost Tory and Justin. They were nowhere to be found. The storm was actually getting worse, so Kelly took me by the hand again and led us out into the void. We stumbled over bikes and people until we found an art car close by. She left me there and went to find our bikes. She came back a while later empty handed and ventured out again after making sure I was ok. I hadn’t opened my eyes in a long time (weird, try it) and I was sort of disgusted by the guy sitting next to me (way too friendly, drunk, obnoxious) but I was fine. After the second trip, she came back with both bikes and my goggles. I threw on the goggles and yelled hooray just in time to see that the dust storm was fast becoming a storm storm and everyone was making a mad dash from the open playa toward the grid.

We left the Critical Tits area and headed generally toward Center Camp into a fierce wind that knocked us both off our bikes and forced us to push them hard against it. Our progress was pretty slow. Then it started to rain. Then it got cold. And we still couldn’t see. Did I mention that we were wearing booty shorts, pasties, and go-go boots? We decided to change tack and aim for the Deep End- it seemed like a good time to go dancing. I thought a beer would be nice too, and the Paddy Mirage offered a great shelter, so we decided to stop there first if we could find it. We actually emerged from the worst of the storm right at 10:00 and Coral Reef. Nice navigation! We went inside, warmed up, and drank a Guinness. We were a mess- dirty and wet- but everyone was super nice to us, even asking to take our picture.

Double rainbow from the top of an RV

Double rainbow from the top of an RV

On our way out, we stopped by Crane Camp to see our friends Monte and Teresa, and they poured us a Margarita while we chronicled our epic adventure. We left a short time later and, as we drove down the street, someone said something about a rainbow. We stopped and got off our bikes because the scene was spectacular. The storm was clearing and in its wake was a perfect, end-to-end double rainbow. The color spectrum of the bottom one in particular was ridiculous. We hung out at that random spot for ten minutes or so, enjoying the view with everyone else who had stopped at that random spot to enjoy the view.

The stage at the Deep End

The stage at the Deep End

Kelly and I forged on to the Deep End, where we danced the afternoon away. The music was practically perfect. We ran into a bunch of different friends including Ben Long and Atma, and we watched the sun set behind the hills. It was so much fun. The whole afternoon was one of those amazing playa experiences I’ll never forget.

Adopt a Mohawk Night
I went to the Steampunk Treehouse tonight with Kelly and Scott French. The Kinetic Steam Works 1920 Case Traction Engine was there, and so was the one group of similar art vehicles with flame throwers, and so was Space Cowboys. It was such a great scene. We climbed up in the Treehouse and hung out a while, looking out across the Esplanade and listening to the INCREDIBLE train whistle.

Kelly, Scott, and me

Kelly, Scott, and me

At some point Kelly and I ended up at the giant dome at 10:00 & Esplanade, and we met a fantastic guy with amazing eyes and an orange Mohawk (Ok, ok, and a great body). We decided to adopt him for the night. We had a blast. I especially loved his whistle. Loud and metallic and unexpected. Like a marching band whistle. It was the most wonderful sound! I laughed and yelled for more.

The three of us went to a few different places, including the installation I thought was called Burninator X, but this is the one over by 7:30 that has the flame throwers surrounding a platform you stand on right in the middle while the flame throwers go off one by one, in order, all around you. Poof. Poof. Poof. Poof. Poof. Poof. Poof, poof, poof, poof, poof, poof. POOF POOF POOF POOF POOF POOF! It was totally intoxicating. We stayed there awhile, loving the heat and the noise and the light, and the stillness of the crowd on the platform. I hated to leave, but I was rightfully outvoted and our trio moved on.

We ended up at Opulent Temple for the duration, dancing together most of the night. The DJs were really good- I wish I knew who was spinning. (Maybe someone can let me know.) As we left, we walked over to the Cubatron Cone and watched the blinky lights. That was so beautiful. I think it would be beautiful any night, but it was especially beautiful tonight.

I warmed up at the fiery cactus installation in front of 4:45 and rode home at sunrise, another night gone. The Man burns tomorrow.

- Wanda Power