With less than two weeks before the event starts, some of the largest art is here already setting up. There’s four so far, David Best’s Temple beyond Man Base, Otto Von Danger’s Burn Wall Street around 9:00 off from the Man, the Man Base and the Pier 2 who showed up Tuesday night and are placed at 4:30 and Esplanade.
I’m following the art this year on playa and one thing I really like about Burning Man artists is that they’re building not only huge things to enthrall you participants, both with physical interaction, and some will burn the whole thing eventually, but they do it in the middle of this harsh desert as just an extra, “Oh and if that wasn’t enough”.
Matt Schultz and Paul of the Pier rolled into our newly shaded ARTery from the Salvagery in Reno. Some of their wood came along with the Burn Wall Street crew when they came in over the weekend . If you missed the Pier last year, it was a magical stroll along an actual pier above our dry lake bed, complete with the ambiance sounds of water below, dinghies, a Master Bait and Tackle shop and people fishing at the end. It was pretty fun hanging out with others on the pier. This year I’m told by Orlin and Fish that a Spanish Galleon has crashed into the end of the pier and it will feature a Captain’s Room, a main room, crew quarters with hammocks and a stowage area. Also this year you’ll want to have a fishing license and have it stamped if you’re going to fish.
They’d set up camp the night before (in one of the four storms we’ve had in the last 4 days), surveyed the project footprint and were busily unloading trucks full of props as wood was being moved over from Burn Wall Street’s Camp. We met with them when they went over some engineering aspects of the piece yesterday afternoon and they were intent of finishing the Pier part of their project by midnight last night. If the crew could finish by midnight last night, they would get a keg of beer. Despite the total white out from 8 to 9:30ish, they finished at 11:55 and there was beer all around. Now they will build the ship and I hear it is amazing from the artist who worked with them in Reno.
I walked around the Man Base construction where saws buzzed like bees and workers wearing hard hats worked in silence. They’re all construction zones, but the Man Base seems even more so right now. It is coming together nicely.
You can spot Otto Von Danger a quarter mile away by his swagger, and I approached Burn Wall Street to find them fully set up with different zones for construction as Otto and others on his crew were checking out a scissor lift. The site is abuzz with activity and they’re a great group of people who like to talk about what they’re building. The nightly storms haven’t affected them other than having a few tents launched and windshields smashed, but each time they find and fix the weaknesses. Through the pounding powder that pummeled their project encampment they’re all tough as nails and no weather is going to slow them down. They had the DG laid, survey done and were painting the walls of Goldman Sux with aluminum paint that the guys painting it said was going to burn nicely and would make the building a large shimmering structure. They also said it smelled real good.
Making art out here requires a lot of planning you don’t think about elsewhere. The cutting and painting stations are all built to exacting specification to prevent stuff like sawdust from blowing away. They call it their MOOP containment system. Everything is battened down nightly before the storms come. And these crazy folk are out there celebrating insane in weather that would make most people run home like little girls.
Otto tells me that his Burn Wall Street operation is run like a military mission. They even call the project the mission and a lot of the crew leaders are Veterans who are used to this kind of environment.
I met a couple Burning Man virgins on their crew who were delighted to be part of the project, but sitting around too long is frowned upon and eventually a woman with a rather large double stick duct taped together came up and told them, military style, to get their asses back to work. Otto says that’s how they’re going to achieve the mission on time and the severe weather and hot days will “separate the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly” and “maybe there’s not as much love in the water, but they’re getting things done”. He showed me the chain of command board that hangs in their shade structure and I’m not sure if they have a brig or not but I wouldn’t be surprised. He says they can take a break once the thing is built and everything’s checked off. They hope to have the bases of the building done today.
The bull has been delivered.
It’s interesting to see how many people out here working on the big projects have worked together in the past. A lot of those on the big projects setting up now worked on last year’s Temple with Kiwi and now are working at Burn Wall Street or on David Best’s Temple of Juno. There ‘s a ton of skilled craftsmen and women working on these large architectural installations. Also, on the playa your timelines for completion have to be padded with “dust days”, possible 8 hour long stretches of complete white out where you aren’t getting anything done. The Pier 2, Burn Wall Street and the Temple crews all mentioned that schedules are different out here and you can’t control what the weather is going to do, you just have to work around it.
I made my way out to the Temple which is really going up quickly. People work in small groups, framing, setting up the walls, working on all the intricate details of chandeliers and decorative art that will cover every square inch of the Temple of Juno this year. The central temple structure is framed in four large parts and the outer wall frame is just about complete. We met up with David Best who told us a story about someone who was working for a large rock band in Ireland once and was rushing around to get things done as per the usual frantic pace of events. Then someone came up and started asking about this person’s family and how they were doing and all the crazy planning was put on hold so a real connection between two people could be made. He said that’s how some things have to be done. You have to make a connection with the people you’re working with if you want things to go smoothly.
David has these blue piercing eyes that look intently into yours when he’s talking to you. He listens and he cares about the Temple and the people who are building it. The structure almost seems secondary to what is being put into it, to build it, then once it is up and open on the playa, all the energies of some many who will come to remember their loved ones or to get married or to forgive themselves and those who may have wronged them. The Temple is beautiful. It is sublime. It is rather heavy, but it is something that feels almost as if our community summoned it into existence and David Best was the person to bring it into our realm.
He gave us a quick tour. The chandelier shop is a bustle with people constructing these incredibly detailed cut out pieces of wood that you’ve seen if you’ve ever seen a David Best temple that will cover the entire thing. There are Altars and the Wall. They are using repeating patterns to draw the eye along and create space. They are also building the massive 40 foot chandelier that will hang from the center of the Temple down to a point at the top of the central altar inside. They’ve created some benches that you will want very badly to sit on. The outer wall creates a central space devoid of bikes, art and sound cars where you can find calm in the otherwise lunatic electricity of Black Rock City.
Everyone I’ve talked to on his crew tells me they are honored to be working with David Best. He is very highly regarded by his crew and he’s good people.
On my way back up the promenade from the Temple to Man Base I met Squirrely and her crew who were putting up spires with Spire Crew. Spires are the tall things the lamplighters hang their lanterns on and Blackthorn was watching from the end to make sure they were putting them in a straight line. As we talked I told her I was checking out the large art projects out here right now and she said the streets are the largest art project of all. Coyote, the original Spire Crew chief, showed up and Squirrel’s crew would place a spire then pound rebar around it then attach the spire to the rebar, one after the other.
And it is true; the outline of Black Rock City’s roads is the only thing you can see without a doubt from outer space. It is more permanent a piece than anything else out here although a year of dust storms goes a long way to erasing it. This art project of Black Rock City, starts with the Golden Spike when Coyote and his survey crew begin laying out our temporary city, frontier men building something on the edges of the fringes. Coyote told me, “I etch the lines and the water trucks are my paint. They drive along and you can see the city layout. It is the biggest art project out here”.
As such, I’ll revise my list of Big Art, Early Art. There aren’t just four out here today, but five with the biggest being the canvass everything else is being placed upon.