I’ve got my feet in several worlds this year on playa, working for the ARTery, documenting art projects to share with you all, and I’m doing some placement with the Artist Support Services (ASS) folks and I’m pretty much there to do whatever else they want me to. I’m also helping out with some Tech stuff since in my year round job I work on this here web site about the whole Burning Man thing. My ARTery mentor is Awesome Sauce, and yesterday, under her steady tutelage, I had the pleasure of placing my first art project EVER, Otic Oasis.
Basically the ARTery places art once you hit the playa with your project. You roll into the ARTery and register, and then one of our team will set a time to take you out on the playa with what is called a “floofy” which sounds like “flew fee” with the plural being “floofies”. The ARTery has a rigid lexicon to describe what they do.
There are two main reasons for registering your ART. First and most obvious is to have a map of where the projects are, so people searching for them can find them, and secondly to be able to list projects on the MOOP map to make sure we all Leave No Trace.
I was just talking to Brody in the ARTery container/office (which is fully functional thanks to the work of many, many teams out here) and she added that any art can come out to the playa unless it is just ridiculously lethal. Curation occurs on playa. There is pre-mapping for most projects and every location can be adjusted for things like aesthetics (how one project looks next to another), whether an artist wants to be on a walk way or road for easy access or to be farther out to be discovered by intrepid travelers. Other things that affect placement can be whether a project wants to be in proximity to a loud project, or a brightly lit project versus being in a more quiet, contemplative space.
The ARTery takes care of artists coming in. Awesome Sauce has a belt that I covet. It is leather and has clasps and hooks and places to attach caribiners. She hangs her GPS and water bottle from that belt. She says she got it “in Oregon at some fucking hippie festival”. It’s a great belt. But she’s also really into the art and when she greets you at your camp when you’ve just arrived she’ll make you feel like everything is going to work out because it probably will.
Heavy machinery is provided via the ASS team as is general support and enthusiasm. When Awesome Sauce and I went out to 2:15 and Lilac to place Otic Oasis, they’d arrived earlier and were setting up their camp and unloading their semi.
Will and Jess have both written blogs about Otic Oasis, and I hadn’t met the Otic team or seen their structure last year. “Otic” is defined as “related to the ear” and is intended to be a place for quiet and solitude. The project is meant to be a “perennial structure” that will return to the playa each year, like Center Camp Cafe’. It is the brain child of Gregg Fleishman, Melissa Barron and Lightning Clearwater. Melissa aka Syn told me that her name, Melissa, is Greek for the word “Bee” which makes sense this year and Lightning made the point that it is pretty interesting to have this project out in Walk In Camping since THAT is the wilderness as opposed to the madness of Black Rock City and how ironic it was to have to set up a wilderness in this huge desert wilderness when Burning Man comes to town.
The project took hundreds of hours and a team of at least ten people who hand sawed and painted everything and is “The first art installation in Walk-In Camping, a zone free of motorized vehicles, loud amplified music, and bright lights, it provides a play structure as well as shelter, tranquility, shade, and comfort for appreciation of our natural surroundings.” Mr. Fleishman out of Culver City CA, is “an architect, designer, artist and inventor” who is also building the main inside structure for the Man Base, the Pistil, this year and Otic Oasis 2.0 is a honeycomb type structure made entirely out of wooden “rhombcube modules” surrounded by seven satellites that are “truncated Rhomboid dodecahedrons”. No nails or glue are used to build the piece and everything is built by sliding interlocking pieces together.
If that was not enough, Lightning tells me that Otic Oasis sets up in Walk In Camping where for a week, no vehicles are allowed on the “sacred land”. The team carries all thirty thousand plus pounds of wood in hand trucks out to the build site, one cart at a time. Otic is yet another example of our artists meeting challenges you probably won’t find in other environments.
As such, Awesome Sauce and I made our way out there and met the crew. Gregg is a quiet genius who invited us to sit in a chair he’d designed as we drank coconut milk and the Los Angeles folks discussed their drive up to Black Rock City. We discussed the last four days of dust storms. We talked about the project, and then the group of them began walking out towards where they wanted the center of the project to be. With the mountains as a backdrop we kept walking and walking under the hot midday sun and the farther we got away from the fence that separates Lilac from Walk In Camping, the more I realized they had a LONG way to move all that wood, but their merry band just kept on going until they arrived at where they wanted to be placed.
I drove the flofly into the playa with a long nail and Sauce used her GPS to set the point to their ID, 18414. Trudy and Syn examined the number until they came to the conclusion that numerologically that was good since it meant two nines or 99 which is good evidently.
PortaPlaya who will be taking photographs with me for the event and I returned to Otic Oasis this morning to check on their progress and they were assembling their camp that now includes some of Gregg’s pieces, a shadestructure and kitchen made from his interlocking wood sculpture. Scott showed me how to put together one of the connectors. Nickster from BRAF was there and the whole camp was working with rubber mallets with not a single power tool in sight.
Out in Walk In Camping, the first loads of wood were slowing being pulled on hand trucks out to the site where within the week an Otic Oasis will be built. It promises to be an oasis indeed.