En Los Barrios: Theme Camps at Nowhere

Pirate Shenanigans at Pillage Village

Like our annual event in Black Rock City, Nowhere 2012 is truly a global gathering. Now in its 9th year, Nowhere is one of the largest Burning Man Regional events and drew over 1,100 participants this past week to the desert plains outside of Zaragoza, Spain.  Over the past nine years, Nowhere has served as a nexus for the Regional groups throughout the world who keep the ethos of Burning Man alive year-round. For these international Burners, making the trip aboard to the U.S. for Burning Man is a major undertaking and it can often be quite challenging to gather the supplies and materials needed to build a theme camp or a large-scale art project. Most of the participants do make the annual journey to BRC but often join up with other U.S.-based camps and artists. Nowhere is their chance to go BIG in their creation of their theme camp homes at Nowhere and to do so in their own unique cultural style.











Pillage Village served as a home for Nowhere’s drifters and vengeful pirates. Boasting two beautiful signs at its entrance, Pillage Village was a gathering place for swashbucklers and divas alike. The Village served as the dock point for Nowhere’s largest art car, a sea-faring ship on wheels. The ship platform was a dance floor, the crow’s nest of the ship a DJ booth, and the hull a beauty salon. Hello! At Pillage Village’s Pirate Games, pirates competed for bragging rights. There was a limbo contest, an arm-wrestling competition, a high jump, and, of course, lots of whiskey and eye patches. Ahoy! I was impressed by the level of artistry and detail that went into making Pillage Village. Every time I went by, there were some shenanigans ensuing and I always felt welcome to pick up a sword and get my Pirate on. Pillage on, my friends! Ahoy! Ahoy!

Scallywags arm wrestling it out at Pirate Games!

The raucous “Italian Camp” (or, officially, The Garden of Joy) was the talk of Nowhere and the place to be. It’s the place where delicious food was being served up 24-7 in primo Italian family style, where wine flows like water, and where music and merriment are the daily dish. Marco, the charismatic leader of the theme camp, takes Nowhere as his grand opportunity to gather friends from all over Italy and Europe.  Marco’s focus is making sure that each of his camp members feels special and cared for. To this end, he hosted a work weekend at his villa in Tuscany and painted the camp members’ names on large glass cups. Each member had their own chalice and this came in handy when two of “Italian Camp’s” members got married on Friday during Nowhere and giant bottles of champagne were passed around. During build week, “Italian Camp” was abuzz with craft projects with camp members making large plastic bottle flowers, covering pillows for the chill space, and decorating the Italian lair. For yours truly, a half Italian/half Irish gal from Brooklyn, “Italian Camp” was instantly HOME. It also served as a home to Burners from the U.S., U.K., Spain, Latvia, France, and other countries, who all participated in making “Italian Camp” a warm, welcoming, and fantastically fun space. Manja! Manja!

Camp Babycham, whose namesake comes from a sparkling perry made in England know to get housewives and college students well on the other side of drunk, hosts the annual Cabaret night at Nowhere. On Babycham’s stage, a hilarious Emcee named Arkem hosted an evening of music and variety entertainment. After a boylesque dancer from London got the crowd off their seats doing a hilarious aerobics routine, I had the chance to lead the audience in song with one of my favorite tunes, Minnie the Moocher. I loved hearing the crowd echo my “Hi De Hi De Hi Do Hos” back to me with British accents. Chills.  No one puts baby in a corner. I had to get my stage time in there. After that, a tap dancer entertained us all with elaborate tapping on a tin stage piece while an electric guitar accompanied her variety of rhythms. A singer-songwriter broke out some heart wrenching tunes and a great time was had by all. Thanks, Babycham.

It wasn’t fancy but it was home! Sign by the lovely Lleva from Lithuania.

For those wanting a more relaxing experience, the Cathod Ray Mission theme camp screened films nightly. They set out giant blue blow up baby pools in front of their giant white screen and one could just sit and relax and take in some international cinema. One evening, on my way back to our camp, I watched a short film from 1970s Poland called “The Bloc” that moved me to the core. It was clear from their robust line up that the Cathod Ray Mission theme campers took their films seriously and offered their selections as a gift to all.

Not only did the theme camps offer participants of Nowhere a place to imbibe, relax, and be entertained, but they also cared for Nowhere’s community toilets. Each potty was cared for by a theme camp whose members provided the TP and love needed to maintain our little thrones in the dirt.

A Village of Idiots….those cheeky monkeys!

I was inspired by the variety of theme camps at Nowhere and wished I would have been able to bring a bigger, more elaborate set up. Nevertheless, we made the best of what we had. I liken my experience in the giant megaplexes in Barcelona’s suburbs to the experiences of foreigners going into Reno’s Walmart. I scratched my head, dazed and tired navigating the aisles. Ah! What is all of this stuff we’re buying? Do we really NEED another camping chair? The prices! The expense! It was all worth it after all. We hosted people each evening and even made a sign for our “No Rules” camp. Check it out! If I travel back to Nowhere, I’ll likely do what many of our European Burners do and join forces with a larger camp. I think I see an “Italian Camp” glass mug with my name on it in my future.

About the author: Megs Rutigliano

Megs Rutigliano

Meghan "Megs" Rutigliano is Burning Man's Associate Director of the Regional Network. She oversees Burning Man's annual Global Leadership Conference and European Leadership Summit. Meghan explores the art, events and culture of various regional Burning Man communities in her blog posts.