Idols Rising from the Dust

Flux Foundation’s Zoa, photo by portaplaya

The ARTery is in full swing, with projects beginning to pour in by the truckload. Where once was open playa and the original four projects with their encampments, now a cornucopia of projects grows every day. Bands of dusty artists arrive in caravans following long trucks packed with wood and steel and those artists are beginning to match the population of those building Black Rock City. Flux is here setting up Zoa, the EGO project, Reno Star Cosmic Thistle and Anubis among other pieces are all placed and building, rising up like tiny desert tribes, settled in and circling whatever tall idol they’re erecting.

Zoa, photo by portaplaya

Out at Zoa Flux heavy equipment (HEAT) was helping to put together the three steel structures that are the underlying “sculptural array” for the project. They’re named Billy, Etta and Nina and large star shaped wooden pieces that will form part of their wooden Seapod exoskeletons lay off to the side awaiting numerous adjustments, placements, riggings and gas lines installations before being fitted to the outsides. Flux is a whirr of energy with crews working all over and last night and tonight they’re testing flame effects. Jess Hobbs was out there and she had a button her hat that read “Chaos is my Bitch” and Masha showed us the orb on Etta that she’d cut from a huge pipe then shaped and sculpted. Zoa is located past the Man, before the Temple out toward 2:00 and will be burning Wednesday night at 9:00.

EGO by Laura Kimpton and Michael Garlington

The EGO project by Laura Kimpton and Michael Garlington is a madness of eye candy close up for everyone taking the 3:00 Promenade to the Man. It stands, three letters, and is covered with 10 thousand “trophies” that are cast and painted entities such as bunnies, clowns, sport trophies and religious iconography. It has a kind of Ghiberti’s “Gate of Paradise” on Burning Man feel and I was talking with Laura for a while who told me she and Michael both have big egos, so the catharsis of burning the piece is something they’re both looking forward to. EGO will burn at midnight Saturday (after the Man burns) and after it cools, those trophies will be available for participants to take with them.

Reno Star Cosmic Thistle, photo by portaplaya

I was on a morning jaunt with portaplaya and we stopped by the Reno Star Cosmic Thistle. They told us to thank the ARTery for assistance from Heavy Equipment (the HEAT crew) and support from the Artist Support Services (the ASS crew), to erect the base and thistle thorns that bring the piece to 45 feet above the playa.

It’s true what you’ve heard, HEAT and ASS make the ARTery tough.

The Thistle crew was running lighting when we got there and the piece is already set to be installed through Black Rock Arts Foundation in Reno, using solar power from Black Rock Solar. Mark Szulgat is the artist and designer and the piece is out near 3:00 from the Pier. You’ll see the Pier when you get here. Trust me.

Bottlecap Gazebo framing, photo portaplaya

Bottlecap Gazebo from Oakland’s American Steel was being framed and they were getting ready to place the steel structure on the roof that will form Lotus petals above with leaves hanging over the sides. There will be a 25 ft fireball shooting out the top and they tell me they’ve integrated at least 75 thousand bottle caps into the piece. That’s a lot of bottle caps. Cliff, from their crew told me how the first year he came to the desert he’d immediately started working on a project. He said, “I’ll always come with an art project, never just buy a ticket and just come. I’m into the blood sweat and tears.”

This is what a nice evening looks like

Tuesday and Wednesday were relatively good work days after our first week of dust days and nights however, now we’re getting wind during early and mid day that’s affecting some of the larger project’s ability to use the cranes to put things in place. Regardless of what you may have heard, it IS dusty out here even if we get breaks here and then. The art building has been challenging for everyone these last two weeks with the storms taking some wind out of artists’ sails when they first arrive, but they keep working through it all. The C.O.R.E. pieces are also going up around the Man in a large circle with two smaller circles and you can see them out there until a sky high wall of dust moves through and they disappear for a minute or so, then all is blue sky for a little while.

Luminous Passage, photo by portaplaya

We also met up with Luminous Passage that Marcolator told us will be a night piece of light that “connects the Esplanade to the Man” at 7:30. He explained that it is a 200 ft long light bridge of el-wire that is solar powered and will be chasing light patterns triggered by participants. He and his crew work in the film industry and we discussed how some skill sets in that industry are perfect for building art out here. Farther around towards 10:00 the project Third Space is a structure of a quarter million zip ties attached to a wooden structure that creates an illuminated inside atmospheric space. At night you will walk into a light tunnel and cocoons will hang where participants can explore and chill. Their crew is from Germany and Bianca told me they’ve already exhibited the project in Switzerland, Miami and all over Germany. It may also end up in San Francisco at the Swissnex gallery after the event.

Jacob at Anubis, photo by portaplaya

At 8:15 out from the Man, just past the C.O.R.E. projects you will find 50 ft tall Anubis. This large Jackal faced Egyptian god is the brain child of Dan Fox and Dan Swain who worked on the Trojan Horse last year and dog imagery floods around the project. I’ve been missing my dogs back home and when we walked up, Jacob was working inside the head and he told me that he’s modeled the head after his dog Bootsy Boo who slipped a disk while they were working on the project. Bootsy is ok now. I met these guys at NIMBY in Oakland and they’re a cool bunch. Anubis will stand all week and there is a largish perimeter around it, so expect good things when it burns Friday at midnight, or 11:59 pm Friday the 31st, or, as Dan told me, when the stars Altair, Deneb and Vega align with the full moon to form and Ankh over head.

At night you can see the tall lights illuminating each work site and hear the clanking and grinding, the hammering and generators humming as our artists work to erect their monuments, effigies,structures and, indeed idols. They will work through the dust storms and heat and be there to co-ordinate as boom trucks and trenchers, scissor lifts and variable reach forks scurry around each project site. They’ll light, add sound, add all manner of interactive sculptural and visual aspects to amaze and fascinate you, to leave you stunned or inspired. They’ll unload trucks, feed their crew, worry about supplies and ice and water and get word to Reno that they need something that broke or that they forgot. They’ll maintain order to avoid catastrophe. They’ll reconfigure and improvise as they build these huge things and they’ll dust themselves off each day to finish the damn thing, then when they’re finished, they will step back and watch as Black Rock City opens its gates and fills up with citizens who will discover the art they’ve created. Look forward to a great year of art this year, they’re building it.

About the author: Moze


John Mosbaugh aka Moze is a SF Bay Area heretic and writer who's been hauling himself out to Black Rock City since the Nebulous Entity first beckoned him to check out this phenomenon known as Burning Man. Moze is a "Life Collector" who scribbles down encounters with you to share on the blog. He enjoys the hyper reality of that week in the desert enough to keep coming back. He's been on the Burning Man web team since aught two and has written for Piss Clear and the YEP (Yahoo Education Project). He doesn't speak for the org and he finds you fascinating. He celebrates you and loves it when you take away ideas from Burning Man and share them with the rest of the world. He likes to make grilled cheese on Burn Night afternoon and gift it to you because you're probably hungry. Moze is a big fan of fire, art, freedom and community.

4 Comments on “Idols Rising from the Dust