Yes, as you’ve heard, Black Rock City’s infrastructure is coming along nicely due to the efforts of our valiant DPW. We’re seeing shade structures going up for the various Burning Man departments and we experienced a little population bump yesterday when people began arriving to ramp up their departments like Gate, ESD and Greeters. The Center Camp Café structure is built thanks to Monkeyboy and his team who pretty much worked with such efficiency and focus to build a structure that provided shade to continue working beneath, that it made me stop several times just to take in the talent and skill that oozed off them. Now Café décor is moving in and containers are being unloaded of dusty couches, carpet and other pieces of the Café.
We’ve arrived at that point where all the departments moved over to their own channels from the main DPW channel. Those once quiet nowhere channels are now chattering with communications for things like Art Placement, Gate and IT. Main Gate at 8 mile is complete, at least six lanes wide leading from the new Gate to Greeters and the lanes are set with traffic cones like candy corn as far as the eye can see. It is all brand new awaiting your thousands of conveyances, empty and neat and clean, except for all the dust of course. Currently there are 30 Greeters in a container out there collating 70 thousand maps, “What Where When” guides and other things to give to you when you finally make it through the gate wait next week.
Random weird quotes abound around here these days. Moving about town I met Anika who was making a stencil “Practice Sustainable Jackassery,” Jackassery being a predominant pre event meme. At breakfast I shook a guy’s hand who said, “I’m Dustin” and I laughed then told him that was a good playa name. He said, “Oh, no my playa name is V.D. You might want to wash your hands” so I laughed … then washed my hands in the Tunnel of Love. As they passed along, someone said, “We put the DP in DPW.” New groups from different departments are moving in, setting up shade and generally staking their space that was so empty only 3 days ago. The hive mind is alive and buzzing.
With the help of DPW and Shade, the ARTery is the first non infrastructure, participant facing department that’s fully functional (at least that’s what I’ve been saying) and art is coming in. The biggest pieces are arriving now, with the EGO project, Flux’s Zoa,the Bottlecap Gazebo, Remembering Cap’n Jim, Reno Star Cosmic Thistle and today Anubis and the Fertilitree, both from NIMBY rolled up and were staged at the ARTery, awaiting artists to come place them.
While the flatbed was waiting, I met Irish Larry who is a legend and who’s been hauling Art out here for 11 years. He’s got a great reputation so he never has to solicit work to haul projects. Artists call him. He’d picked up his load from NIMBY in Oakland and he told me he also picks up stuff from Treasure Island. A semi pulled up with a long trailer hauling containers and he said, “Oh, that’s the Golden Café bar, they’ve got the best drinks on the playa” and we sat around talking about how they had the best liquor and biggest selection you’ve ever seen out here. We laughed about how he’s probably the only trucker who can say he’s pulling a load of Fertilitree and Anubis.
Irish Larry was telling me how fun it was years ago, before early arrival was the rage, when he’d be bringing things out once the event started. He remembered bringing out Jim Mason and Chicken John’s “Mechabolic”. He said CARP (who are returning this year) is the easiest to deliver since they’ve got all the heavy equipment right there and he also told me he delivers the Greeters brochure stuff, those 70 thousand things Greeters are currently collating. Just then a truck passed and he said he thought it was Shady Waffle Camp, “the best breakfast on the playa. Good Bloody Marys.”
He said the most challenging Art piece he brought out was Amazing Larry’s Quack Club in ’02, aka the Rubber Ducky because there was no way to strap it on to the trailer. It was covered with roofing foam and they had to build a frame to move it. He also is responsible for getting his heaviest project out here, Mr. Zachary Coffin’s boulders from Georgia. This year’s boulders for The Universe Revolves Around You should be arriving shortly. Mike Ross’s Big Rig Jig was his favorite piece he drove out here. Go figure.
The ARTery’s become a hub of activity and the dusty couches are full of dusty folks delivering Art, folks landing here and beginning to build their art with ARTery workers meeting and getting work done. There are a certain Mr. F’s trailers staged across the Esplanade that Artists are moving into when Mr. F arrives, windblown and maniacal and always laughing. He then zips them away in a flash. Long trucks park along the Esplanade to figure out where to drop their wood or steel or other odd assorted art project assemblies.
For years, I’ve come over to the ARTery to sleep on their couches and eavesdrop on the artist’s conversations with the staff and volunteers there. This year I get to actually ask questions then share the answers with you gentle readers who may be considering bringing art to the playa one day.
I addition to the Artist Support Services, the ARTery has an entire crew in place to help you, the Artist, to build art on the playa. Bettie June (who will have her own blog, thank you) runs the whole show and Lucky is the Operations Manager. When I first met him he was acclimating and said, “I should be neurotically checking though spread sheets, but not yet. Spreadsheets are magic. A well set up spreadsheet is a thing of beauty.” He’s been working at the ARTery since ’07 and he guides the ARTery volunteers and worked on getting Art Tours to be part of the ARTery. He makes sure the 60 or so volunteers at the ARTery know what needs to be done.
He told me, “People bring amazing stuff out here that’s never been done before. This is a place to build gigantic sculptures. We are here to make sure we’re in compliance with BLM rules so we don’t get fined and we can do it again next year. I mean, last year we had a Trojan Horse that they decided they wanted to have pulled by a bunch of people to another place then burnt. That was a logistical change and we helped make it happen.” He’s also pretty impressed at how in his last five years he’s seen the expertise of craftsmen and artists coming out here grow exponentially.
Brody is the ARTery Air Traffic Controller. She’s a year round Burning Man staffer and she said, “I’m behind the scenes, if you’re talking to me on playa, something’s gone wrong.” She’s been coming out for a long time, working for Burning Man for two years and told me she’s basically doing everything she does off playa, but out here she “has the added benefit of doing it in fishnets and booty shorts.”
Glenda’s been with the ARTery for six years and manages Art Tours. She’s also in charge of ARTery Beautification and she also collects and catalogs Material Culture. She fulfills a lot of the positions in the ARTery including being an ARTery Greeter, a Concierge (the people at the tables who sign you in), Mapinatrix (where after placement or if you’ve been pre-placed you are actually put on the BIG MAP). Other teams in the ARTery include Field Ops, Fire Art’s Safety Team aka FAST (Dave X’s team that requires its own blog post, of course) and Artist Support Services aka ASS that includes Just Fine, Paws Off, Bucky, Pixel and Awesome Sauce.
Manny’s been working at the ARTery for four years. He’s the “Voluntold” who’s a problem solver for the ARTery. He moves lots of ice, people and Mr. Z around. He gets it. He said, “This is all about community building. Sure, there’s other ways to make art, but out here you get to talk to people more. We aren’t just out here dicking around with 2x4s and some plywood, you know?”
Sometimes all this art seems unstoppable. As the event scales and grows I see all the opportunities for fundraising, announcing your art, gathering volunteers to work on it, mostly on line, that didn’t exist ten years ago.
We’re expecting big projects for the next few days in addition to the big ones that are already setting up. Last year on Monday of the event evidently the ARTery processed 60 pieces in one day and there more Art projects coming out this year. If you have ever considered making art out here, feel free to come by and soak up the commotion but stay out of the way.
The ARTery is now open for business.