Despite four days of nightly white outs, including the mother of all sandstorms and 12 hour delays on I-80 over the pass, being surrounded by hundreds of wild fires burning, and rumors of a fuel line break that would make gas impossible to procur, somehow most of the art for this year is either complete or almost there. This is indeed a fertile year for art as it springs up seemingly everywhere on the playa.
A few of the larger pieces are still putting on finishing touches. The Temple of Juno is built and there are only cherry pickers affixing the intricate decorations to the outer walls as they finish the altars inside the courtyard and Burn Wall Street has all their buildings up and at night you can see the neon signs.
Now that the gates are open, playa citizens wander along in fresh packs wearing clothes that have yet to be brushed with the color of playa. They ride through the art on blinking bikes as mutant vehicles boom or blast disco and the city now hums with the sound of construction as themecamps spring up along the Esplanade, and points beyond are filling in. Scaffolding rises, Pink furry places with fluffy couches and Shipwreck Tiki Lounges are close to being open for camaraderie. The graceful French Quarter, BaalMart, Spankys and large scale sound camps of pyramids and enormous domes lit from inside at night out at the ends of the city are appearing with wild abandon in this frontier town.
Zachary Coffin’s piece The Universe Revolves Around YOU is close to being finished with boulders hanging now in the Keyhole and they’ve been working on it nonstop since they hit the playa. Dadara’s Transformoney Tree sits at the top of the promenade to the Man and the inner playa is full of art. Art Cars are lined up at the Department of Mutant Vehicles. El Pulpo Mechanico, the Front Porch and NeverWas Haul were in line with the huge cruise ship and several Death Guild vehicles yesterday as smaller bunnies and insects and otherwise artfully adorned vehicles rolled about sending up playa dust in their small wakes.
On Saturday night most projects were getting close to zero hour with their projects. Most playa encampments had been moved and everyone was pulling all nighters to try to have their projects ready by six on Sunday before the gates opened. There is many a bleary eyed artist out here right now as the biggest projects come together. To make things even easier for our artists, Sunday had intermittent total white outs across the playa that further slowed work and crane lifts for the projects. This year has been an exceptionally difficult year to install art on the playa. I talked with Anton who’s project Bapteme De Feu was carried here on a long bed tow truck after the engine in his truck blew out.
Sunday between white outs I hung out with Wizzard who’s brought his Mayan Tricycle that frames the Man beyond as you walk up 6:30 to the Esplanade. He’s been building things out here for 14 years and the piece is an interactive circle within a circle. Participants “climb” the side of the inner circle to make the entire thing rotate. Each complete turn of the big circle marks out a year on the Tzolk’in Calendar, 360 regular days and five “evil days” and those circles match a third circle that counts out the “long count” calendar that will tick out 5125 years or the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. He tells me it is one and a half marathons. He also said, “It worked on the computer” on Sunday when I talked with him. Today, people were walking on it and it did indeed work.
Mark Lottor’s Cubatron group is nearby in that quadrant of the inner playa and they are erecting a large new Cubatron Core light sculpture this year in a tower with doughnut shapes at its base and the Luminous Passage and The Third Space look to be ready to fill in the area from 6:00 to 9:00 with all manner of light sculptures. Beyond that you come upon Anubis that has a huge fire perimeter and is in the final stage of building. Kate Raudenbush’s Star Seed appears to be built and is only waiting for that final lift to put both pieces together. It sits like an ethereal flower, white powder coated, looking skyward. Zonotopia and the Two Trees is a selection of several structures (Zomes) “composed of interlocking wooden rhombic panels” by Rob Bell and Patricia.
The circle around the Man is full of C.O.R.E. projects and there are two additional smaller circles to accommodate all of the projects. Between the Man and the Temple I ran into the crew from Austin Texas who’ve built Singularity Transmission. Troy Stanley told me that many of his 20 person group are Burning Man virgins. There’s a tower and wooden pods that surround it in a circle. Each pod has a tin can that you can talk into that will do the old school analog carrying of your voice to the top of the tower where it will be captured by contact microphones that then re transmit that out onto the playa. He says it sounds like “old time radio reverberating”.
One project that I promise will amaze you is Pier 2. They arrived on playa and the day they began working we had one of our long total white outs, but they still got the Pier built that night. The rest of their time was spent finishing the Pier and building a Spanish Galleon that’s crashed into the pier. There are crew and captain quarters, a galley, a stowage and an upper deck where there are fire balls that shoot from the masts. The detail and craftsmanship in this project is really impressive. This project is going to be remembered. You’ll just have to see for yourself.
Out past the Temple you’ll find MOMAFire and when you see it you’ll think, “That looks a lot like the main building at San Francisco MOMA and you’ll be correct. I asked the artist Mike Tedeschi why he’d built the Yoni from SFMOMA and he told me he’s from Las Vegas and he went to SFMOMA once and bought a book that was about Burning Man, so this sculpture is homage to the place that sold him the book that made him decide to come to Burning Man. He’s a very nice guy and somehow this made perfect sense. Then he gave me some stickers.
After speaking with Mike, the dust storm returned and white out conditions increased until I had to slowly drive to around 9 o’clock. Sunday was the last day you could drive on the playa, so the last of the on playa artist encampments were all being packed up as they moved across the Esplanade into the city proper. Once the dust receded I found myself in a neighborhood with the usual motifs of the tribes who come out here, the weird statues and mannequins and all manner of totems, rainbow, smiley, pirate and American flags. Barney piñatas, dolls heads smiling and inviting you to step into the realm of what could be truly weird or may end up being just a Barbeque. A particular repair shop had a sign that read “We are not here until Monday. Radical Self Reliance. Fuck you very much for your cooperation.”
I passed camp after camp with signs inviting you in to get your chakras aligned or your nails done or your hair washed. I passed the mad circus tents full of carnal carny carnivores camped next to Teepee dayglow vegan smudge-sticking primitives. I drove through the Alternative Energy Zone and the yet to be finished camps strewn with tarps, props, generators and shade structures where tonight and for the next week people will gather to eat, make merry and to commune before taking sojourns out to “check out the art” in this city where the art and the city itself are inseparable and where there is a place for everything that is good. I know not everyone agrees, but I think we’re pretty lucky to be alive now in this age and to be part of this thing. The state of the art in this year of Fertility is very good.