We’re more than halfway through Burning Man 2017, and we don’t know how that happened. In some ways it feels like the event should be over by now, because every day is two or three days long.
The skies are hazy with dust and smoke, temperatures have been ungodly hot, and we’re astonished we haven’t yet been hit with an hours-long whiteout. (Knock on wood.) The streets are so full of pulverized playa, they look like snow-covered New England lanes waiting for the snow plow.
Marian had her annual collaborators’ meetup, and Burners and friends pretty much from around the world came to say hello, what’s up, what are you doing? Incredibly, there are more than 200 regional Burning Man groups from all over the planet, and it was powerful to see so many represented in one space.
Theresa Duncan, Burning Man’s head of philanthropic engagement, encouraged everyone to stay active, keep networking and keep engaging the world. And Marian reminded everyone of the promise and possibility represented by the organization’s recent purchase of Fly Ranch
We stayed engaged for as long as we could; Charlie Dolman had promised to kick us out if we showed up at the gathering, but a big brown cloud of dust did the job for him. We’ve been mostly blessed with gentle conditions, excepting the unrelenting heat, but this mini-brownout packed a wallop.
In a matter of moments, the chic crowd was powder-puffed head-to-toe with fine white playa dust. It was very egalitarian, as the desert spares no one.
Here are some more pics from the gala:
David Best isn’t building the Temple this year, and that qualifies as news, in that he’s built most of them, and in fact invented the very concept of having a Temple on the playa. We think it must be a very different experience for him, attending Burning Man without being at the center of one of its key components. The methods of construction have also changed dramatically since he began doing his thing here. “The difference is like when they came out here to race cars in the ‘50s,” he said. “Now they’ve got all this equipment and all this speed. … We were dealing with flat tires and carrying things and lifting things. … Man, it’s changed.”
The Communications team held its annual “press availability” for some central figures in the Burning Man organization, and a fair number of bleary-eyed scribes made their way to the Everywhere ARTery Pavilion to have a meet and greet.
“The two events that are growing the fastest are in Israel and South Afrrica,” Larry Harvey is own self said. “I don’t think anyone would have predicted that in a whiteboard session.”
Harvey also spoke at length about David Best’s project in Northern Ireland, which sought to provide a bridge between Catholics and Protestants there, perhaps to share their common grief over the troubles. More than 50,000 people participated, both Protestant and Catholic, and “these were people who were fighting about nearly everything you can think of,” Harvey said. The effort was “something that Burning Man is destined to bring to the entire world,” and Best was able to do things that only an outsider could do. “He’s a genius at that sort of thing,” Harvey said.
It’s not much of a stretch to think that we could use a bit of healing in our political climate, as well. We’d like to think that any confrontational group that tried to make its presence felt here would be laughed out of the city. Belittlement is the insincerest form of flattery, after all.
The issue is one that we’ll leave to the philosophical wing of the organization to chew over, when radical inclusion and radical self-expression bump up against communal effort and maybe civic responsibility. “The only reason this works, this individual liberty, is that it’s so communitarian. And libertarians don’t even know what that is.”
Harvey recalled a camp years ago that had to be removed from Black Rock City, after its members started heckling all of their neighbors with bullhorns. “We had to have the Rangers guarding them,” Harvey said. There were verbal threats “that went beyond the law,” and that was that, out they went.
Stuart Mangrum had a succinct take on the matter: “We give everybody the benefit of the doubt, even if they don’t deserve it. … Sometimes people prove through their actions that they don’t deserve it.” He said his wife famously made buttons one year that said, “Radical Inclusion doesn’t mean I can’t punch you” if you’re an asshole. … If the Nazis came here, he said, “We’d place them next to the Black Lives Matter camp.”
Notes: Highway 447 between Empire and Nixon, Burning Man’s main ingress and egress route, was reopened Thursday morning after being shut for many hours due to a wildfire in the area. It was a hardship for those trying to get to or leave the playa, and it was also unsettling for those of us already here to think that we were so isolated from the rest of the world. … Harvey has heard some criticism of the design of the Man base, in that the Man is enclosed in a structure for the first time. “Oh, they say, Jack in the Box, Jack in the Box,” he said. “And my answer is, ‘Some Jack, some box.’” … He also said that Flash was mightily impressed, as well. “He was speechless,” Harvey said. “For once, he confronted a bigger presence than himself! He lost his voice” … Flash’s partner, Dana Albany, has brought one of our favorite works to the playa this year, Tara Mechani, “A figurative sculptural installation that fuses representational aspects of the female Buddha, Tara, with future characteristics of the female robot in a contemporary way.” It is beautiful and amazing. …
Another of our favorites is LaynaJoy Rivas and Eva Reiska’s “Sysimetsä”, a memorial for those affected by the fires that destroyed Lake County, as well as for a beloved art space by the name of Ravens Landing back in 2015.
There’s also Stepping Forward, by Spain’s Miguel Angel Martin Bordera, a 20-something foot tall marionette who strides around the playa with the help of particpants who tug on lines to move her arms and legs. … And then there is campmate Frankie’s series of portraits that he’s creating on playa. He takes pictures of our crew, and then when he goes in the PortaPotty, he creates his own renderings. The project is brilliantly entitled: “Shitfaced.”
Here are some more pics: