On Sunday we still had over 100 Art projects to place however now Black Rock City sports over 300. Sassy at Art Support Services proclaimed last Thursday to be “Speedo Day” and he distributed Speedos the afternoon meeting before. Speedo Day was for the purported purpose of objectifying as many of the ASS Men as wanted to participate, they arrived to the morning meeting outfitted appropriately. Scooch told us that at his earlier meeting with HEaT they’d asked him if there were any projects on the playa as dangerous as his outfit. Later in the afternoon, the crew was thankful to have sported the Speedos because it was pretty damn hot.
Not Ian also let everyone know that he’s delivering Morning Wood and to specify if the art needed hard or soft wood.
I grabbed a ride with Scooch and Foofy Pants to do their rounds Saturday and we approached “Totem” where Joanie, aka Totem Mamma, had her ear up against the bottom of a horn that is integral to the piece and who said, “When we built this we didn’t realize not only can you speak into it, but I can walk to the end of the playa and speak and you can hear me here”
Scooch said, “Yes we can probably find a use for that.” She asked us to come back during the event and blow her horn.
At 6:30 and 950. we rolled upon “Thunderbirds” by James Tyler from New York. Three 500 lb wooden torsos needed to be attached to thick steel mounts. After some discussion regarding using the Vertical Reach Boom, Scooch suggested that we could use a fork lift then he decided, after more consultation, to call the straight mast fork lift since the art torsos were so long. While we waited, Scooch and Foofy went over all the pieces of the project including lighting, rigging and making it safe as heavy machinery moved to and fro from project to project. Once Dragon Rider arrived with the fork and they were up and running we moved along.
There is a phenomenon an artist encounters out here called by some “piss in the ocean” where you’ve been building this thing for months before coming out to the playa and it was SO HUGE wherever you were building it then you put it up in this huge expanse and it looks so tiny. My crew built some carousels years ago and we experienced it. You have to let the artist know that’s ok. Every piece has its own environment.
“House of Enlightenment” was built and ready. They only needed it put together. A crane was called for the pick. At “Free Range Animals” Cremepuff told me the project was inspired by a toy dog automaton. They created a series of automatons and there are no metal gears to be attacked by the playa, but rather wooden gears. At “MÚCARO”, a 2500 lb head was ready for a pick. Scott told us how far along they were and that the light tower could be removed tomorrow after the head was in place. Once the sculpture was together El NiNO would come finish the skinning and insides.
I also attended a Tech Team meeting where they were talking about how insane it is out here when you work for a year preparing and then have two weeks of what is basically beta testing in an environment where everything needs to work smoothly. It’s evidently similar to the film industry and some of the folks in Burning Man Tech have also worked in that industry.
Tech provides the internet backbone for the playa for all Departments. Once the playa’s wired and all Departments from Gate, ESD, Box Office, ToC, to the ARTery have access, Tech responds to issues as they arise. Heat affects machines. Dust mucks up connectivity. Cat runs the Tech meeting and was telling people if they signed up for shifts during the week, they’d have access to the Gator and would be mobile to go fix things. Burn Night is a hard night to cover but someone volunteered. Once the infrastructure is in place, the Tech team has time for experimentation. The Webcast is a big deal and there’s a camera pointed at the Man. We used to have to clean it by going up the tower in a cherry picker but this year they’re experimenting with compressed air and a solenoid line running up the tower to poof the playa dust from the camera lens because these are the fun things.
There was talk of who needed cables, what USBs needed to be installed and mostly, who needs support and how would the Tech team make sure all these moving parts are successful. And as Techies are wont to do, stories were told about the “good old days” when connectivity was a laptop on a TV tray, or even further back when a phone was setup on playa and everyone wanted to use it just because it was something that hadn’t been done before. Cat remarked that “These are not the good old days, but they will be in 10 years”. It takes a lot to keep everything running and Camera Girl made sure to reiterate that the people Tech supports should know we have their backs.
People may yearn for the days before all this infrastructure and support, however the scope and size of Black Rock City has evolved into something so much larger than those “good old days” and as a result we have enabled a place for experimentation that hasn’t existed before and that word “Support” is a really big deal. You keep hearing it over and over again at Burning Man, at all the meetings in relation to each other, to all the departments and to the citizens and artists out here. ASS and the ARTery support the art, Tech supports all the departments and at every meeting there are calls to support each other if someone needs something.
People try to compare Burning Man to the big music festivals and while it is true that people building and attending those have good intentions and a sense of community, the profit motive is all pervasive. Burning Man is made up of scores of volunteers working with staff to create Black Rock City and to bring what happens here to the rest of the world. We don’t have that same philosophy of build it, put on the show, tear down then get out on to the next festival. Thousands of people here have skin in the game and are doing this mostly because they believe in it and want it to succeed so others can discover it.
Last night we hopped on an Art car and we toured out to the Temple of Gravity to deliver wood. A guy named Rye Bread and his friend Solar jumped on the car about half way and she and I were talking. She hasn’t been out to Black Rock City in years and she was talking about all the Instagram posts that flow out of here during the event in recent years of Sparkle Ponies and Party dudes and how that clouded her image of the event. Yes that does exist, but she told me she’d reunited with long lost friends this trip. She’d encountered that camaraderie of the band of us who make this thing happen and she was pretty happy about it. We decided that all people who somehow have access to the internet and are posting, serve as a kind of firewall to the outside world. They’re part of what is happening out here but are hardly representative. Those of us making this happen aren’t necessarily the ones representing the core of what’s happening out here. We’re just too busy. You have to dig a little deeper to find a deeper meaning to Burning Man. You have to volunteer or become part of something that serves as the canvas for all the art, music and yes, even the Sparkle Ponies to come and paint with their own brand of who they are. Burning Man isn’t about individuals or cults of personality. It exists for all of us to come and create what we want and hopefully return and make Black Rock City even better next year.
Burning Man, even after all these years, has a ethos that we spread out into the world and the people who build it include a huge volunteer team for everything from Tech to Gate to the ARTery. Some people become jaded. Some people, like myself and Solar, are post-jaded and we may have jumped in head first at one time, then pulled back to see how things were going to develop and then returned, as I have this year, to see if there is still a spiritual center to the whole thing. I’m seeing that while some things have changed, the general sentience of what was created long ago still exits and is alive and thriving.
I particularly enjoyed this sticker someone gifted me today.