Self-Service Cults and Commemorations: The Art of Remembering Larry

Larry Harvey once famously told American TV journalist Charlie Rose: “So when they say we’re a cult, we reply that it’s a self-service cult. You wash your own brain.”

But Burners not only wash their own brains, they also curate and create their own city and experiences. And this radically self-expressive, self-reliant and participatory approach informs how we as a community and an organization have chosen to honor Larry too.

On 21 June, Burners around the world created a myriad of different tributes to say #thankslarry as part of the Global Celebration and Day of Gratitude — from kids birthday dos and cowboy-hat blacklight parties to beach get-togethers, storytelling groups and piano gatherings. And, of course, effigy burns.

Tens of thousands of Burners are now putting the finishing touches on their art, performances, art cars, theme camps, costumes, gifts and other projects as we collectively gather steam for what is arguably the biggest Larry celebration of them all — the Burn itself.

“Paying Homage to Larry Bon Voyage” before warping to BRC

This year’s Burn is also an opportunity for Black Rock City citizens to take their individual Larry commemorations to the streets, and many are doing just that:

  • The Galaxia crew is dedicating one of the Temple’s 20 petals to Larry, and it includes a fitting memorial from Jerry James, who built the first Man with Larry and many more afterwards.
  • Two artists are memorializing Larry in their art pieces this year, including Kate Raudenbush’s Passage Home and Mischell “Phoenix” Riley’s bust of Larry, where you will be able sit at the base of this larger-than-life head.
  • Larry is flying off on his next adventure in a little red flying saucer as part of Paying Homage to Larry Bon Voyage. Look for this last-minute piece about 50ft from ARTery on the inner playa.
  • At 7 pm, Wednesday, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will kick it up New Orlean’s style with a procession honoring Larry starting at the Temple.
  • At 5:55 pm, Friday, System Reboot is organizing a few minutes of silence to honor Larry. The group has gained some traction with the big sound camps and is looking for more collective help.

For a peek into Larry’s mind (and creative heart), you can check out this blog post by Kim Cook, Burning Man’s Director, Art & Civic Engagement, who shared some of his process and art loves this year. Larry was particularly excited about Franchise Freedom, a 500+ drone piece at the interface between technology, science and art.

Planning your own way to honor and celebrate Larry? We’d love to hear what the community has in store and how it will use the space that Larry helped create. Please share in the comments below.

And as we look beyond the horizon of this year’s Burn and Larry’s passing, what does the future look like? It looks like you and me.

At this year Golden Spike ceremony, which marks the centrepoint of the city, the indefatigable John Curley hit the nail on the head when he talked about Larry’s own pivotal role and where we go from here:

“What the hell is it going to be like without him? Where will this whole thing go from here? Where will the inspiration come from? Jesus, you realized, it’s totally up to us now!

And then the realization struck: This thing has ALWAYS been up to us! We’re the ones who build the city! We’re the ones who bring the party! We’re the ones who make the art, give the gifts, leave no trace. It’s always been us! And Larry knew it!

So Larry’s not here, and now it’s up to us. And it’s always been up to us.”

See you in Black Rock City, or wherever you choose to celebrate Burning Man and the man who started it all! #thankslarry

Top photo: Larry and the Man, 1998 (Photo by Maggie Hallahan)

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

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