This is the fifth installment in a Journal series that explores the ins and outs and random asides of this year’s Burning Man theme, Waking Dreams: past, present and future visions of our hypnagogic reality.
Show of hands: have you ever used “hypnogogia” in a sentence? Just as I thought. This year’s Waking Dreams theme offers a blinking headlamp squint into the unknown of our own psyches … and the street names are here to remind us how little we know about what we know. Many are named after Surrealist superstars who were famous – or infamous – before most of us were born, but who may no longer be exactly top-of-mind. It’s an homage to the weirdos who came before us, dreaming their strange dreams when most of us were merely an enigma, a glimmer of inception in our ancestors’ third eyes.
Waking Dreams contemplates how our minds work: awake, asleep, and in that vague hypnotic state of in-between. The Surrealist (French for “super-realist”) movement of the early 20th Century recognized the power of dreams and the unconscious, and found beauty in the unexpected, disregarded, and unconventional. Surrealist art celebrated the bizarre, spontaneous, distorted, and fantastical, much like our own desert dream-to-be.
So to get you up to speed (5mph, natch) we present to you an encyclopedia for cycling down the radials of the greatest liminal City in the world. Hello, Dali! It’s so nice to have you back where you belong …
Black Rock City 2022 Street Names
Apparition – If you are stumbling back from the Daft Punk set and think you see an apparition – a ghost or ghostlike image of a person – you might want to drink more water.
Breton – French author Andre Breton was co-founder of the Surrealism movement. He believed that dream and reality combine to “form a kind of absolute reality, a surreality.” His Surrealism Manifesto attempted to describe “the actual functioning of thought.”
Cocteau – This multifaceted French creative had an enormous influence on the avant-garde, Dadaist, and Surrealist movements. Jean Cocteau wrote poetry, novels, opera librettos, plays, and essays; he was also a talented painter and filmmaker. In his opinion, “Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious.”
Dali – Flamboyantly mustachioed Spanish artist Salvador Dali was best known for his symbolic painting, “The Persistence of Memory,” depicting a tree branch, table, and dove draped with melting clocks. His eccentric and outrageous behavior was as notorious as his dreamlike, often sexualized artwork. “The secret of my influence has always been that it remained secret.”
Enigma – Something that is difficult to explain or understand – like BRC, perhaps? An inscrutable or mysterious person can be an enigma, as well.
Fugue – In music, a fugue is a composition which introduces a short melody by one instrument that is taken up and developed by other instruments. In psychiatry, a fugue is a temporary state where a person has memory loss and ends up in an unexpected place. Blame the absinthe.
Glimmer – A faint or wavering light; a dim perception or faint idea. At night in deep playa, you can barely make out the glimmer of bicycles gliding to the Temple.
Hypnagogia – (Hip-na-GO-gee-a) The experience of “threshold consciousness,” the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep when you may experience hallucinations or lucid dreaming. The opposite, when you wake up, is hypnopompia. Casually drop these definitions into a conversation and you’ll be picked up faster than MOOP on Monday.
Inception – An act, process, or instance of beginning. In psychology, inception is the act of putting ideas into people’s minds and integrating them into memory. Like LEAVING NO TRACE.
Jarry – Alfred Jarry was a French symbolist writer who developed the idea of ‘pataphysics,’ a philosophy of science intended to be a parody of science. He imagined it as the science of useless research and imaginary solutions which will examine the laws governing exceptions. Clearly, a Cacaphonist ahead of his time.
Kahlo – That fetching Frida tee from Tulum is hardly Kahlo in the wild. Her recent popularity overshadows her reputation as a serious painter with some very serious physical and emotional injuries. Frida Kahlo painted intensely personal self-portraits that combined elements of Surrealism, fantasy and Mexican folklore. Her colorful outfits combining the traditional costume of Mexican provinces became her personal and political act of radical self-expression.
So now you know which signs NOT TO STEAL…from their inception. We’ll see you in our dreams.
Cover image of BRC street signs at sunset, 2018 (Photo by Susan Becker)