Burning Man 2007
The September 2007 Digital Consciousness Newsletter is an account of Burning Man 2007, a week long art festival for radical self-expression held in the Black Rock desert of Nevada. The Newsletter is in three parts: Part I (issue 96) covers Monday and Tuesday of the Festival; Part II (issue 97) Wednesday and Thursday; and Part III (issue 98) Friday and Saturday.
Burning Man 2007 Monday and Tuesday.
On Monday a dust storm blew as I entered the Burning Man gates into Black Rock City for the first time. Greeters in fanciful dust masks and goggles got me out of the car and spanked me. I rolled around in the dust and rang a gong. They gave me maps, a Schedule of Events and said "Welcome Home."
Building the Kitchen.
At my camp, the Golden Cafe, the bar, a large dome, was complete. The kitchen, a huge steel pipe structure was, however, only partially up because the pipe wouldn't fit into the couplings. They were grinding down the steel to make the pipes fit. A lot of steel had to be ground off. I helped a little. The process involved pressure, persistence, patience and enduring lots of sparks.
A Ride in the Dark.
After sunset I rode my bicycle into the playa toward the Burning Man. The playa is a dry lake bed. Art vehicles roamed around, some small, some huge like parade floats. They blasted rave and techno music, some Grateful Dead too. They had different themes that are hinted at by their names: Blue Pig, Firetruck, Fire Breathing Dragon, Mushroom, Rabbit, Duck, Pirate Ship, etc.
I passed a camp with a half pipe. A kid jumped out and yelled, "Stop, you gotta stop . . . and get some booze." I did. Their camp was like a three room house constructed of 2x4s. They had lots of couches, inside and out. We got high. After some time they cut their lights, as did the neighboring camps, to view the total lunar eclipse. I saw the green neon on the Man blink off. Somebody yelled "the Man's on fire." He was! The man had been burned prematurely by Paul Addis.
There is a lot of fire. Fireworks go off at random times. There are fire jugglers. Iron cauldrons of burning wood put out so much heat you cannot get too close. Then there are fire shows. At one, people hit a lever with a mallet to send a metal disc up a tower. Sometimes, if the disc goes high enough fire shoots out the top of the tower. But, watch for a while and you will see there is really a guy with a button and the fire shoots out when he presses it! And, of course, dance immolation. Players dance frenetically with fire suits on and fire shoots out of many different places on the set in step with their dancing. Lots of art cars and art exhibits also shoot flames, big ones.
Completing the Kitchen.
Tuesday, after sunrise I found people had been working all night on the Golden Cafe infrastructure. Again, I helped, a little. When we were done, we had a magnificent 15' high, 30' wide, 60' long structure with a tarp ceiling and sides. It was powered by a bank of fan cooled generators surrounded by sound dampening panels. The generators powered lights, freezers, refrigerators, a microwave, a hot water heater and pumps. The hot water heater heated water to 122 degrees for two camp showers and a carved marble sink behind the Kitchen. The sink was connected with pipe, not tubes, so that it wouldn't clog.
A musician went with me on a daytime bike ride. We went to the Derrick, the largest art installation, a wooden oil derrick and wire sculptures of giants praying to it in different positions. We went then to the Skateboard camp. They played original punk rock on the roof. Their main carpenter had a crutch and hobbled along the bike filled street pretending to be crippled and falling down. We laughed from the couches and ate fruit. We listened to the music and doodled on the wood. I briefly rode one of the green "Free Yellow Bikes" that had been donated.
Distant Art Installations.
After parting with my musician friend, I rode out to the most distant art installations. Several of them were shady places to rest with interesting furnishings. Some had roosts to climb on and look out. Some had keyboards or a piano to play. Many had mirrors. Many had sounds. Some were just a few artfully placed lights powered by a solar generator. Not all of them are running all the time. Sometimes the artist is hanging out at the installation she has created.
Nakedness and Costumes.
Many people go about the festival naked in the day. Most are tattooed. At night people wear costumes. Popular are skirts for the men and anything with lights or that glows. Bicycles are decorated too, with blinking lights and glow sticks.
Black Rock City.
Black Rock City has streets radiating outward from the inner playa. Center Camp has art exhibits, stages and performances. The major streets are lit by lamp, but the light is dim compared to the brighter lights of the camps that line the streets. Water trucks drive slowly on the streets spraying water out the back to keep the dust down. Naked people follow behind to keep cool. Art cars drive along too, barking which camp they are from and why everyone should go there. Spaces are reserved for theme camps and villages, which do have themes, such as raves, circuses, bars, art modeling, pancake making, musical style, trampoline jumping, nude volleyball or other things. There is also space reserved for walk-in camping. Otherwise, one can camp anywhere in the named street area.
The Golden Cafe.
The theme of Golden Cafe is drinks in glassware and gourmet food and its mascot is a golden calf. All camp members pay dues that go to camp expenses. Some people also make substantial additional donations. The centerpiece of the Golden Cafe is a dome with a bar. Wonderful musicians perform as we serve drinks and 'tapas.' Tapas means appetizers in Spanish cuisine, but in the Golden Dome they were a variety of delicious food from everywhere. Bread crusted eggplant, spicy bread, brownies, salads, potato tacos, vegan burritos, banana pancakes, lamb, flank steak, coconut chicken, tandoori chicken, sausage, shrimp, veggie chili in bread bowls, even lobster. The lobsters swam in a tank in the bar before they were cooked. Golden Cafe campers had gold medallions to identify themselves. Friends of the the camp had copper medallions and the musicians had blue ones.