Burning Man 2007 Wednesday and Thursday.
Wednesday I rode the perimeter. Out on the open playa past the campers, going counterclockwise there was first, the place where the water trucks go, and then an emergency services area. Next the Greeters Stations and then the airport. RVs and buses as well as cars were streaming into the Greeter Stations and planes were landing at the airport. The population of Black Rock City was increasing. It reached over 47,000 at its peak. People parachuted in. The air force flew cutting edge fighter jets over the city and they did stunts in mid air. At 2 O'Clock Street (2:00) I took a break from the perimeter to drink at the Skateboard Camp. 2:00 borders the playa so the camps there face out onto the playa. Many of the camps there are dance clubs that have stages and people dance out into the playa. The biggest is Opulent Temple. BRC is set up so the locations of many camps don't change much from year to year. After drinking, I rode out into the playa and encountered a wind skateboarder. He had a board that was like a four wheel furniture cart and a large sail. The winds were gusty but not steady and trouble tacking had left him almost at the perimeter. I rode to a meditation shack. It was red inside and had candles to light and a book to look at and write in. Everything was red. I had the shack to myself for only half a minute or so. Although it was near the perimeter, a long long way out, there were still lots of people there. Most on bicycles, but some walking, most in groups, but some by themselves, like me, all happy to be there and easy to talk to.
Next came one of my favorites -- the Sapphire Portal. It is a large round roofless aquamarine building with one opening through which people can crawl in. Inside you can see the sky, but not the horizon. A good part of the walls are part of a sophisticated sound system that lets you feel as well as hear music. There is a guy at a mixing board in back creating more meditative music than the punks or ravers, that is to say no electronic drumbeats. He appears to contemplate every movement he makes at the board, even measuring some with a calipers. In the middle of the structure there is a two story platform with pillow and mirrors. People are doing yoga on the platform.
Technology and Art.
Many of the installations were a fusion of technology and art. One was an extremely rapidly rotating stand of LED lights that made 3D images. I pedaled toward it seeing the 3D image of a burning man dissolve in and out of the patterns of light. The artist was there running the device. He told us that they had just finished installing it and had never fully tested it. He saw it work for the first time the same time I did -- in its fully glory at night on the playa. After some time he turned it off and the magic was revealed to be technology.
Big Rig Jig.
Big Rig Jig is a sculpture fashioned from real oil tankers. It kept to the theme of Burning Man 2007 -- the Green Man, instilling thoughts of wonder, fear, instability, nature, and beauty. Mike Ross, the artist, says of his work "Our source objects are fundamental to the world's oil distribution infrastructure, and are pertinent examples of our culture's unmatched production of carbon dioxide. By altering these symbolically rich objects, the sculpture is a celebration of humankind's raw power on earth, a visual metaphor for non-sustainability, and a contemplation of our unique ability to recognize and change our most destructive actions."
Another marvel I saw that night was gorillas that appeared to be swinging from monkey bars due to a strobe light effect. The gorillas are mounted on a carousel that is activated by participants pedaling stationary bicycles. The bicycles are arranged in an outer circle beyond the carousel. I later found out this is one of the most popular installations. It is called Homouroboros and is Peter Hudson's third large-scale stroboscopic zoetrope. I knew almost nothing about any of these installations before I came across them. They gave me an enduring sense of awe and wonder.
A Pyramid and a Sunrise Bar.
Another very large installation was a pyramid that shone a spotlight into the sky. The skin of the pyramid inside and out was a planetarium like canvas onto which green dots of light were projected. Inside the pyramid were consoles with colorful images that changed as you touched them. In the middle there was an inner chamber with a keyboard. People played the keyboard and it caused discordant tones to reverberate throughout the installation. A ways away there was a bar that opened at sunrise. I never made it to sunrise, but I will next year.
One of the joys of Burning Man is walking around and meeting people. Many people set up their camps to make it inviting for people to visit. I met people who had come as groups of friends, and people who came as natural families. During a walk around I stood still in front a woman on a bike. She stopped in front of me and asked where the center was. I turned around to point to the center and saw, for the first time, the fully reconstructed Burning Man, including his head. He had been headless for a day, but was now fully rebuilt! I sat in a camp with a trampoline and a guy with a lime mohawk who I recognized entered. We hugged in greeting and talked about naked trampoline jumping. I said I would do it if other people did. He said "let's go," and took everything off. I did too and we jumped on the trampoline. It was so fun! We walked out of that camp together and into another one, where they were singing Freebird, and joined them.
Thursday night I returned to the Derrick. Its official name is Crude Awakening, by Dan Das Mann, Karen Cusolito, Black Rock FX, Pyrokinetics, Nate Smith, Mark Perez and MonkeyBoy. Nine figurative steel sculptures, weighing 7 tons each and standing 30' tall, embody the faithful. In their various poses of worship from around the world, they bow down and reach forth to the Revered Oil Derrick, that icon of the religion which now stands above all others. The nine faithful belch their fiery prayers from within and around their bodies. Each figure is bound by a participant-activated fire effect, created by Pyrokinetics. The Derrick is a 90' tall wooden tower. The stairs to the upper platform had just been completed and I climbed up and stayed for a long time looking out on Black Rock City -- the Rave domes, the strobing Homouroboros, the gleaming Sapphire Portal and a million other lights.
After the climbing down from the Derrick I returned again to Skateboard camp. They recognized me now. I had given them apples, tomatoes, nectarines and candy. They filled one of my water bottles with Rum and Coke. I sat down on one of their couches and shared the drink with the guy who was sitting there. He told me that his bike had been stolen, so we made plans to get on an art car. The first one we tried to board said they were full, and they added vodka cranberry to our drink making it taste funny. The next art car we didn't even ask. There was room enough and we ran after it and jumped on the back. It was a converted fire truck. They added a massive amount of vodka to our drink which made it taste wonderful again. The Firetruck blasted music with a beat and stopped at the Sapphire Portal. We went in and my drinking buddy stood on the pedestal in the middle and felt the music through his feet. The Firetruck also stopped at the Homouroboros and other far out installations. When the Firetruck was about to leave a location it spouted fire and honked so all the people could get back on before it left.
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