Burning Man 2007 Friday and Saturday
Friday morning I rode toward the Artery with a friend from the Golden
Cafe. We took the roundabout way and came across a camp that made
pancakes. They served us pancakes on frisbees that had "Burning Man
2007" printed on them. They coated them with warm syrup from a big vat
with a nozzle controlled by a foot pedal. We also stopped at a camp
that had just opened a bar and was playing one of the BRC radio
stations. When we got to the Artery, a camp in city center that
coordinates placement of art installations, we read about the art. A
few of the projects are funded from the ticket sale money. Most are
not. We got more maps and saw all of the city center funded art. The
highlights were the super 3D images viewed through binoculars at the
cafe and the big gate sculpture made from discarded bikes. Dozens of
artists contributed to the art around city center. One was a painting
in glow in the dark paint that stood out beautifully at night.
El Museum de Materiel Retrieve.
Next we rode to the art on the near playa. Interesting was El Museum
de Materiel retrieve or Museum of Reused Items by Traipse Treyfidis.
It is an art museum dedicated to recycled materials. The structure is
built from reclaimed cardboard. Its interior contains reproductions of
famous modern artworks done entirely in recycled materials. A
hilariously narrated fake history of Western art runs continuously
referencing these works, that include a tomato soup can and a fake
Under the Man.
The Hexayurt and generator exhaust exhibits were useful. A Hexayurt is
a living area made from low cost high insulating material and sealed
with tape. One was set up in the sun and it was surprisingly cool
inside. The temperature of the earth just beneath the surface is
pleasantly cool. So, in the yurt, the earth's surface, shielded from
the elements will approach this temperature. I am building one next
year. The generator exhaust exhibit showed generator exhaust cooled
and pumped through tubes of growing algae. The algae fed on the
exhaust and the result was a decrease in carbon emissions.
The Big Dust Storm.
There had been intermittent dust storms, even short white out
conditions throughout the week, but Friday was the worst. I was on
the playa when it hit, on my bike wearing sunglasses. I switched to
goggles, but it was too late. Playa dust was in my eye. The wind blew
so hard I walked the bike. The wind picked up even more. It was a
total gray out. All that could be seen was the white gray color of
the playa dust through the tears pouring out of my eye. I stopped
completely and stayed motionless except to turn my head away from the
shifting directions of the winds. During a remission in the
immobilizing conditions I made it to the Kitchen. A few of us sat out
the storm in the Kitchen drinking liqueurs and talking. The Golden
Cafe members are interesting people doing creative things in the real
world. As the storm seemed over I went to my tent and shady structure.
Everything was okay. I set out again but the storm came back even
harder than before. This time everything was not okay. The metal
horizontal struts at the top of the shade structure had snapped
causing the tarp to come loose. It was flapping loudly and violently
in the wind. The wind was so fierce I could not remove the tarp
although it was obvious it was only a matter of time before it would
blow off. I sat in my camp chair and held it for quite a while. It was
a workout, the blowing tarp versus my biceps. This was the only time at
Burning Man I was outside and yet could see no other people. Everybody
was huddled in their structures, RVs, buses, domes and yurts, and
sealed in to minimize the penetration of playa dust. My goggles were
working now. My eye was better, my neighbor had tended to it with
saline solution, and the temperature had dropped. Even in the midst
of the storm and the structure collapse I was having a blast. Other
structures were also damaged by the storm. One of the huge rave domes
collapsed. A person was lying on the floor, but was uninjured as the
debris fell around him.
After the storm it rained, and a beautiful double rainbow formed.
Both arches were thick and full and stretched from horizon point to
horizon point; from one end of the city to the other. I met the
person who had spray painted "Colbert Says," next to older
"N-gon" and "Nude Volley Ball 5pm" tags. He painted my clothes
for me with stencils of those slogans and "Free Paul Addis" too.
They all had graphics with them. Paul was back in Black Rock City
with a sign saying "meet the man who burned the man," and giving
Saturday I was a bartender at the Dome. The bar was immensely popular
and people crowded in for drinks. The drinks were gifts, but we had
rules: 1. drink it in our glassware; 2. drink it here; and 3. drink
it all. It is just natural to serve the people you like first. For
me, they are usually the quieter people who are extremely happy to
get their drink first. Golden Cafe drinks are very very good. They
are often made with top brand liquor and in batches. An exception is
the using up of the donations of more down scale and generic liquor
and wine. The Golden Cafe gets a lot of liquor donations and serves
it all. The bar is also where the medallion system comes into play.
It is part of the bartender's job to recognize the medallions and
provide the wearers with the best drinks. I took breaks from
bartending to visit people in the neighborhood, and to rest on
the couches at the 7:30 plaza. When I would return I would get a
heartfelt hug and resume bar tending.
Naked Volleyball, the Blue Pig and the Burning of the Man.
At sunset we played naked volleyball. Afterwards I ate a big meal in
the Kitchen with a cup of delicious white wine. The Blue Pig
President art car was leaving for the Burning Man soon, but the food
was so good I decided to savor it and walk. Serendipitously, the Blue
Pig was still there when I was ready to go. It is a two story art car
and I rode on top sharing drinks. It positioned itself upwind from
the Man to avoid the smoke. I got out not sure of where I was and met
several groups of people waiting for the Man to burn. More to my
liking was a college freshman from CU and his friends, than a middle
aged Brit in a blue blazer. The crowd was too thick to move far. The
burning of the Man was preceded by the most massive fireworks display
I had ever seen. Then there was an explosion and he was on fire. The
explosion did not knock off his arms or even kill the green neon
lights on his head right away. After a second the neon went out and
after a few minutes his arms fell and the crowd cheered. After some
more time he fell over.
The Real Explosion.
After the Man burning I walked quickly toward the Derrick. I picked
up a companion and Dutch flag on the way. The companion parted ways
with me not wanting to go to the backside to get a front row seat. I
did. The front row was on a 1000 foot perimeter around the Derrick. It
was a long time until the show began, as the area filled with people.
The man sitting next to me had been to almost every Burning Man. He
volunteered for entry patrol. People who try to sneak in are
usually caught, double fined, and charged for a maximum priced ticket.
Some people can however get in Thursday with a discounted ticket
found online. A smoke generator poured a thick cloud of smoke. An
even more amazing fireworks display than had preceded the burning of
the Man began and kept up for a quarter of an hour at least. Big
sustained blasts of fireworks of all colors came from several
locations in the ground. Then, a 10 foot diameter pipe delivered a mega
whoop of nitrogen-propane fuel to the center of the Derrick and there
was an enormous explosion. It started with a blinding flash. Then the
heat hit us. Then there was a mushroom cloud over the Derrick and it
was burning. It was 2.4 gigawatts of raw power in only one minute.
The largest flame cannon in history. The tower burned for some time
and then fell. The giant sculptures remained.
A Synchronistic Epiphany.
After the explosion I walked to the Sapphire Portal for the last
time. Its back door was open and the mixer guy was creating music a
little more intense than had been playing there before. I went in the
front and moved to it a little, and then out back and spotted a
parked art car. It belonged to the Portal and the creator was inside.
The girls who had gotten off of it gave me a bracelet and chocolate
and told my fortune: "A revelation awaits you. Pause for reflections
& a synchronistic epiphany will flash." I gave them the Dutch flag.
They left and I climbed to the roof of the project with the people
who were hanging out in back. From the roof I saw the Portal car
leave. I got high with the guys on the roof. We were sitting, it was
a perfect peaceful time. I walked back to camp through the ruins of
the Derrick and the Man.
Harlan Emil Gruber.
Harlan Emil Gruber (b. Jan. 14, 1959, NY) is the September 2007
Digital Color Artist of the Month. He created the Sapphire Portal.
Harlan has combined his interest in science and art to shape a
respected design career. A student of Physics at Emory University and
of Electrical Engineering at University of Miami and Georgia Tech,
Harlan subsequently received a degree in the field of Environmental
Design from Parson School of Design, New York (1985). Harlan has been
attending the Burning Man festival in Nevada since 1999 and has
created a series of bicycles for it called Playacycles. He has also
created large scale sculptures for it: the Mutant Vehicle Labyrinth
in 2003, the 11:11 Diamond Portal in 2004 & 2005 and the 12:12
Emerald Portal in 2006. He has become deeply committed to the vision
of Burning Man, as it combines his interests in art, design and