I’m back from Burning Man, having returned to Default World. I spent a full eight weeks on the road this year, and it feels great to be home. I will attempt to summarize the venture, similar to last year, lest I leave you uniformed.
I worked more than I have in all my years past, and am sorry to say my standard craziness suffered a bit because of it. It was a conscious decision, as I took my first paid position through DPW as “First Camp Liaison”. It was my first full-time gig working throughout the entire event.
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I built and provided services for “First Camp“, where the Burning Man Organization (BORG) lives in Black Rock City. The camp consists of people who have helped create and continue to run the event. It was incredible meeting them, hearing their stories, and seeing how they operate. They are often busy or unavailable and play many roles of their own, during the event and throughout the year. I have always maintained a deep curiosity for who and what makes it all possible. My new role was great step towards exploring my questions.
I had all the regular responsibilities of running a camp for around forty people. I disposed of the trash, recycling, and compost. I filled their trailers with water at least once a day. I set up the space for special events, dinners, or parties (and one wedding). Lastly, I facilitated any services or requests made by the residents. There was a bit of unpredictability in many parts, and there were a variety of personalities and situations that required more immediate attention than others. Power outages, personal meltdowns, and camp divas were probably the worst.
I wore a radio and worked or was on-call at most times. Monday and Sunday were my only full days off during the week. As a consequence, I did not have the time or energy to fully participate in the event. I would return to my role only with a larger crew and the right equipment for next year. There were perks, but none worth trading all of my time and freedom to run wild and participate.
I brought an updated version of the same art project I setup last year. I combined four locations, a video, and some physical media into a transmedia scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, The project fell apart early on. Center Camp (where the hunt started) had power, but not long enough to keep my video running. I was then unable to introduce the story or explain the piece to people as they found it. I supplemented with paper instructions, but part of them was destroyed shortly after. Finally, the lock on the box froze up from too much dust and no one was even able to open it.
Not many people interacted with it, but I learned a great deal and still enjoyed the process of creating it. I’m certain I’ll try again next year, as there’s still simply no better place for experimenting with and improving it.
Christina and I camped in First Camp, but spent most of our time at Dr. Carl’s Department of Collections. They are a group of L.A. burners, who host a large Lost and Found board offering semi-fabulous prizes to participants who “find” various items or attributes. It attracts all sorts of excitement, and this year was no exception. The escaped children were probably the best. Their entire camp is also full of amazing and wonderful people. I would make entire the trip for them alone.
The art this year was amazing. The Temple (above) by David Best was especially inspiring. Burn Wall Street (A series of buildings resembling those on the actual Wall Street) was massive, but felt hollow and born from anger. There were 34 CORE projects (effigies made by groups from various regions) this year as well, and all were varied and fantastic. My other interactions were random and unexpected. I can recount a few.
We came upon The Touch Bar while exploring deep playa late one night with our group. The bar had no walls, just a carpet, bench, bag of tools, and four attendants. Two seemed to have just volunteered for the evening and were handing out menus. The other two, a cute couple, served the various items.
The menus were clever and elegant, but the attendants would not go into full details for any of the listings. None were sexual, and the entire space had a light, playful feel. I ordered an “equanimity” in exchange for one of my secrets. Sadly, it only involved them blindfolding me and then not touching me at all (Hence, the joke). I laughed while I waited and they laughed back, but that was it. Others were a bit luckier and got something stranger. Christina was forced to have someone else pay for her after we discovered she has no secrets.
I jumped The Ramp of Death with my fleet vehicle. It was hilarious for all and the ramp was entirely destroyed. I was glad to retire it. The Laser of Death will continued in it’s steed, and is much more entertaining.
The Pier 2 was the most impressive of anything I saw. Returning from last year, their addition of the massive, wrecked ship, stocked with fire, a captains quarters, and other surprises was a feat of scale and immersion. I returned to it often, as it was full of surprises.
The Desert Forest was a distant oasis, at least on windy days. We laid on a cushioned bed of fur, watching the white leaves sway in the breeze with soft sounds in the background. It was extremely relaxing, and occupied throughout.
El Pulpo Mecanico has been out before, but I didn’t get up close until this year. The chorographed music and animatronics make it demonically imposing. It was like stumbling upon the final boss of the desert, then feeling frozen in place while it danced at you with rusty jaws and flaming tentacles. It still haunts my dreams.
A beaver appeared in camp late one evening and sat near. He (or she) had a full-body suit and we were unable to tell exactly who was inside. I would assume it was someone from camp, but it is equally terrifying and hilarious to think a total stranger could have wandered in and done just the same. They stayed completely silent, and I couldn’t stop laughing. We finally left camp, but I heard he stuck around.
Those are my few bits and pieces. I had an awesome year! I laughed until I cried. I worked harder than I ever have in the past. And I had the joy of sharing it all with my two favorite people, Ree and Christina, for their first time out.
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I’m ready to do it all again next year.