My Burning Man 2015 Top Ten
I highlight my ten favorite experiences on the Playa this year – not necessarily the greatest objects d’art, but the moments that shaped my stay. All 10 projects unite on a common theme: mastery of execution. With expanding art budgets, it’s getting easier to bring out to the desert trucks full of lights, sound, and scaffolding. It’s much harder to finish an idea with a coherent and elegant frame. As I grow as an artist, I’d like to concentrate on the last 20% of a project. If I have just one LED, make this LED shine wondrously diffuse from within a thoughtful container.
- The Dust. It was everywhere and relentless, from the initial taste of a gritty beer to the last waking breath on a dusty pillow. We live in dust, we are made of dust, we return to dust. Although only a few heavy gales wracked Black Rock, trade winds blew in dust all week long. With a difficult, dusty year, expect more RVs next year and an easement on ticket demand.
- Thunderdome. For over a decade, I have passed by the epic battles between two swinging contestants wielding foam swords, but this was the first year I actually “saw” Thunderdome: the epic, anarchic, shrill cacophony that screams for violence. I watched a couple grab each other’s necks and dreads, bats beating savagely. On my visit, coworker Ronny officiated the madness with a black staff topped with a skull. Although I find comfort in lightness and kindness, I’m proud Burning Man provides this space for darkness and vengeance.
- The Charcade. A Montreal crew organized countless artists from around the world to install a carnival of fire. Imagine flaming fair games: ten lanes of skeeball on fire, a giant Tetris game on fire, a mirror maze on fire, and a jack-in-the-box on fire. Stephanie and I toured the Charcade early in the week before the crowds arrived but also before some of the pieces finished completion.
- Sean’s Cooking. A large group lives on its stomach. For the first time in its three-year incarnation, the sheep camp offered a daily dinner. I’ve seen countless chefs burn out from the labor of feeding so many night after night. Perfect foolishly, Sean offered to orchestrate the menus and wrangle the entire kitchen. Yet he delivered thoughtful, tasty, simple, and amazing meals: such as steak with potatoes, salmon with snow peas, and jambalaya. He served dinner both on time and in quantity to a tired, hungry, and grateful crew. Thank you so much, Sean!
- The Roses and The Triangles. I aimed to install six triangles in the barn courtyard of the sheep camp and three roses at Comfort + Joy. These pieces were by no means the largest, brightest, or most intricate sculptures on the Playa. Yet, I set up both pieces by myself on schedule, and kept them running all week. I’m quite gratified by their ever-present glow.
- The Caged Monkey. A giant lonely, orangutan plays a small drum just off the Esplanade. He’s hung in a cage almost as if crucified. His ghostly hair whisps over his beefy metal hook hands and rotors. Do the mechanics actually work so he can play his drum, or is he forever silently trapped? I fell in love with and fear for the artist’s impeccable and inexplicable vision.
- The Forest Art Car. Inexpensive strip lighting has proliferated everywhere to adorn bikes, camps, and cars. Just plug it in for the self-same blinkiness. At least one art car rather cleverly diffused its lights. Picture a massive, moveable forest whose spiky tree branches shine enough to frighten Macbeth. Look to this forest for the future of lighting.
- The Family Jewels. Todd Cooper and crew set up close to the Esplanade an ambition art installation comprised of wooden frames, intersecting strings, and black lights. At night, these jewels fluoresced with pinks and greens. Black lights were cleverly hidden in stands. Strip lights were carefully inset into frames. Thoughtful finishing details lent the project grace and lightness.
- The Sheep. Too wide, too loud, too heavy, the stately Sheep nonetheless rumbled onward from its barn at 7 and D streets into the Playa and on to the trash fence. Midweek, she blew out an eye. While waiting for Amazon Prime to deliver another halogen bulb to the Black Rock City airport, we affixed a unicorn horn to the sheep’s head. It was a year of set backs followed by successes. I’ll remember fondly the Tuesday evening party with the sheep at the Family Jewel’s project and John Major’s exquisite set at Friday night’s Honey Dusty. Sheep, you brought us together and made us proud.
- The Parachute. From afar, she looked like a shimmering manta ray or a glowing parachute. Up close, happy people lay under a twenty-foot tall, 100-foot wide, six-pointed star. The canopy danced with tens of thousands of programmable LED ping-pong balls. The beloved “Cubatron” returned this year as a hanging star as my favorite piece on the Playa. The artist boldly choreographed the exquisite shows to classical music: writhing silhouettes danced, raindrops pulsed, and a Mandelbrot fractal expanded on its journey to the center of the universe. It is software, not hardware that shall rule them all. On one late-evening visit, I yelled at the parachute to tell me the meaning of life. What is it all for? Why are we here? The parachute answered simply, “this is enough.” I wrestled with its answer as light and life continued to pour forth in utter, inexplicable wonder. After each viewing, I went home soon after to sleep quite sated.