The funny thing about Burning Man, is that you can plan and plan and plan, and you still have very little idea of what really you’re getting into. I consider myself to be a regular burner, on top of being fairly organized typeA personality… a Capricorn always prepared for the unexpected. I tend to spend a LOT of time pre-event and actually on playa during the event organizing my STUFF, so that on a whim, when someone needs a light-up corkscrew, I’ve got you covered. BOOM. #whatimmediacy?
That being said, every regular burner also knows that expectations are pretty much the worst thing you can bring with you to burn the man, because with them, come disappointments. #letitride
This year, the burn was tough for me. Hardest one yet, dare I say. Incredibly challenging personally, and several times I had to remind myself. “This is why we go”, to push ourselves and to go beyond the rational all the way to extreme… because what’s left is pure magnificence. (Usually.)
This was my fifth official Flaming Guy, though I have been “burning at heart” since 2004, and this burn was actually the 6th time driving to BRC and back again, being that I went twice this year and got to attend the Early Burn ritual that DPW and many of the departments celebrate as their own city celebration before the main event. Quite the spectacle:
DPW Early Burn 8.17.2019
At the same time, I also was over the moon and fantastically fortunate to have had my fiancé-in-shine, Michael Ngarimu, affectionally known on and off-playa as Kiwi from Man Base, PROPOSE, to ME! Underneath the Man pavilion where the man stood, roughly 60’7” tall and growing, he asked if I would and I said, “I do”.
Or, at least I will soon!
Thanks for the engagement shot John Curly!
Damn that man never looked so good!
So why the rough time, you ask? Despite all of my pre-planning making plans to try NOT plan on this “vacation”, between my actual on-playa commitments, my work obligations, and my heart strings being tugged in different directions by old friends and new, I can easily say I had one of my most difficult experience of my life pushing my endurance physically, emotionally and radically. I heard myself saying several times to myself “I am never doing this again… not like this”. Truthfully, most things worth doing aren’t easy, and I always did like learning the hard way.
The thing about the playa, no matter how many times you go, it’s always going to teach you something…. Just when you think you know what to expect, it’s going to throw you a curve ball, whenever it’s you future self throwing your present self a curve ball, or perhaps the universe unexpectedly barreling bowl. Undoubtedly, if you’re paying attention, the playa is here to push you to your limit. For better or worse.
“Burning Man… where things to go die” was what I kept thinking. From my bike, to my lights, to cars, clothes, tent zippers… it’s all there to DIE; and yet at the same time, it’s very much keeping our spirit alive. From the moment I got there, to the moment I left, I almost couldn’t wait to get back to my “real” life (which my good friend pointed out to me is a lot like burning man all the time because let’s face it, cacophony is my middle name). It’s not that I didn’t have moments of fun; but the effort far outweighed the pay-offs initially. (In hindsight… I’m still not sure). Fucking expectations.
Not that Burning Man isn’t great and all that it’s cracked up to be… it’s, quite frankly, my favorite place on earth. I love it almost too much. It’s like an unhealthy one-sided relationship where you put in all the effort but still go home alone. Yet, I can’t get enough of it, and this teaser we get for a week of paradise, isn’t cutting it frankly. It’s exhausting. The preparation, the time crunching at work and after so I can afford to be away for ten days… the drive… the food prep… the set up, the clean up…volunteering, biking, trying to make art, be art, all of it. IT’S. EXHAUSTING.
Bringing my first art piece titled baby “Grace” proved to be an additional layer of interest and responsablity, only in that I was struggling to find time to bring her out to be enjoyed by folks. She did make it to Crimson’s El Diablo lighting ceremony, and the walked out to the Inner Sun for a sundown lighting on Monday. Grace is the tiny fire pit baby carriage:
Grace, made by TJ Lee, at The Inner Sun Installation, made by Nathan Altman, 2019
“Here, take everything of value to you, drag it out to the dessert where the dust that coats everything has essentially the consistency of drain cleaner,” my friend Brita nicely explained as we were communing in the heat one afternoon, “bring it all to a place that we CALL home, but can’t actually create anything of sustenance that will survive in it, and let’s like, see what shakes out, right?”
Wrong. I’m tired. I’m tired, and I want more from my community, more from the “investors”, from the artists, and more from this “non-Profit” organization. Personally, I want more from my time and my investment in a community.
“But what about immediacy, and the radical self evolution,” half of you will chirp… And I don’t want to discredit that need for the temporary and the immediate, but I do want those forces to be working for us, and not against us. I ask you, what kind of church or neighborhood, or community doesn’t invest in it’s infrastructure, in it’s future, and in itself?
One of my favorite installations this year was the “Free Wifi” signs around playa. I only hit one, but word spread fast that the hoax was really a cacauphonous effort to get citizens off their phones. Instead of wifi, you got a never-ending scrolling terms and conditions that read a little something like this:
While I absolutely find great humor in this type of art, and encourage it, I myself am the first to jump on the pro BRC Wifi Train. “What do we want? WIFI! And when do we want it? NOW.” We’re exhausting ourselves trying to work, navigate and track people down in a city that is as arguably the most high tech city in the world one might argue, and yet we still don’t have a good way to communicate with each other on-site? This is just one way to make things slightly easier in such a harsh environment for many BRC citizens (and yes, I recognize this is highly debatable).
My old ass doesn’t have time to wait around for playa magic to provide, especially if you want my participation at peak levels. And when one of my shows was cancelled, it would have been really awesome if I could have saved some of my friends the trip during dinner time across the sea to a me that wasn’t there. <<insert snarky comment here to appease nay-sayers>>. I know it’s a big ask; I know it’s a big and somewhat unpopular change. And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it. I am asking, please, let’s make this city work for US.
WE HAVE GOT TO START CONSERVING RESOURCES FOLKS IF WE WANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY
I’m not the only one that feels this way, and I know our community is divided in some sense. I’m writing this Burning Mannierism Declaration to give voice to the other side of immediacy, because If I am going to continue to participate as a citizen, not only do I value many voices having an active roll in shaping this scene, but I want to know our voices are being USED, let alone heard, and that this is a group effort towards enlightenment. Evolution is one not one-sided. #freeWIFIcentercamp2020 #somuchmore
Hard sell… maybe. But wait, there’s more:
I’d like to radically propose to open Black Rock City for not just a week or two, but for a month or two, during the summer, culminating in the man-burn phenomenon we all still do religiously, without a whole lot of intention or reaction, but rather unguided passion. Let’s us continue to commune, while opening our doors to the masses. I’m serious… we all gather around for this ridiculously awesome ritual that gets more and more insane by the year, and we love it! We all want more! Everyone wants more. Let’s face it, nobody hardly batted an eye when the man pavilion fell away to a cross this year, and frankly nobody needed no. This is cacophony. This wasn’t a maliciously planned act to feed the god of christ’s ego, and everybody who could see it had a chuckle. You cannot plan this shit… at least not all of it. It’s okay to be offended a bit , it’s good for us. And it’s okay to spread our wings. (Of course a BLM permit is a whole other topic, and a whole other blog article).
Yes, I want to see Burning Man establish itself as a still temporary, yet real and functional city during the summer months leading up it’s surmise/demise. Allow artists and people to come from all over the world and make the pilgrimage accessible. This need not be an exclusive event just for Instagram models, but radically, make it all INCLUSIVE for all walks of life. Have a family week. Have a sex positive themed week. Show case different artists and burns all summer long. Let different pieces burn that mean different things to hundreds of thousands. Harness that money and put it back into the art and into Burners Without Borders projects. If we aren’t going to commit to some property and radically change the way we are living full time, at the least, let’s OPEN THIS THING UP and try to let even more cathartic healing come through.
The Temple of Direction, 2019
While I’ve got your year, we also want better street signs…these flimsy crappy wooden ones that nobody can see are not cutting it. Also I think at $400-1000+ a ticket we can afford the comfort of cloth wrist bands if we are going to wrist band folks. Also better Center Camp flags and lighting from a distance, and I’d like to see designated frontage streets to that people can easily navigate the outer roads without having to be bombarded by RVs that add no value to the community. You want the city to grow? We must grow conceptuality too. Let the cacophony work for us, and let the artists solve real problems that needs attention (like how BWB is bringing compostable toilets to deep playa, THANK YOU!)
And yes, most of you will say, where is my radical self-reliance? Where is my immediacy? For that, I say, it’s right here, and it radically self-reliantly speaking up for what my immediate needs are. There are interesting dialogues to have in the interest of evolution and succession, and at the least, I hope we can do it with laugh, hence, the cacophony.
Burning Man. We love you. We want you. No matter how much you argue radical self-reliance, I think it’s fair to admit that we have built a fairly codependence relationship that is flourishing while treading water; now we have to foster it if we want to keep it alive. We’ve built this incredible community, with the art, with the organization, with each other, and now I think it’s fair to say that most of us want want more. I’m talking serious relationship level investing. Fly Ranch can be our retreat, but we need land, we need it near the/a city(ies), and it we will require a lot of collaboration and mutation. Metamorphosizing is just the beginning. It’s time to jump.
It’s safe to say this this level of changes comes with great difficulties and challenges, and the dialogue between opposing sides is just the beginning… our differences are to be over-come in time and strength in numbers. We’ve got the smartest, most creative people in the world listening, and we are hungry. We’ve all already bitten off way more than we can collectively chew… it’s time, to eat the whole damn thing. Des(s)art and all.
#arewethereyet #iwanttogohome #forreal
I FUCKING LOVE YOU BURNING MAN
Opulent Chill Set Friday Burning Man 2019