The Last of the Mutants… 11 Years of Burning Man

If you have watched the movie Stardust like I have 20 or so times (it’s one of Peggy’s favorites), then you will be familiar with an airship. The dreaded, ‘whoopsie’ Captain Shakespeare played delightfully by Robert DeNiro used it for gathering lighting. This rendition at Burning Man was quite impressive. .

The Burning Man Organization, BMO, works hard to insure that the mutant vehicles that wander across the Playa and through Black Rock City are both creative and safe. The process starts with an application from Burners who want to bring a mutant vehicle to the annual event. A photo or detailed drawing of the vehicle must accompany the application. A committee then reviews the applications for originality and safety. Numbers are strictly limited. Burning Man is primarily a walking/bicycling event. Upon arrival the mutant vehicle must check in with the Department of Mutant Vehicles, DMV, and pass a safety inspection before receiving a license. Vehicles that shoot out fire must pass even more stringent requirements.

Here’s where the mutant vehicles have to check in upon their arrival before venturing out on to the Playa or into Black Rock City. I was amused by the infinite clearance. Some of the mutants, like the sailing ship and El Pulpo Mechanico, do reach quite high into the sky!

I am wrapping up my series on Burning Man’s mutant vehicles today. There are, after all, another 14 categories of photos from my 11 years of attending the far-out happening in Nevada’s remote Black Rock Desert. Being last, however, does not mean least. Most of these simply didn’t fit into the groups I created. Take this eye, for example.

An eyeball moving across the Playa was one of the most unique mutant vehicles I have seen.
Given all of the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that show up at Burning Man, I could’t help but wonder if Big Brother wasn’t watching us. (Not seriously, but what a clever disguise it would be.)
While focusing in on body parts, this fellow seemed to have a hand out. The question: was it offering help or looking for spare change? I think I recognize him from the street corner. And what about those ears. On the other hand (so to speak), and more likely, there may be a more serious Hindu or Buddhist reference here. Or maybe it’s a Hare Krishna recruiting effort.
Pucker up, sweetie.
There’s a chance that this cutie wanted more than a kiss, however. There’s a good chance that she wanted your blood.
Bounteous would be the description I would apply here, with a slight touch of Egypt. I’d think sphinx except for the duck up on top of her head. Or maybe its a seahorse. (Photo by Don Green.)

Well, enough on body parts, already. I’ve written a fair amount about steampunk at Burning Man, especially as it applies to mutant vehicles. Here’s a couple more.

As I recall, I found this vehicle hanging out near the rhino and the octopus. It struck me as a Capatin Nemo type vehicle.
A front view.
At night.
The requisite gears apparently required on all steampunk vehicles.
My friend Don Green captured another great example of steam punk.

Burning Man constantly throbs with the sound of heavy metal music. I always carry sound makers to reduce its impact on my beauty rest. A number of large venues are found throughout Black Rock City. Mutant vehicles carry on the tradition out on the Playa. Whenever one stops to whip out the tunes, Burners gather around to dance. There’s no question about the intention of the boom box mutant vehicle. Large speakers are another sure guarantee that loud music is about to happen.

One year, this mutant vehicle was for sale, minus its sound equipment. Tempting, I thought. But I would have turned it into a blues mobile or a jazz jalopy.
There were enough speakers on this puppy to send any city council into paroxysms of angst or at least anxiety. The police chief would be called. At Burning Man, it was only a medium sized player.

With music rolling across the Playa, it’s not surprising that there was also a bar. This one was hauled by an old tractor.

You have to admit that there is a bit of old fashioned charm here. The aluminum roof reminded me of my childhood.
Tom and I had to try out the bar. Potent moonshine was being offered. I stand out like a pink something or other. The barmaids came with boots and not many clothes.
The mutant was more than a bar. however. The other side was a circa 1950s type kitchen. At one point, I think I remember them cooking chocolate chip cookies. But maybe that’s a memory from my childhood. Peggy is checking out the kitchen, but she wasn’t offering to cook…
Maybe she needed some Crisco. Is this an example of canned entertainment?

What if Picasso made it to Burning Man. The first mutant vehicle below might be what he would create. The second would be more likely to be found among the ‘primitive’ painters who were inspired by the South Pacific and exotic tropical islands.

Definitely shades of Picasso here and other modern art themes.
And here we have a Tiki God with thoughts of Polynesia. Is that a Polynesian maiden to the right? I’m pretty sure that she would capture Paul Gauguin or Rousseau’s attention.

Big things come in small packages, as the diamond merchants like to remind us, over and over.

Would it be humanly possible to cram one more thing onto this mutant ATV?
A close up showed a dog…
And a strange kid.

My final three…

A king who reminded me a bit of Larry Harvey, the creative genius behind Burning Man who passed away last year.
A big wheeled horseless carriage. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)
And the mutant vehicle I would build! It could be my office. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

NEXT BURNING MAN POST: A look at Black Rock City.

26 thoughts on “The Last of the Mutants… 11 Years of Burning Man

    • Burning Man stirs up enough controversy that it doesn’t need a political element.Politics do creep in around the edges, however. Hard to imagine them not doing more this year.
      Lovely, amusing and just plain weird seems to work, Gerard. 🙂 –Curt

  1. Such bizarre creations! I love that eye. It’s eye-catching. (hahaha) Some of these remind me of the floats created for the Mardi Gras parades. I went to Mardi gras World where they are created and housed. There were some strange and beautiful creations there, too.

    • Quite similar if I remember my trip to the Mardi Gras Parade many years ago, Juliann. There’s a large contingent at Burning Man from Nola. I’ll feature a photo of their Burning Man village in my next post. “Eye catching.” (Grin) –Curt

    • It certainly fits. They even mutate from year to year. Looking different each time they show up. I sometimes have to go back and scan my photos to make sure they are the same vehicle! And the eye. It would have been interesting to get into the vehicle and see how the eye views the world. –Curt

  2. Alas, I’ve only watched Stardust once. (ok, maybe parts of it twice). Somehow I think Captain Shakespeare would fit right in at Burning Man. I wonder if a Crisco party there means what it used to back in the day…

    • “I wonder if a Crisco party there means what it used to back in the day…” I’ll just let my mind run wild, Dave. Also, there are whole villages where Captain Shakespeare would feel right at home… –Curt

  3. Happy post presenting things from “another planet”! 🙂 Well, when looking at the first photo, I got impression of Hindenburg Zeppelin – so similar!

    Well, now my post presenting among others Eleanor Roosevelt’s log cabin at the Arctic Circle, is ready.

    Have a good day,

  4. Well, gee whiz, Curt. Don’t know which surprised me more: the idea of “mutant vehicles” or that first egg-shaped image on my screen. But then I kept going, and things got weirder and weirder…. I agree with you about that last mutant vehicle. What a hoot!

    • The mutant vehicles are a hoot, Cynthia. It’s worth a trip to Burning Man just to see them. In addition to wildly creative imagination many of them require thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work to build. As for the couch, years ago when I had a regular office, I put a couch in it instead of a desk and worked on the couch. I’ve rarely had a desk since. 🙂 –Curt

  5. Glad to hear about the DMV and safety checks Curt. With all the moving and assorted fires I did wonder how safety is handled. That eyeball mutant vehicle is … what’s the word? Eye popping!

    • Isn’t the eyeball a delight, Sue? The larger mutant vehicles like El Pulpo Mechanico, burn up hundreds of gallons of propane during the week and are loaded down with propane canisters. The possible damage done if the propane exploded could be devastating. Safety in terms of the vehicles and knowledge in terms of operation are critical. Some of the world’s top pyrotechnic experts can be found at Burning Man. –Curt

  6. Love that eye! I can hardly believe it’s a vehicle. And the green steampunk truck is wonderful. I’m seeing the old west bar and kitchen again, and I like it as much now as the first time – especially that lovely lady in the hat who isn’t volunteering to cook.

    • The eye had to be one of the most creative vehicles I saw in my 11 years, Crystal. Steampunk was always fun. And yes, that lovely lady wasn’t baking any cookies that day! 🙂 –Curt

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