I often think about how are lives are impacted by robots. Peggy and I even have one of the small vacuum cleaners that runs around and cleans our floors and carpets. We call her, Robota. As I grow older, I look more fondly on the robots of the future. In 10 or 15 years from now when the world decides my driving leaves a bit to be desired, I am hoping there is a self-driving car sitting in my yard or readily available to zip me around to where I want to go. Next stop, Grand Canyon. Then there is the downside. Maybe when robots are given quantum computer brains, they will decide we aren’t necessary. I seriously doubt that they will approve of our ‘pulling their plugs,’ under any circumstances.
Aliens are another matter. Maybe they are already here. I’ve blogged several times about the UFO I saw over Sacramento circa 1968. If there are aliens, it seems obvious to me that they would show up at Burning Man. Think about it: a remote desert where it is easy to disguise yourself and people don’t care if you are an alien. Each year there are a number of candidates.
Flying saucers aren’t unheard of in the Black Rock Desert. One year we even had one crash.
Enough on Invaders from Outer Space. My next post will feature invaders from Russia.
When I first ventured out onto the Playa on my 2010 visit to Burning Man, I was immediately drawn to a large sculpture of a nude woman that struck me as being beautiful and full of life. The sculpture, I learned was titled Bliss Dance and had been created by the Bay Area artist Marco Cochrane based on his model, the dancer Deja Solis. Bliss Dance would go from Burning Man to Treasure Island next to San Francisco and is now on permanent exhibition in Las Vegas. Here’s what Cochrane had to say during the unveiling of the sculpture in Las Vegas:
What I see missing in the world is an appreciation and respect for feminine energy and power that results when women are free and safe. It seems obvious to me that feminine energy is being suppressed and that this must change. If we are to find real, lasting solutions to the problems facing humanity, men and women must be able to work together as equals. Bliss Dance is intended to focus attention on this issue.— Marco Cochrane, Feb. 2016 press release
This sentiment also applies to the two other sculptures that Cochrane created for Burning Man as part of a trilogy: Truth Is Beauty in 2013 and R-Evolution in 2015. I consider myself privileged to have been at Burning Man on each of these years. Truth Is Beauty is now on permanent exhibit overlooking the BART station in San Leandro, California.
An 18-foot rendition of Truth Is Beauty and several other art works from Burning Man were recently on display at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. An introduction to the exhibit stated:
Burning Man, one of the most influential events in contemporary art, is both a cultural movement and a thriving temporary city of more than 70,000 people that rises out of the dust for a single week each year in late summer in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. During that time, enormous experimental art installations are erected, some of which are then ritually burned to the ground. The desert gathering is a uniquely American hotbed of artistic ingenuity, driving innovation through its philosophies of radical self-expression, community participation, rejection of commodification and reverence for the handmade.
Nora Atkinson, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at The Renwick went on to say this about the exhibit’s title: No Spectators
“‘No Spectators’ is a long-standing saying on Playa. You are encouraged to fully participate. It’s all about being there, being fully present, and not just observing. Two of the ten principles of Burning Man are radical participation and radical inclusivity, meaning that there are no outsiders. Everyone is part of the experience.”
If both of these statements seem a bit familiar, they reflect what I have been saying about Burning Man art and Burning Man in my posts over the last several years. In ways, I believe that Burning Man has been fostering a mini-renaissance in art and is now being recognized world-wide for its contributions.
R-Evolution, the last of Cochrane’s trilogy was actually scheduled to be exhibited on the National Mall in Washington DC between the Washington Monument and the White House. The group responsible for moving and installing the sculpture had written to me and asked for permission to use photos from my blog in a documentary it was preparing for the exhibit. The exhibit was cancelled. It may have been that the idea of a giant nude on the mall was too controversial. Anyway, here is one of my favorite photos of the sculpture:
Peggy (my wife) says what she loves about sculpture is that it is three dimensional art that you can touch and feel as well as see. One of her favorite things about Burning Man is that the art has an up-close and personal aspect, a hands on policy. Most museums have a hands-off policy. The three dimensional aspect of sculpture also has great appeal to me. I believe that that you should be able to appreciate sculpture from any angle. I’ll use the concluding photos on this post to further look at the three sculptures.
BLISS DANCE AT BURNING MAN 2010
TRUTH IS BEAUTY AT BURNING MAN 2013.
R-EVOLUTION AT BURNING MAN 2015
That’s it for today. NEXT POST: UFO’s, aliens, and a giant robot at Burning Man.
Today, and for my next several posts on my 11 years at Burning Man (2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17) , I am going to be featuring my favorite Burning Man art, starting with sculptures.
First, however, I want to address the conflict between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Burning Man Organization (BMO), which has been in the news recently. While recognizing the right and responsibility of BLM to protect the lands it manages, much of what it is proposing seems excessive given how BMO already addresses the issues that are being raised.
TRASH: BLM wants BMO to place large dumpsters throughout Black Rock City. Burning Man has always had a policy that Burners carry out whatever trash they generate during the week. And a very strict policy on keeping Black Rock City and the Playa clean. I commented on how trash-free the grounds were on the first post I ever wrote about Burning Man. I had never been to another event involving large numbers of people that could come close to matching it. That has not changed. Furthermore, a large group of volunteers do an inch by inch search of the grounds for trash following the event. Detailed records are kept and camps that leave an excessive amount of trash are put on notice. One camp was disinvited from further participation in Burning Man last year. When I visited Death Valley National Park during the time that President Trump shut down America’s National Park System in January, I found that visitors had left behind much more trash than I have ever seen at Burning Man.
Concern has been raised about Burners leaving their trash behind in surrounding communities. Burning Man presently lists the places that are willing to accept trash. Normally, communities, nonprofits, or private businesses charge five dollars per bag to properly dispose of the trash plus make a profit. Personally, I would see nothing wrong with creating a more formal structure and have BMO subsidize the efforts to the benefit of the local communities and Native American tribes in the area. It would be a much more positive solution than BLM is proposing. A win-win for all.
CEMENT FENCE: I don’t get the BLM proposal to force BMO to build a large cement fence around the event. As I have mentioned several times in my posts over the years, I spend a lot of time out on the edges of Burning Man. I like it out there. I am the only person I have ever seen ‘illegally’ cross the small fence that exists. And Black Rock Rangers were on me in a minute. Unless BLM has evidence that really bad things are happening out there in the remote area beyond what I am unaware of, the idea seems totally unreasonable and much more devastating to the environment than the present minimalist effort.
LIGHTING AT NIGHT: BLM is claiming that Burning Man creates light pollution and disrupts migrating bird patterns. BMO argues that birds are not migrating through the area at the time of the event. It would be interesting to see BLM’s backup data. It seems to me that an independent wildlife biologist could quickly resolve the issue. My own glance through the literature on the subject suggests that the main migration takes place in the spring when the area is flooded. I’ve seen a few birds in my years at Burning Man but nothing that would suggest major migrating patterns, and I would notice. The half dozen bird ID books I keep in my house and the ever present binoculars speak to my interest.
Night at Burning Man is a magical time complete with fire-breathing dragons and beautifully lit sculptures. The major burns, such as the Man, can light up the sky. Except for that, Burning Man is dark. Lanterns provide what light there is and they don’t extend into Black Rock City. I can guarantee that any city of 70,000 in America generates far more light than Burning Man. And Burning Man is only for one week. The issue I am not sure about is laser lights. Unless they are used to enhance art projects, my assumption is that they could be eliminated.
LAW ENFORCEMENT ISSUES: Taxpayers at the local, state, and national level should not be expected to subsidize the Burning Man event. Law enforcement agencies, medical care providers, and any other public entities that provide vital services at Burning Man need to reimbursed for any necessary and reasonable expenses created for them by the event. And BLM should be adequately compensated for the use of public lands. Looking at available figures, this seems to be happening. (It would be interesting to look at what BLM receives from the mining and ranching interests that make extensive use of public lands in comparison to what it receives from Burning Man.)
I have three concerns here. One, what is reasonable and necessary? Crimes such as assault and theft obviously deserve law enforcement attention. But what about broken tail lights or the private use of marijuana? Marijuana is legal in Nevada but not on federal land. But do we really want our law enforcement agencies focused on busting pot users? Alcohol is the drug of choice at Burning Man. Two, while it is important that taxpayers not be responsible for covering costs at Burning Man, neither should Burning Man be responsible for supplementing the budgets of government agencies beyond Burning Man costs.
Third, and reprehensible from my perspective, BLM now wants to set up a separate area where vehicles coming into the event can be searched by police without warrants or reasonable cause for drugs, i.e. marijuana, and weapons. I am sorry, but police state comes to mind. Here’s the Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. I, for one, will not return to Burning Man if this comes to pass, and it isn’t that I have anything to hide. Burning Man has a policy against both drugs and guns and does its own search when we enter the grounds. That’s bad enough. I find armed people entering my van without cause unacceptable and un-American.
I have tried to be fair here in my assessment. I recognize that BLM has a responsibility in terms safety and the environment. But I also believe that unless BLM can prove that its efforts are reasonable and necessary, they are more in the form of harassment, and may even evolve from a desire to eliminate the event. I hate to be overly paranoid, but if so, the question becomes, why?
I’ll conclude on a more positive note with the beginning of my series on Burning Man art. But, I will also note here, this art, and the opportunity for artists, is what will be lost if Burning Man is eventually forced to close its doors.
Situated on a flat playa that stretches out for over 100 miles, Burning Man is dwarfed by surrounding mountains and a vast, flat, desert floor. Once, the playa was filled with a huge, glacier fed lake that was over 500 feet deep. Wooly mammoths and Native Americans lived on its shore and called it home. Like other Great Basin Lakes, there were no outlets. Water that flowed into the lake stayed there and sediments carried in from the surrounding mountains sank to the bottom. As the climate changed, becoming hotter and drier, the lake dried up and the sediments became the base for today’s Playa.
By the 1840s and 50s pioneers and gold seekers from the young United States of America made their first forays into the desert heading for the goldfields of Northern California and Southern Oregon. The Applegate brothers created a trail through the Black Rock Desert that bears their name. I live in the Applegate Valley of Oregon beside the Applegate River, all named for the family. I also have family connections. Applegates and Mekemsons intermarried in the early 1800s.
Today, I am going to post several photos that place Burning Man in its Black Rock Desert surroundings.
NEXT POST: I was reading Walter Isaacson’s book on Leonardo Da Vinci this morning and Isaacson was discussing how incredibly observant Da Vinci was. This led me to look up at our house from a slightly different perspective. I was struck by some of the weird things we collect and decided it would make a fun post. The next post: A Home Full of Whimsy… What’s in your House?
I spend the majority of my ‘out and about’ time at Burning Man on the Playa. That’s where the major art pieces are displayed, and seeing them is my primary reason for going to the event. Some, I return to several times to admire and photograph in different light. And there is night, where they take on a totally different personality.
Peggy and I always reserve a day for walking around Black Rock City, however. The same creativity found in the creation of art, mutant vehicles, and major camps is found in BRC as well. In fact, you never know what you will find, such as the goat above. In addition to the fun and curious, there are things to do, food to eat, more art, and camps to admire. People watching is also fun, as it is out on the Playa and at the Center Camp cafe.
I’ll let today’s photos reflect our walks over the years. Most of them were taken by Peggy and me, but some were taken by the two other photographers in our camp, Tom Lovering and Don Green.
NEXT POST: A look at the Black Rock Desert, home to Burning Man and Black Rock City.
If you have been following my Burning Man posts over the past couple of months, you now have a fair idea of what mutant vehicles look like. Today, I am moving off of the Playa and into Black Rock City, starting with a look at the structures built by large camps (villages). A camp is usually made up of people who share a common interest or background. All of these photos were taken during the 11 years I have attended the event: 2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17. It is interesting to note that these structures are built to last one week, going up at the beginning of Burning Man and coming down at the end.
NEXT POST: A view of Black Rock City outside of the large camps, out in the boonies where I lived.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With music rolling across the Playa, it’s not surprising that there was also a bar. This one was hauled by an old tractor.
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.
Big things come in small packages, as the diamond merchants like to remind us, over and over.
Duane Flatmo lives in Eureka California, a short 3 plus hours away from where I live and a million miles away in imagination. Wanting to create a new creature, he struggled with a concept that would live up to his fantastic El Pulpo Mechanico.
Rabid Transit was his answer. Like El Pulpo, Rabid Transit was created from items gathered at a local junk yard in Eureka. Note El Pulpo’s legs made out of abandoned barrels.
Never Was Haul comes as a Victorian home on wheels with a cow catcher on the front. (Cow catchers are what trains use to put on the front of their engines to remove cattle, moose and buffalo from the tracks.) Born in Berkeley as part of the steam punk art movement, Never Was Haul has been to Burning Man many times.
For sheer fun, I’d have to list the large vase mutant vehicle shown below as a top candidate. I was even more entertained when I discovered it changed colors at night.
Several trains have appeared at Burning Man. There has even been a caboose, the Dust Bus, which proudly claims it is part of the Nor Cal Black Rock Railroad..
Before trains, people got across the US in Conestoga wagons. The Oregon Trail passes through the Black Rock Desert not too far from Burning Man and would have seen many of these wagons carrying pioneers west, among them, my Great, Great Grandmother.
I’ll finish today’s post with four individual mutant vehicles:
NEXT POST: Peggy’s perspective on our hike on the PCT this past summer.
Once again I am returning to Burning Man on my blog and posting photos from the 11 years I have attended the event: 2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17. As I have over the past couple of weeks, I am focusing on mutant vehicles today.
I’ve featured some pretty wild land and sea creatures in my past several posts. Today and Wednesday I’ll be introducing mutant vehicles that are closer to their cousins in real life. For example, a number of retired school and city busses make it to Burning Man. While their look has changed, they more or less maintain their original form like the school bus featured above and below.
Do you remember the cult film Mad Max where Mel Gibson and a cast of seedy characters went at each other with souped up, modified vehicles? Well, there is a whole genre of mutant vehicles at Burning Man that look like they belong in the movie, or a demolition derby. These vehicles are not among my favorites but I find them interesting and they belong in any compilation of Burning Man mutants. Besides, some of you might say, “Wow, that’s my dream car!”
Art cars are different than mutant vehicles. They are simply highly decorated cars. Therefore they aren’t allowed to roam the playa and have to be parked. None-the-less, some of them make their way to Burning Man and are on display. Here are a few examples.
I think of the following vehicles as modern day ‘hot rods,’ so I googled ‘hot rods at Burning Man’ and what did I find? My photos of ‘Burning Man hot rods’ from earlier posts. Oh well. Here they are again for those of you who haven’t been following me for several years.
NEXT POST: More mutant vehicles including trains and planes!
As noted in my last post, I’ve been sorting through and categorizing my Burning Man photos from the 11 years I have attended the event: 2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17. I’ve created 15 categories and will do posts on several of my favorites from each category over the next several weeks.
Burning Man’s home, the Black Rock Desert, wasn’t always a desert. 15,000 years ago it was part of the huge, 500 foot deep Lake Lahontan. Given this, it isn’t surprising that many mutant vehicles take on an appearance of having once swum in its murky waters, or boated across them. Creatures range from an octopus to a hermit crab; Boats from a sailing ship to a yacht. Today’s post features some of the more fishy things about Burning Man.
NEXT POST: Peggy provides her perspective on our hike down the Pacific Crest Trail last summer.