The event had the feel of an informal breakout room presentation. Though not a costume party, there were touches of playa chic in more than a few attendee’s attire. A table in the back served wine in clear plastic cups. As far as burners go, this was definitely not the sound camp club scene. It was an older crowd, many of whom I suspect were at Burning Man in the 90s pre-BRC. These were the people who invite you into their camp off the street to have some BBQ tri-tip.
The whole thing had a certain down-home respectability. If I walked away with anything, it was the understanding that the yearly themes are not for the casual partygoer to bitch about when they can’t “participate” with a cleverly purchased costume.
The themes, arbitrary as they might be, are for the architects who sculpt the skyline of our playground with the stuff of their dreams.
Anyway, here’s the rundown. Please pardon the switch to present tense. Just think of it as a flashback:
Neverwas Haul: Delightful couple Kathy O’Hare (aka Lady Impetuous) and Shannon O’Hare (aka Major Catastrophe) dish on improvements to the Burning Man staple, including an interior motorized lift, updated Camera Obscura, and some engine repair (thank God!)
In camp, they will have a steampunk forest consisting of metal trees with gears and a video of Jules Verne movies. It’s worth noting that Major Catastrophe is the best dressed person in attendance. His combination cap, epauletted coat and steampunk goggles make him look like a supporting character in Escape from New York (I just can’t think of which.)
Anubis: 50’ sculpture of the Jackal god, Anubis. A spiral staircase in the back will lead to the head, which will offer a panoramic view. Dan Fox (whose birthday is today) also worked on 2011’s Trojan Horse, which he praises as a great experience he wanted to repeat.
EGO: The word EGO in large letters. Laura Kimpton, creator of the Celtic Forest, also crafted the big words OINK, MOM and the iconic LOVE (which will apparently be featured in a new Rolling Stone).
EGO will be 20’ x 16’ made out of wood and plaster molded trophies, animals and religious relics. 150 different molds were created. Kimpton emphasizes the creed “We are an animal, but we’re not the #1 animal on Earth.” She tells a nice anecdote about meeting someone who introduced herself as the “world Scrabble champion” who mistook her Celtic Forest for being anti-intellectual.
The word will burn at midnight after the Man. The trophy pieces that don’t burn will be free for people to pick up and take as souvenirs.
Zoa: Jessica Hobbs of the Flux Foundation impressively showcases her background as a marine biologist. All named after jazz greats, “Billie”, “Etta” and “Nina” will have sound-reactive lighting at night. The three, wooden seedpods will burn on Wednesday, undergoing a metamorphosis and revealing pedal-powered interactive fire sculptures.
(NOTE: Props to Hobbs for using the word “xenomorph” to describe her creations.)
The Circle of Regional Effigies
34 wooden effigies from around the world will be burned Thursday at 9pm:
- Arboria (Sacramento)
- Baby Bon Temps Brûlée (New Orleans)
- Blukis (Lithuania) – negativity-absorbing stump
- The Boston Cod Piece (Boston)
- Cargo Train (Great Lakes)
- CarouShell (San Diego) – a working carousel of sea creatures
- Chords of Wood (Orange County) – a fire-spewing guitar
- CowFed (Houston) – giant bull
- Dragon Lotus (Colorado)– will contain giant moving leaves
- Fertilitree (East Bay)
- The Gateway (Reno)
- Grow Fourth (Portland) – I’ll be honest. I don’t remember seeing this at the presentation, and I already deleted my recording. It’s still on the official page, so I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt and list it anyway.
- Growing Pains (Midwest)
- Happy as a Clam (Maine) – giant clam
- The Hatchery (Dallas)
- Jozi (South Africa) – 20’ fertility doll
- Kokopelli Rising (New Mexico)
- Le Portage (Montreal) – two small versions of the Man holding a canoe
- Life Tree – (Vancouver) – climbable double helix
- Missed Conceptions (Tallgrass)
- Naglfar (Sweden/Denmark) – Viking ship
- National Treasure (DC Metro) – 20’ graffiti decorated Washington Memorial
- The Nowhere Bell Tower (UK)
- opalEssence (Idaho) – aka the Space Potato
- PsychoPhilia (Victoria, BC)
- Rise of the Planet of the Moose (Toronto) – version of the Moose Man from the regional burn
- The Roeblingagon (NY) – a climbable interpretation of the Brooklyn Bridge
- Secret of the Bees (Utah)
- Seraphim (LA)
- Stella Octangula (Mid-Atlantic/Philadelphia)
- Tendrillar Woods (Seattle)
- The Twisted Upright House (SF/North Bay) – a climbable lighthouse sitting on a bed of driftwood
- Valley of Heart’s Delight (South Bay) – a climbable water tower “harkening back to the days of farm country”
Some of these will be featured at Precompression on June 30th.
The Burning Man Project – Harley Dubois of the Borg explains the timing of Burning Man’s move from LLC to nonprofit. She gives a very succinct Powerpoint presentation listing their ambitions outside of the playa:
- -Support the regional burns
- -Contribute to SF by helping local artists, engaging communities and partnering with the Black Rock Arts Foundation and others
- -Big art for small towns – namely Reno, Fernley and Gerlach
- -Commissioning Fly Ranch as an art park, nature park and/or a possible location for a regional burn.
Otic Oasis 2.0 – Melissa Barron and Gregg Fleishman. Fleishman, who has an obvious love of geometry, is a man of few words tonight. Barron, also known as Syn, more than makes up this. Otic Oasis is a 38-ft, climbable, honey comb-like structure made of interlocking pieces of wood. It will be removed on Friday, not burned.
Burn Wall Street – Otto Von Danger, a creator of 2010’s Megatropolis, completely steals the show. He promises that we will feel we are in physical danger when his structures burn on Friday night. Von Danger recommends we all wear astronaut pants.
I had heard of the Burn Wall Street project before, but I’m genuinely awed by the levels upon levels of satire and symbolism that’s going into this endeavor. It’s obviously politically charged and a somewhat devisive work. The creativity behind the sentiment is what makes it a searing message (no pun intended) beyond most Burning Man art and political statements that I’ve seen. Make no mistake: Otto Von Danger is not a rabid, confused hippie. He’s a mastermind.
Some basics include:
- The oversized Bill of Rights on the ground that will be donated to an Oakland school if it doesn’t get ruined by visitors trampling on it.
- The Bank of UnAmerica – you can bring your real-life foreclosure notices to post on the wall and see burned with everything.
- Goldman Sucks – contains a giant jungle gym where you can climb the corporate ladder for the highest view of the playa.
- Merrill Lynched – will house 4 large murals and screen projections of riot footage at night.
- Chaos Manhattan – bank tellers will charge you gift schwag for walking, breathing, etc.
Von Danger is obviously very passionate about the piece and doesn’t hesitate to use the podium as a call for socioeconomic change. The entire project will cost $100,000.
Temple of Juno – David Best, the man who needs no introduction, throws out a few specs about this year’s Temple: 75% recycled wood. A 100-ft “or maybe 200-ft” wall with benches on the inside. He doesn’t say much about the inspiration behind the design to us, but I imagine that’s been documented elsewhere.
David Best a soulful man who doesn’t seem too comfortable explaining his work to an audience tonight. I don’t blame him. He truly speaks through his work.
Apparently, Best is also a grief magnet. I swear he has more stories about people who’ve lost loved ones to suicide than anyone outside of the mental health sector.
***UPDATE*** – Burn Wall Street was pretty disappointing. It looked and sounded great on paper, but up close it was bland and seemingly unfinished. It also burned a day late, which I didn’t get to see. I’ll more into it when I finish my BM retrospective. I just feel like I should at least address it here because I spoke so highly of the piece.