Friday, June 21, 2013

The Back Burner

While hunting about for ideas I could use for an art project, I started searching with keywords like upcycled and recycled. Inevitably, a link to the Burning Man web site popped up. As I read through the pages, I begin to feel some interest stirring in wanting to experience the event. Even more so, I felt the urge to participate by creating something on par with the artistic madness I was seeing on the pages. That madness feels like home in ways.

I don't know about everyone else, but up until now I've never really given much thought about attending Burning Man. Some of
Art is Big at Burning Man
you might be asking, "What's Burning Man?" Well, it's hard to describe. It's a yearly event held in Nevada's Black Rock desert. A combination of sustainability, community and art, the event brings about 48000 people together for a week during the latter part of summer for strangeness the likes of which most people have never encountered before. Mutant cars, body paints, bicycles and lots of flame. All of these are important but fire truly is a common theme that permeates the event.  The photo was posted in an article over on National Geographic and is entitled "The Greening of Burning Man". It gives a hint of just how large art installations are at the event. To say the least, this ain't your grandfather's Oldsmobile.

To be certain, I've  seen web pages with images that are quite impressive but I've only thought about the images I've seen as cannon fodder, or more positively stated: seed ideas for art projects. But that changed last night. I began to realize how much the event is linked with art, acceptance of uniqueness and to some extent, ingenuity. Surviving in the desert for a week with no access to utilities like running water or power makes things a challenge. Factor in things like whiteouts from dust storms with 70 mph winds that you have to keep your tent staked down in such that it doesn't blow away while you are out monitoring your art installation site adds to the uniqueness. Want to get around? A bike is a must. Not a new bike though because the sand is notorious for its devastating impact in such a short time. Any unsealed bearings fill with grit that makes sand paper seem smooth. Ah, but sometimes the challenge is part of what makes things interesting.

The core principles of Burning Man strike a good note with me. I like the idea of community coming together in a form of acceptance where normal becomes the unusual. Deep down, the grand scale of the art works is what gives me the 'feels like home' sense. It's easy for me to think about taking the entire year prior, working on an idea for an art installation. Nights and weekends are spent building something fitting. As the days dwindle down closer to the event, the pace and creative madness increase until it's show time. Then for one week, the artist turns into a Grizzly Adams showman. That's when the rush of presentation kicks in, justifying all the hard work. Yes, I can easily see getting into Burning Man considering how I approach life. Even now, ideas of giant metal dinosaurs chipping their way out of a huge sand-trap towards a tiny putting green oasis rattles around in my brain. Or maybe a squadron of Pterodactyls carrying flowerpots to drop on a military tank... ideas, ideas, ideas. :D

Will I attend this year? Not likely as I would need time to prepare the necessary survival gear. My truck wouldn't make the journey and I don't want to take the GTI war wagon into environmental conditions share  much in common with a sandblaster. Eventually, I would like to think of a way to join the community by creating something artistic to show but I suspect the first year becoming familiar with the rules, the community and the survival techniques would be difficult enough to keep me overwhelmed. Nonetheless, I have signed up to the mail list so I can keep informed about what's upcoming. Has anyone else attended Burning Man? If so, what did you think?