Again, I did not manage to write up my Burning Man experience when I came back. There was trainloads of other more important things to do. Now, Christmas, before the event, I have a minute to write it down. Hah. All my friends asked: “and, how was Burning Man?” and I had too many stories in my head to tell. So, I need to be able to point to a blog-post and say: it was legen….waitforit….dary, here, read it my story.
This blog post was written in a hurry and uses verbal language. It also contains typos. Well, so be it. Also, I use the term “Naked Hippies with Power Tools” to somehow describe Burningman in an ironic way-actually the festival does not really relate to this description. But its a stereotype I am happy to use as an argument to show what I like about the people that go to Burning Man. Also, I am a burner, so everything I say about Burning Man logically also applies to myself. As long as I can use power tools… (story behind that picture of a pony). Another point: Ingrid and I went to burning man together, but I will only write down my experience. She of course also had an experience, but thats hers to share … 😉
So, Burning Man is for me heaven on earth. I was there 2006 already, and I also went to the Euroburn, Nowhere, in 2008. Its the place where decent and nice and productive and extravagant and lovely people meet. Its not just naked hippies in the desert, its hippies with power tools who build great stuff and who clean up every single cigarrette butt behind them. Its unlike any other place on earth where fuckers drop their empty beer can on the floor feeling “I am too good to pick this shit up, and I want to party, so fuck this cleaning up thing”. No, Burning Man is great because everyone I see there acts responsibly. And that I wish as a revolution for the rest of the world – act like there is a tomorrow, pick up your trash behind you, and of course: squeeze the very very best out every single minute in your life.
Here, a hippie with a power tool:
btw, more photos:
I am not going to picture-flood this blog post. If you wanna see great pictures of burning man, just google for it. Its the worlds best place for photographers and so the best photographers of the world naturally gather there. Much better photographers than I am.
So, the rought facts of Burning Man are: around 52.000 people meet every year in the desert of Nevada, a bit north-east of Reno, to celebrate for a week. Everyone brings everything she or he needs and brings more, to share it with others. You are free to do and show anything you like, as long as it’s not against the law. Most impressive are large art installations like the Temple, or a large Yacht which drives through the desert. The people are the imporant stuff: mostly San Francisco, mostly Nevada, mostly artistic and computer and entertainment business. But its the normal history-teacher from around the corner who arrives on Friday after school and brings some booze to share with others who builds the glue making it a great community. Here is a picture of that teacher (actually a couple, both are teachers as far as I remember):
So, the thing that blew my mind was Christina, a bloody X-ton-yacht which overlooked by its sheer size everything around it:
The guys who brought her are from Tahoe, I talked with Flipper. He told the story that he (or someone else from the group, I forgot) owns a shipping company with trucks, and they had the contract to destroy the ship because it was basically squatting a dry-dock place in a Lake Tahoe harbour and the original owners were long forgotten. Being faced with this huge and impressive thing, he thought that this could not be destroyed, but must be brought to burning man. That was 2 months before the burn. So they checked with the burning man organizers if this is ok to bring, and then had one month to cut open the floor of the ship, take out the engine and transmission and axle and steering, cut the upper half away from a huge truck, and weld everything together into one big moving chunk of ship-on-a-truck. Last thing they did is paint it from the outside and then drive with it -as is – on the highway to burning man. Last Minute. All their friends helped decorate, it turned into a big group-family-friends project and worked amazingly well. So much for the spirit of burning man: there are things that are so obviously “you must do this for burning man” that any clear-minded adult will completly undestand the logic behind: this must be done! no alternative. Ship in the desert. Yes. Jesus would say: you must be a child to enter heaven.
Just to iterate the point: here it is again:
Another such mindblower this year was an art piece that just looms and pulls people to it out of pure love and beauty. I mean, when I like, first saw it, I was like, OMG, teenage child brain all over (OMG/”like” use intended here). You approach it from the far and you see a statue of a woman dancing. But she dances with her eyes closed, and she transcends this clear feeling of inner peace and inner stability – yes I dance here and this is my perfect moment. Take it or leave it. I am happy. When you see it, you immediately get it. And besides that, its a 40foot steel-and-iron structure that is precise down to the single inch and just pure beauty. So its not like a hippie-with-a-power-tool-made-when-drunk but with breathtaking quality of a true artist.
Here, a picture cannot really show what its like to see it, but at least you deserve to get an impression of what it could be like:
This is not everything, at night they turn on the lights they built into it. and use other lights.
Rest assure: those ant-sized people in the foreground all have their mouths open gawking but not saying a single word, because she is so breathtaking beautiful.
Now comes the best part: this is exactly what the artist had in mind. “Bliss Dance” by Marco Cochrane is
One that celebrates humanity, and in particular the feminine beauty, power, and strenght that emerges when women are safe and free to be themselves.
Of course, I got that in a blink. It is obvious when you see it. The guy is a genious. Go to his website for more really breathtaking pictures.
And this is why there is nothing like burning man. There are guys like Marco Cochrane who decide to build this in a garage and bring it to the desert.
I met many more interesting artists, and had great great encounters with lovingly and full-hearted, stable personalities. People who are not “Steve Jobs”-famous or successfull (well, actually, many Steve-Jobses it millionaires from silicon valley run around on burning man and successful people from the movie business in los angeles) but who are very successful in being themselves and doing that really well.
So, what was my contribution? It was God Sees, an out of body experience theater play for the audience of one. Here is the website:
Basically, Ingrid and I let people sit down in a comfy folding chair (thanks to Ebo), put them a virtual reality headset on (thanks to Chris Veigl from Roboexotica), and play some music and narrative voice that tells a story (thanks to Robert Herzl). The “voice from inside” was the sould of the participant speaking to them, it told the person experiencing GodSees to relax and calm down. Then the voice drew pictures in the mind. Then you had to open your eyes and would see the world from above your head, like when you leave your body in an out-of-body-experience (OBE). This was technologically arcane stuff Frank Ablinger from monochrom and I hacked together: a remote control and a FlyCamOne 3v2 and other techstuff. Basically, we had a camera “flying” around and you can control it by moving your head. The experience was similar to a first-person-shooter, and you were able to interact with your sourrounding using your hand – if you touched something, a hand would appear in the camera and touch it. So, a complete immersion into the experience. It peaked when you met Jesus and Jesus offered you the water of life to drink. That turned out to be wine (yes, thats the simplest thing for God to do, transformation), and once you had the spirit in you, you were able to see the world from God’s perspective. Which was: we put the camera on a helium baloon and let that baloon go up to around 100m. Relaxing music, bliss, joy.
Everyone loved it and everyone also loved how relaxing and beautiful the experience was. Later we realized that the camera was a bit broken and we would need a wider angle, but overall, every person who saw God was touched and thankful. Great.
Thats the technical setup:
The most important part was: the whole show fits into one small suitcase. Or better: fitted, I disassembled the parts again. Maybe I will use different technology for the same ends sometimes in the future. Also I need a wider camera angle.
Also I got about 10gigabyte of video footage we recorded of the whole thing (the camera records) and I still have to dig through that and cut it down to a useful 3 minute presentation on youtube… but that takes a few days, and I don’t want to spent time on it right now. Company first.
Ok, that was our art, but what did Ingrid and I do else? Well, mostly make new friends with Zeljko, Manfred, Patrice, Tracy, Steve, Jay, Flo, David, Philip, and Steve with whom we had our camp. We really spent much of the time getting to learn our pals better. For example: spending time with Zelko made me appreciate him more and more. He has a bit heart. It could be that his belly is actually cuddly not because of his love for food but because of the size of his heart. From the experience we had on other festivals, I learned that quality time with friends is often better than gawking at art objects. Coming down to: I should go over to WerkzeugH more often! Because this is where some of those guys work.
So – what does it all mean?
As I said before in my summary on Nowhere Festival,
Somehow, the idea is similar to christianity and the christian community. You have some rules and social principles which you share. Gifting is also a christian value, as is participation. In the churches I attend, the spirit is that everyone is a minister, everyone is a saint. From the first day on, you share the responsibility. I can connect to this when I see it on Burningman or Nowhere.
Was it able to pray and spend time with Jesus there? Sure, and if I had taken more time for prayer and reclusion at Burning Man, I would have had an even better experience, but guess what – and then I got distracted. Burning Man is also a place for spiritual people to spend some time meditating, although it’s not suited for “silent” reclusion. I did have epiphany moments of “life is great”. I also appreciated what people are capable to achieve.
But what about the future?
For myself, the take-home message is that you can have a “Burning Man Experience” everywhere,
- if you follow the rules
- and spend time have like-minded people.
So my plan is to make this happen close to Vienna, so that I don’t have to travel so far for a good time. Yesterday I met with Günther Friesinger from Monochrom, who is (co-)organizing many art events in Austria and I pitched him my idea of a “Thanksgiving Festival” (German: Erntedankfest) which I would like to have in Austria. The Spirit of such festival would be: this was a good year, I achieved something, and I want to celebrate and share and say thanks to God and others. I want to spend a weekend with friends and bring everything we need and have a nice party. Let us cook together and share the food with each other. Let us bring some art pieces, instruments, and toys. Lets pack up all the tresh we did immediately and leave the place cleaner than it was before.
It seems this is going to happen in the year 2011, in Austria, in August. Its not a Burning Man, the visitors are going to be different people. There is a chance that the spirit of sharing and love and celebration of a good year will create the right mood. I believe that this is something that God would like us to do, and that this got skewed a bit by thanksgiving traditions which lost their spirit.
I also doubt I will be able to go to Burning Man anytime soon, given I am the CEO of Gnowsis, and that Ingrid and I also like to stay in Vienna now for some time and so on…but that’s fine with me. If I seek and find the same spirit here around Vienna, there is a chance it can work out, with 20 or 30 people as a starting point. WerkzeugH and Monochrom and Roboexotica are also good starting points to look for these people 🙂
If you are interested to bring something yourself to this festival and also say “thanks” to God (or however you call him/whatever you believe in), drop me a line.
Merry Christmas! Will write what happened this year next week, now going to wrap some gifts.