Burning Man-Radical Self Expression

May 22, 2016


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I was approved to film the most unique event I ever been to-Burning Man 2012. I was approved last year but couldn’t make the event.
This event all started when Larry Harvey and Jerry James decided to have some “radical self expression“. Larry-a carpenter-decided to build an 8 foot man just to burn it on a San Francisco beach on June 21, 1986. The story goes that part of what triggered this idea was a broken heart from a vanished love affair. They decided to do it again the following year and a ritual was born. Now the man to be burned towers over the playa with rows of oil lamps that lead up to it at night.
It’s hard to explain this event, so I will do a series of videos (3 segments) to give you my personal experience. Even this will not suffice with the spirit you feel and witnessing the goings on of actually being there. But this will come close.

I almost didn’t make it this year. I was in Puerto Penasco, Mexico filming this beautiful seaside town and was headed to the pyramids of Mexico next. I got an itch up my ass and decided to delay the pyramids until closer to the end of the Mayan calender.
I had to go through the lengthy approval process all over again, not everyone gets approved-frankly, I didn’t think I’d get approved-the rest is history.
I headed out of Mexico and filmed Pinetop/Lakeside, Sedona and Flagstaff .
On Wednesday, August 22, I left Flagstaff for Reno via Vegas and on Sunday, August 26, I left Reno for Burning Man.

Before I went to Burning Man, I got some food and tons of water at a walmart super center in Reno, Nevada. There were burners all over. So I stopped at an rv that was partying in the parking lot and interviewed them. They were from Camp Poly Paradise. You see people set up theme camps all over to suit their state of mind, fancy, fetish or whatever you want call it. I got my first taste of Burning Man from the descriptions these burners explain in this video. I also had my first taste of the “Gifting” that goes on.


Reno Shopping Center

I left Reno on Sunday, August 26. I left early in the morning, cause I heard that it will sometimes take up to 8 hours to get in. They were right. It took me 5 ½ hours (4 hours wait time) to get in. There were lines and lines of cars miles before the entrance. It was stop and go, sometimes up to a half and hour at a time. But in the spirit of Burning Man, people would get out of their vehicles, get to know one another, play their guitars and dance on the highway.
I got to know what the dust was like the minute I drove off County Road 34 on the dirt road leading up to the dry lake bed that’s called “The Playa”. A hellacious dust storm greeted me on the entrance, I saw people get out of their cars with dust masks and goggles dancing around and greeting others that were waiting.
I finally cleared the maze of stops that are required to get in and the blowing sand picked up a notch. I was stopped by one of the many departments of law enforcement there. The officer told me the reason he stopped me was that I didn’t have a light for my license plate (it was 11:30 at night). I learned later that I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t get searched. After that incident, I was stopped by “Black Rock Rangers”. They are volunteers for the event that take out of their time to aid and assist burners. They wanted me to fill out a report on how the officers treated me and what was the reason they stopped me for. I thought that was cool that the event is going out of their way to keep tabs on law enforcement.
The dust picked up even more, and I couldn’t find my camp. I went back and forth in the blowing dust. I decided to take the next open space and stay there. As I laid in my van, I watched burners out in the blowing dust frolicking and happy as can be. “What idiots”, I thought. I was beginning to have my first doubts about coming to this event.


Burning Man Entrance

I woke up the next morning really early, I had antsy in my pantsy. There was no dust except for the thousands of cars still coming into the event. I pulled my $10 bike full of rainbow duct tape out of the van and decided to take a tour. WOOOOOWWW! There was mega-theme camps being built like the 3 story pyramid or the 5 story buildings named Wall Street or the massive domes all over. And the art and sculptures. It was unbelievable. To get your mind adjusted to this picture, Black Rock City is the 3rd largest city in Nevada for a week.
After I took my little bike tour to see the megas structures being built, I decided to go to what’s called the “Center Camp”. It’s the gathering place where everybody can meet and mingle. People put up their art for you to see and they have stages all over that musicians can play instruments I’ve never seen before. They had aerial acrobats showing off their moves in the center floor. Some of these burners are better than the performers at Cirque de Soleil in Vegas. WOW!
The stages are also used for Poets and comedians. Check out the art in this video


Center Camp Intro & Art

On my first full day (Monday), I went to Media Mecca, where all the media that’s been approved, go to get their media pass and where they tag your cameras so your allowed to film. Not everyone’s approved, I was one of the lucky ones.
From there I walked back to the center camp and began filming the diverse characters and the acrobats. I have never seen such diverse costumes in my life and no costumes at all. That’s right, Burning Man is about “Radical Self Expression”, your allowed to show your true colors, even if it’s painting your naked body. People also have “Playa Names”. They create a name just for the event. Some use just for a week and some take it back home with them. You see, once you’ve experienced Burning Man, it kinda sticks to ya…if you know what I mean.
Check out the night costumes at the end of this video


Center Camp-Burner interviews


Center Camp-Dancing & Acrobats


Center-Camp-Music, Poetry & Comedy

And what’s so unique about Burning Man you can’t sell anything for money but you can share your clothing, services, goods and of course Alcohol. You can also volunteer for any of the events going on


Burners Sharing & Volunteering

Not only did I attend my first Burning Man, I got to attend my first wedding at Burning Man. I didn’t film the wedding at the temple because a hellacious storm blew while the ceremony was going on. They still held the wedding and the happy couple had dust all over their face, eyebrows and around the perimeter of their mouth and eyes. They didn’t wear goggles or dust mask-that’s definetely LOVE. I did film them at the reception. Here’s the happy couple Dan, Carla and James. Dan is one of the media managers that helped me with the process of getting my media pass. Thanx Dan


The Wedding

I told you in the first video that I couldn’t find my camp. After my first early morning bike ride. I asked all the camps around me….“Where’s Camp Journeylizm“? After about 5 camps, somebody had an idea where it was. This camp was set up by the Media Mecca to allow journalists from all over to have a place to call home in the Playa. There were media people from all over the world like Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, Singapore and England. In this video, I interview the Camp Captains.


Camp Journeylizm


Camp Journeylizm 2

I finally went and saw the man-Burning Man. It’s set up on a 4 story building and it’s like 3 stories high. It will be burned on Saturday. This event all started when Larry Harvey and Jerry James decided to have some radical self expression. Larry-a carpenter-decided to build an 8 foot man just to burn it on a San Francisco beach on June 21, 1986. The story goes that part of what triggered this idea was a broken heart from a vanished love affair. They decided to do it again the following year and a ritual was born. Now the man to be burned towers over the playa with rows of oil lamps that lead up to it at night. Check out how big both structures are inside. Check out some more night costumes.
This completes the first set of videos on Burning Man. (There are 2 more sets). Stay tuned.


The Burning Man & Temple


I headed out on the bike to see all the neighborhoods. Burning Man is a half-moon arc with the center of the big man at noon. So it’s easy to look at the map and find out where camps are. I’m at 6:15 and F (Foxglove). Now the typical Burning Man day is from 6am to 2 pm, it’s nice and settled, then the dust picks up. But folks, I’ve been “Burnagized”. I have my goggles, bandana and dust mask. Remember at first, I was saying these people are idiots for going out in a sand storm. I was doing it, saying “Bring it on”. The Sturgis Rally has bikers that put in thousands of dollars into their bikes to make them look cool. Burners put pennies into the bicycles to look cool. They use a lot of recycled stuff that others would throw away. Like fur, lights neons and whatever somebody else at the Playa gifts them. So I got into the burner mode and bought a bike on Craiglist for $10 bucks in Reno. Now it’s adorned with rainbow duct tape and lights that burners have gifted me to make sure I can be seen in the desert


The Bikes

On my second full day, I headed out on my bike to open center circle where they have art-effigies-as they call them. Some are up to 3 stories high and are interactive where people can climb up on and through them. There’s even a huge ship coming out of the sand like it shipwrecked.


Art By Day

The art at night looks totally different. The art now has lights and fire coming out of them. You can see how they put even more work in creating the effigies by adding the night effects.


Art By Night

The Media Mecca hosts a mixer everyday from 5-7pm. It’s a chance where journalists from all over the world can mingle and talk shop. On the third day, they set up a “Meet the Artists” mixer. Some of the effigies that are made with wood, bottle caps (over 60,000) and trophies to name a few. So at 3pm, I was imbibed with Sangria and interviewed some of the artists. Some of their projects took months.


Art Interviews

After the mixer, all the media who had special passes (including moi) went aboard a mutant vehicle called the Abraxas to tour the effigies. It was 2 stories high with a fantastic view of Black Rock City. It came with pirate looking dudes who danced the whole way to entertain us while we were riding and taking photos. We made stops at the sculptures and the artists would talk about their piece. I highlight the Bottlecap display (75,000 smashed bottlecaps) and the “EGO”


Media Art Tour

In this part 2 of the Art Tour, you’ll see the bathroom art that is all over the playa to direct people to the bathrooms and you’ll get the full view of the ship the media was riding in.


Media Art Tour 2

I went to interview some of the theme camps on my second full day to see what they’re all about. Burning Man has over 600 camps. You see, people set up theme camps all over to suit their state of mind, fancy, fetish or whatever you want call it. I went and interviewed the head of the “Pimp Your Bike Camp”. They have tons of decor that you can put on your bike to pimp it up. Check out some of the bikes in this video


Theme Camp-Pimp Your Bike

It’s amazing how big some of these theme camps are and how much time was put into the detail. They look totally different at night with the lighting. You’ll see the Opulent Temple, the huge pyramid called Osiris and the Jazz camp.


Theme Camps at Night

Here’s the 3rd set of videos

With all the costumes that people were wearing, I decided to pull out my Jerry Garcia tie die shirt to fit in and headed out for my first night. It’s a totally different world out at night. There are all kinds of dressed up vehicular contraptions. Burning Man calls them Mutant Vehicles. There was 2 lines of these mutant vehicles and I thought a parade was going to start. They were actually waiting to get there license to drive at the DMV-Department of Mutant Vehicles. Trippy. It was a long wait just like the DMV


Department of Mutant Vehicles

Out of the over 300 mutant vehicles, this was my favorite. The Octopus would park near music and many different legs would shoot out fire to the beat of the music. There would always be a humongous crowd around it, dancing and watching the fire.


Mutant Octopus-El Pulpo Mechanico

Like I said, it’s a totally different world out there at night. On my first night I saw most of the wooden sculptures and buildings(some up to 10 stories high-Wall Street) I filmed during the day are now lit up at night and what a sight. My jaw was dropping at every new lit structure I haven’t seen. I saw the “Thunderdome”, that’s right, they have it just like the movies where guys are in harnesses fighting to the death (burner style). The costumes these people were wearing would blow out a Halloween competition hands down. Check out the tuba player blowing fire at the end


Night Scenes

On my second night out, I did some major biking to see all the sights in the center circle. People, this is really a city-over 50,000. I can’t tell you how many miles I biked. This place is huge and I just did the inner circle. I saw the French Quarter, Wall Street (again at night), the temple, Mal Mart (Wal Mart). On my third night, I did the biking thing again, only this time, I didn’t bike my ass off trying to see everything. There was even live bands playing on their mutant vehicles. What was neat is I ran into a roller cart that caught my eye that had a loaf of bread. It was a peanut butter & jelly sandwich cart-free to all burners with the munchies. WOW! It was perfect, I downed a sandwich and headed out for my next stop.

Night Scenes 2

On Thursday night-my fourth night-they burned the art sculptures or effigies. Almost 40 were burned. Most of the art you saw in the “Art videos” are burned in this one. Most of Black Rock city and mutant vehicles were out to witness it. There was fire everywhere. At the end of this video, you will see Wall Street burning down. It was done on Saturday


Art Burns

Here are the mutant vehicles by day. I have to show you them by day and night. It’s so different….it’s like night and day. LOL. They ranged from little turtles to massive 3 story high ships. There were over 300 vehicle driving around the Playa


Mutant Vehicles by Day

Here are the mutant vehicles by night. I have to show you them by day and night. It’s so different, it’s like……night and day. LOL. You could walk around and pick any style of music you wanted to listen & dance to-almost every mutant vehicle was blaring out their style of music.


Mutant Vehicles by Night

In this video is an elaborate fire dance. It’s setting was in front of the Burning Man on the night it was to burn (Saturday Night). People from all walks of life and talent did there amazing acts. It was like watching “live and moving art”.


Fire Dances

This was my last night (Saturday night) and it was the ceremonial “Burning of the Man”. I could feel and see people in the act of cleansing (burning) out the old and bringing in the new. It came complete with one hell of a fireworks show. After 7 days in the desert, I decided to hang my hat and move on. As the saying goes “The show must go on”. NOTE: The temple burned on Sunday night, which was the official last day of the 2012 event. As Arnold would say: I’LL BE BACK

The Burning of the Man

And finally, here’s one of the final songs that were sung at Center Camp

Final Song