Burning Man and some urban planning thoughts

The term ‘Black Rock Desert’ is somewhat of a misnomer. A desert is a hostile, harsh ecosystem wherelife of some sort has managed to adapt and thrive under the sun’s harsh glare and blistering heat. There are no sand dunes and no cacti out in the alkali flats, just cloudless brilliant blue skies and endless clouds of harsh dust that stings your eyes and leaves your lips hardened and chapped. The alkali flats themselves are ringed by a small mountain range that seemed deceptively close and looked, in the morning and afternoon, like something out of a Lawren Harris painting. I had vowed to bring in no more gear than I could carry on my back and in my arms, and so I arrived in a dust storm and freak rain-shower with some one hundred and twenty pounds of, well, stuff. George Carlin famously said that a house is a place for your stuff and stuff is the collected array of things that slowly but surely fill up your house…and a small 7-by-four foot tent would be housing my stuff for the next eight days. Most of this- eighty pounds- was water.

Pictures do not do Burning Man justice. I’ve heard someone say that trying to describe Burning Man to someone who has not been there is like trying to describe the colour red to someone who has never before seen colours. Burning Man, in a way, reminded me of what it is like to walk around wide-eyed and in wonder of everything around one’s self and I’ve done my best to try and take that feeling back home with me. Besides being a research assignment, it was also a meditative exercise. When I left Reno, Nevada there were two major hurricanes in the Atlantic south of Bermuda threatening the U.S. east coast, the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall was being commemorated, and talking heads on the major American news networks were chattering on about the NYC Islamic Center controversy and the upcoming Congressional and Senate elections. Being in a total communications technology blackout for eight days gave me a chance to think about urbanism, street art and life in general with only my surroundings for inspiration.

to be continued with more from Burning Man and some thoughts on what I’ve been reading recently and the current state of our cities. New streetart update coming soon… and for you Canadians out there, this awesome book is out in bookstores tomorrow! This is definitely on my reading list this month.


1 Response to “Burning Man and some urban planning thoughts”

  1. October 15, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Thoughts that were brought up by your post.

    1. The Black Rock Desert is actually the name of the entire area, the dry lakebed (apparently in wintertime, it actually can get covered in ~ 2 or 3″ of water) is just referred to as the Playa. In the area around the playa, I’ve seen coyotes, mule deer, more jackrabbits than you can shake a stick at, and even more sagebrush. It’s not a misnomer, more of a mischaracterization. If you go back, you should stop in at the BLM camp and pick up some brochures.

    2. The mountain ranges look small, and close, but they’re actually many miles away, and their peaks actually go up to 10,000 feet in some places. I think it’s the foreshortening effect of the playa itself. An old rancher I was talking to the day before Burning Man said that he was up cutting wood in those mountains and it was snowing 2 days before Burning Man.

    3. Being cut off from the outside world is one of the main reasons I keep going back. The Katrina year was actually kinda hard, we didn’t actually hear about Katrina until Thursday. Mind you, once word had leaked in, Burners did everything they could. Joan Baez held a fundraiser at the Temple, and Burners without Borders started as a bunch of people going straight from Burning Man to the Gulf Coast to help.

    4. I do love reading your impressions. I’ve been going for 9 years now, and the sense of amazement becomes less intense after a while. Your posts have allowed me to see it through fresh eyes again. Thanks!

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