Bur­ning Man a Spi­ri­tual Jour­ney

San Fran­ci­sco ar­chi­tect John Marx re­coun­ts in words and pic­tu­res the Bur­ning Man fe­sti­val whi­ch is held in Ne­va­da. It is ta­le of how hip­pie coun­ter-cul­tu­re ex­pe­ri­men­ts wi­th a new di­men­sion that con­nec­ts to the ma­ny va­rie­ties of hu­man li­fe and the im­por­tan

Abitare - - STORIES -

The sun ri­ses over a cold and du­sty Pla­ya… we are ri­ding hard again­st the wind, whi­ch kicks up the ever pre­sent du­st, and we ha­ve to put our gog­gles and ban­da­nas on. It is an ex­tre­me­ly har­sh en­vi­ron­ment of epic pro­por­tions. The du­st is li­ke a poe­tic my­st, whe­rein sur­rea­li­stic ob­jec­ts ap­pear out of no­whe­re then di­sap­pear ju­st as quic­kly. We are ma­king our way to the Tem­ple, it is a long ri­de on our cheap pla­ya bi­kes, The Tem­ple, a tru­ly ma­gi­cal pla­ce, whi­ch has no pa­ral­lel on this ear­th, is a pla­ce for pu­blic grie­ving, for re­lea­se, for sha­ring a stran­ger’s pain, and whi­le that la­st bit sounds coun­ter to all that ci­vi­li­za­tion has taught you to avoid, in that mo­ment, the­re on the pla­ya, you em­bra­ce it wi­th all that is hu­man in­si­de you. Th­ree years ago I went wi­th my daughter to Bur­ning Man, it was a Fa­ther-Daughter bon­ding ex­pe­rien­ce ju­st the two of us fa­cing a well re­sear­ched but as it turns out, un­k­no­wa­ble ex­pe­rien­ce un­til it is ex­pe­rien­ced... Be­cau­se fun­da­men­tal­ly it in­vol­ves sha­ring your hu­ma­ni­ty wi­th others in a dee­ply per­so­nal way. At the end of our week in the de­sert, I felt clo­ser to my Daughter than I ever ha­ve. Ima­gi­ne wal­king in­to a Da­lí pain­ting, and di­sco­ve­ring that this ab­surd world wel­co­mes you ho­me ... wel­co­mes you to em­bra­ce the pa­ra­do­xi­cal qua­li­ties of hu­man exi­sten­ce, of the self and the other, whe­re art be­co­mes in­grai­ned in­to li­fe, ra­ther than exi­sting as se­pa­ra­te and pre­cious. It can be tran­sfor­ma­ti­ve. My fir­st im­pres­sion re­mains of my ini­tial night out on the Pla­ya, the lights, the mu­sic the ti­me-per­spec­ti­ve shift crea­ted by 70,000 peo­ple being self ex­pres­si­ve, of the over­whel­ming col­lec­ti­ve ener­gy that fills this va­st emp­ty plain. It is a va­lid que­stion to won­der what all this might ha­ve to do wi­th ar­chi­tec­tu­re, as this is a tem­po­ral ci­ty, that of­fers no per­ma­nent struc­tu­res, ju­st a de­cep­ti­ve­ly sim­ple ur­ban and so­cial fra­mework and ve­ry lit­tle that would be con­si­de­red “pu­bli­sha­ble” in the “de­fault” world of hi­gh cul­tu­re. An un­der­stan­ding of this

might start wi­th what goals we ha­ve as ar­chi­tec­ts to crea­te va­lue in the world. As ar­chi­tec­ts we stri­ve to crea­te buil­dings and ci­ties that ha­ve a hi­gh de­gree of vi­bran­cy, au­then­ti­ci­ty, and a strong sen­se of com­mu­ni­ty. We de­si­re an en­ga­ged po­pu­la­tion that not on­ly lo­ves their en­vi­ron­ment, but al­so par­ti­ci­pa­tes in its crea­tion, and in its on­going evo­lu­tion. The ex­ten­sion of whi­ch means they feel re­spon­si­ble for its main­te­nan­ce and im­pro­ve­ment, and are in­spi­red and em­po­we­red to in­fu­se it wi­th their cul­tu­ral and ar­ti­stic ener­gy. They crea­te tra­di­tions and ri­tuals whi­ch car­ry this col­lec­ti­ve ef­fort for­ward to suc­ces­si­ve ge­ne­ra­tions. Ideal­ly this vi­bran­cy ex­ten­ts across the full ran­ge of so­cio-eco­no­mic stra­ta, so that eve­ryo­ne par­ti­ci­pa­tes and en­joys the­se be­ne­fi­ts. If they are suc­ces­sful, they will ex­tend this ca­ring sen­se of com­mu­ni­ty beyond the phy­si­cal en­vi­ron­ment, to­wards ca­ring for ea­ch other’s well being, be­cau­se they sen­se how ea­ch

of us con­tri­bu­tes to the suc­cess of our com­mu­ni­ties. As ar­chi­tec­ts we con­tri­bu­te the phy­si­cal struc­tu­res that con­tain the wor­kings of hu­ma­ni­ty, but mo­re im­por­tan­tly we con­tri­bu­te our own crea­ti­vi­ty and ima­gi­na­tion to im­bue emo­tio­nal mea­ning, whi­ch in turn adds to the ener­gy and ex­ci­te­ment of the com­mu­ni­ty. For one week, a ci­ty of 70,000 peo­ple or­ga­ni­cal­ly forms in the de­sert. For one week, 70,000 peo­ple crea­te a com­mu­ni­ty that crea­tes vi­bran­cy, au­then­ti­ci­ty, par­ti­ci­pa­tion, and a deep ca­ring, at a le­vel of in­ten­si­ty that is “off the charts”. The­re are ma­ny mi­scon­cep­tions about Bur­ning Man, as to why peo­ple go and what they do the­re. From my per­so­nal ex­pe­rien­ce, Bur­ning Man ser­ves to tea­ch us about “Com­mu­ni­ty and Kind­ness, thou­gh Par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry Art”. On one ex­tre­me, so­me peo­ple co­me to par­ty, to play, to be self in­dul­gent. Even the­se peo­ple co­me away chan­ged from the ex­pe­rien­ce of a strong ca­ring com­mu­ni­ty ba­sed on kind­ness. They co­me away in­spi­red

by the va­st ran­ge of self-ex­pres­sion, be it Pla­ya Art, Art Cars, The­me Camps, Dan­ce Camps or peo­ple’s crea­ti­ve out­fi­ts. Bur­ning Man is not a la­bo­ra­to­ry to sim­ply “un­der­stand pla­ce­ma­king”, it is not an “ar­chi­tec­tu­ral­ly” ri­ch en­vi­ron­ment in the nor­ma­ti­ve for­mal sen­se we use in our pro­fes­sion, but in spi­te of this, and in so­me ways be­cau­se of this, a ci­ty of 70,000 peo­ple build their own vi­bran­cy, in the mo­st dee­ply au­then­tic way pos­si­ble, wi­th the work of their own hands ... if we igno­re this, if we don’t ta­ke an op­por­tu­ni­ty to stu­dy what ma­kes this work and th­ri­ve, we may find our­sel­ves to be ir­re­le­vant to the peo­ple we pled­ged to ser­ve. Why does Bur­ning Man work? We might con­si­der the rich­ness of cul­tu­ral vi­bran­cy as the re­la­tion­ship bet­ween th­ree va­lues: Dep­th + Ran­ge + En­ga­ge­ment. Dep­th re­la­tes to the qua­li­ty of an ex­pe­rien­ce, how mo­ving it is. From the fir­st mo­ment you cross that li­ne dra­wn in the du­st, you can’t help but be over­whel­med by the qua­li­ty and in­ten­si­ty of your ex­pe­rien­ce on the Pla­ya. The shear ran­ge of self ex­pres­sion. From an ar­chi­tec­tu­ral ob­ject or pro­ject stand­point, Ran­ge in­clu­des the way we jud­ge the va­lue of the work that is crea­ted. This aspect of Ran­ge is well il­lu­stra­ted at Bur­ning Man. Among the ma­ny even­ts at Bur­ning Man, mo­re than 300 art­works are set out on the Pla­ya. The­se ran­ge from Mu­seum Gra­de sculp­tu­re, to The Je­di Dog Tem­ple, de­si­gned by a 5 year old boy. The par­ti­ci­pan­ts re­co­gni­ze that eve­ry­thing on this ran­ge has a deep va­lue to them, be­cau­se, in the ca­se of Bur­ning Man, ea­ch art pie­ce is gi­ven as a gift, and ea­ch was crea­ted from the heart. Ho­we­ver they al­so em­bra­ce the idea that the na­tu­re of ea­ch pie­ce is dif­fe­rent and adds va­lue ea­ch in it’s own spe­cial way. We, as ar­chi­tec­ts, and as a cul­tu­re in ge­ne­ral, might be­ne­fit from em­bra­cing the con­cept of de­si­gn va­lue across a mu­ch broa­der spec­trum than we cur­ren­tly per­mit. En­ga­ge­ment is the di­rect

per­so­nal in­te­rac­tions you might ha­ve wi­th others and the com­mu­ni­ty at lar­ge. Mo­st of us ha­ve a pas­si­ve re­la­tion­ship wi­th our en­vi­ron­men­ts, we go to the park, we go to our fa­vo­ri­te ca­fe. Ac­ti­ve forms in­clu­de ma­king things li­ke art or mu­sic, par­ti­ci­pa­ting in go­ver­nan­ce of the main­te­nan­ce of your nei­gh­bo­rhood, or buy­ing a new ben­ch for the com­mu­ni­ty to en­joy. At it’s mo­st ac­ti­ve le­vel you share the ex­pe­rien­ce of crea­tion and ca­re. If you don’t feel per­so­nal­ly en­ga­ged wi­th your com­mu­ni­ty, whe­ther it is your street, your nei­gh­bo­rhood, or the va­st com­mu­ni­ty of hu­man­kind, you will be­co­me iso­la­ted. Bur­ning Man il­lu­stra­tes the po­wer of en­ga­ge­ment in ma­ny ways. In any other part of the world, ima­gi­ne a ci­ty of 70,000 peo­ple, as you walk this ci­ty, you see no lit­ter, if you con­ti­nue to walk from the ci­ty co­re, whe­re the­re might ha­ve been a pro­fes­sio­nal group clea­ning, you still find no lit­ter on the ou­tskirts. You al­so no­ti­ce the­re are no tra­sh cans. On the pla­ya, par­ti­ci­pan­ts not on­ly ca­re for their own lit­ter, but will pick up the lit­ter of others,

and due to the ab­sen­ce of tra­sh cans they will ta­ke this lit­ter back to their Camp, and ul­ti­ma­te­ly back to their ho­me­to­wn. So en­grai­ned is the idea that this is your com­mu­ni­ty, shared wi­th others, that peo­ple ca­re dee­ply for the clean­li­ness of the who­le en­vi­ron­ment. On a mo­re per­so­nal le­vel, the ve­ry fir­st night out on the Pla­ya I met a poet, stan­ding in li­ne to vi­sit Mi­chael Gar­ling­ton’s Cha­pel, in the du­st, un­der a ge­ne­rous mid­night moon. We tal­ked about li­fe, and art, and poe­try, and the strug­gle of ar­tists, and our strug­gles to find our poet’s voi­ce, and the pain and ec­sta­sy whi­ch is that jour­ney, the in­ten­si­ty of this di­scus­sion rea­ched a cre­scen­do, whi­ch in the de­fault world would ha­ve been a na­tu­ral brea­king point. But, in that mo­ment, she in­spi­red, read me a long po­wer­ful poem from the heart. A poem about dreams – hu­ma­ni­ty – dee­ply per­so­nal – im­me­dia­te a glimp­se in­to the beauty of a per­sons soul, she reads this wi­th su­ch a pas­sion that I am still una­ble to ex­plain the si­gni­fi­can­ce of this gift… and then, she va­ni­shed… Pla­ya Ma­gic

So­pra / Abo­ve, 747 The­me Camp sul­la Pla­ya, on the Espla­na­de, 2016 (a si­ni­stra / left); a de­stra / right, un guerriero ma­sche­ra­to all’ester­no del Cen­ter Camp / Ma­sked War­rior ou­tsi­de Cen­ter Camp, 2016. Nel­la pa­gi­na ac­can­to / Fa­cing pa­ge, Step­ping...

Da si­ni­stra / From left to right, In­si­de the mind of da Vin­ci di / by Mi­schell Ri­ley, 2016; Me­du­sa Mad­ness, di / by Ke­vin Clark, 2016; Tree of Té­né­ré sul­la / in Deep Pla­ya, 2017.

So­pra / Abo­ve, Word­less sul­la / in Deep Pla­ya, di / by Lo­renz Ch­ri­stian Sell, 2017 (a si­ni­stra / left); Me­chan 9 di / by Ty­ler Fu­qua, 2016. Nel­la pa­gi­na ac­can­to / Fa­cing pa­ge, Oid di / by Mi­chael Ch­ri­stian, 2016.

Da si­ni­stra / From left to right, To­tem of Con­fes­sions di / by Mi­chael Gar­ling­ton, 2015; La Vic­tro­la al­lo spun­tar del so­le / at sun­ri­se, 2017; il fa­lò fi­na­le / the Man bur­ning, 2016.

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