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JRS VOLUME #8; ISSUE #24b

JRS V8:#24b:04.20.04

Burning Man Update: The Jack Rabbit Speaks
Volume 8, Special Edition
April 20, 2004

A message from Larry Harvey:

Hello Everyone,

I'm writing all of you to introduce our art theme for 2004, Vault of Heaven. Please allow me to begin this letter with a little history. Since the year 2001, the platform that supports the Burning Man has been a kind of stage set. Our theme in that year was called the Seven Ages, and the platform we constructed took the form of what I'm forced to call a quadrapedal pylon. More popularly, of course, most folks simply referred to it as a giant "A". This great pedestal was designed to raise Burning Man high overhead. The greater elevation allowed increasing numbers of participants to witness the Burn. This platform was only modestly interactive. It functioned as a monumental gateway to other attractions arranged on axis behind it. People could also congregate at the top of its base to gain a higher vantage point from which to enjoy a better view of the surrounding playa. A system ladders within it led upward into a windowed chamber immediately beneath the Man, but access to this passageway was limited. It formed a very narrow aperture when matched against the thousands of people who wanted to gain access to the topmost level. Safety and logistical concerns restricted the actual flow of participants to a trickle. In the following year, Rod Garret and I designed a lighthouse as a platform for the Burning Man. Although this was better integrated into the theme of 2002 - The Floating World - it was still subject to the same basic limitations.

In that year, as I was rummaging around in the base of the Lighthouse looking for some mislaid props, I could hear participants on the platform overhead. They were jumping up and down in unison (for lack, I couldn't help feeling, of anything better to do). Rod and I had carefully designed the Lighthouse as a giant compass. Theoretically, participants could find their way around the playa by aligning marks along the railing of the platform - they registered a full 360 degrees to corresponding lines of latitude printed on our city's map. Even the triangular benches at the base of this structure were designed to serve and look like compass pointers. It was a clever scheme, we thought, turning the Man's platform into a giant navigational instrument. But now I realized it possessed a fatal flaw. It didn't immediately invite people to participate. I'd guess that only one person in a hundred, at best, ever used it as we'd intended.

Instead, as I stood there in the semi-darkness of the platform's basement, all I could hear was a continuous Thud... Thud... Thud. The deck overhead was vibrating like the tympanum of a drum. I knew the structure could withstand this, and I knew, of course, that folks were simply having fun with what we'd given them. But, quite frankly, I must confess this seemed to me, in that moment, a little like the behavior of animals pent up in a zoo. The words of the famous song by Peggy Lee popped into my mind: "Is that all there is? Is that all there is? Because, if that's all there is, let's go on dancing, bring on the booze...". I was aware that our event is the largest interactive art environment in the world, and I knew that the platform of the Man was its geographic and symbolic center. I decided, then and there, that we could do better.

Last year, as part of a theme I titled Beyond Belief, Rod and I designed an enormous Pre-Columbian pyramid. A very hardworking army of highly skilled workers led by Andrew Sano constructed this edifice. The pyramid allowed participants to mount a monumental stairway that took them directly to the chamber beneath the Burning Man, and the building now featured a much higher viewing platform. But, more importantly, arranged around its base, we had created eight ceremonial niches - shrines within which any participant could sit contemplatively - our theme related to the immediacy of spiritual experience -- and thus self-sanctify themselves. We put the word out in advance that folks should be ready to assume an "otherworldly" appearance in order to make their separation from the outside world dramatically compelling. Nambla the Clown, our friend Ggreg Taylor, heroically stepped in at the last moment to serve as a stage manager, and he and his assistants managed to cosmetically transform many people right on the spot.

I kept flitting out to the Great Temple, as it was called, to see just how this process was unfolding. By day and night, I witnessed dozens of people sitting cross-legged in these cubicles, staring out into space as if they inhabited some sort of Nirvana. Perhaps even more interestingly, I witnessed many more participants gathered before each shrine. Encouraged in advance, they came with gifts to offer these mendicant holy ones, leaving them in special begging bowls placed in front of each shrine. Later, I talked to a friend who had participated. Following the simple premise we'd created, he installed himself within a niche with no other purpose than to exhibit himself, to quietly possess his being, enshrined by a frame of sacred architecture. After a while, he told me, one particular person, an utter stranger, materialized before him. For several minutes - he told me he'd lost track of time - they silently stared into one another's eyes without a single word being exchanged. Then this person disappeared.

Afterwards, having completed his turn, my friend decided to stroll about the base of the Great Temple to see how other holy ones were faring. He saw what I had also seen. Very typically, some of the witnessing participants would become so engrossed by the illusion framed in front of them that they would actually begin to lean forward against the slanted base of the pyramid, drawn closer and closer by the prospect of an entity, an "other", who appeared to effortlessly radiate spirit. Finally, when he stepped before a certain cubicle, he encountered the very person who had witnessed him a few moments earlier. There this person squatted, staring, with perfect equanimity, out into space. Within an instant, their eyes met. Then there occurred, my friend said, a startling and very intense frission of recognition - the ritual cycle was now made complete.

He lingered there in this way, silently gazing into the eyes of this stranger. Finally, after some indeterminate lapse of time, he quietly walked away and never looked back. Neither party knew the other's name - but they had connected in a certain and very immediate way that many of us, even with our friends and lovers, might never quite achieve in so conscious a fashion. This story helped to make my day, maybe even my entire year, for I, along with hundreds of other creative collaborators, had worked for many months in order to produce such moments as this. We had succeeded in affecting many people; we had designed an interactive context with the power to transform experience.

I relate all of this because it leads up to our theme this year, Vault of Heaven, and an opportunity - available to everyone -- to collaboratively participate in the creation of the most ambitious interactive art context that we have yet attempted. This year the so-called platform of the Man will be more than a platform - it will become a pavilion. It will be designed and built in the form of a classic observatory, with Burning Man atop the apex of its dome. However, the name of this impressive structure is almost a misnomer: within it and without, we will do more than observe. We’ll encounter ourselves engaged in a truly remarkable variety of connective and creative activities. The colorfully illustrated text that portrays this year's art theme is listed on the front page of our website (), or you can go directly to it (burningman.com...bm04_theme.html). We hope this theme will elicit many different kinds of creative ideas and projects; costumes, theme camps, performances, art works. Look, especially, for opportunities to take part in the creation of our city's central landmark. This year, more than any other, offers up new ways in which you can participate.

Thank you in advance for helping to recreate the universe,

Larry Harvey

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VAULT OF HEAVEN GRANTS

The Burning Man Art Department is very pleased to announce the 2004 Vault of Heaven grant recipients.
This year we have 29 projects from England, New York, Seattle, Portland, LA, Petaluma, and the Bay Area.

Congratulations to:

ANNE HALLATT - SPIRAL EYE
CARTER EMMERT & LEO VILLAREAL- PLANETARIUM DOME
CHICO RASKEY - RISE AND RETURN GLASS STUDIO
CHRIS SCHARDT :& BETTY RAY - NEBULA
DAVID BEST - TEMPLE OF STARS
DAVID BIGGS - CONSTELLATIONS
DAVID KITTS- SOLAR SYSTEM
DJ DUNKLE- COSMIC DANCE
EMILY TRUTT - WHITE NOISE
ERIK POULSON - COSMIC MICROCOSM
FLAMING LOTUS GIRLS - SEVEN SISTERS
JIM BOWERS & JEFF BOUDROT- EYES OF GAWD RESURRECTED
JIM BOWERS - TERRASPHERE
KATE RAUDENBUSH - OBSERVER / OBSERVED
LARS LIDEN - GRAVITY BOWL
LOGAN TAUTENHAHN- CHASM
INFLATABLE SYSTEMS - STARMEGEDDON
NATE SMITH - SINGULARITY MACHINE
NICOLE ZLONIKOFF - TWINKLETOES
MICHAEL CHRISTIAN - CELLESTIAL BODY
PAUL CESEWSKI - STAR WHEEL
PETER HUDSON - DEEPER
ROBERT BURKE - THE END
RUSSELL WILCOX - VAX
SAUL MELMAN - JADU BETA
TIM BLACK - OPTICAL ACOUSTICS
TODD DWORMAN - LABYRINTH
TODD ROWAN - STELLAR CRAFT
ZAC DARLING - EMPYEAN CRUISER

We are also pleased to announce the following, from Jim Mason:

The Shipyard Art/Build Space in Berkeley is once again offering our annual Rocket-Scientist-in-Residence program to a deserving yet under-resourced artist with ambitious plans for playa art.

The selected artist will get a free 8' x 24' ground floor shipping container to store materials and have a small personal shop, as well as shared use of our 6000 sq ft open asphalt, blue-sky overhead, building courtyard. Along with space to build, you will get full use of the Shipyard metal fabrication shop, machine shop, trucks, forklifts, crane, DUKWs, Ryon Gesink, DSL, hot tub, and as well as tech and creative consulting from all of us (for better or worse).

The Burning Man residency is from May 15 - September 15. It is open to any Burning Man destined project, either funded or unfunded by the Borg. If you are interested in the residency, please email Jim Mason at jim and ladybee with a statement of your interest, what you plan to build, and why the Shipyard space and citizens would be of unique relevance for your project. The Deadline for applications is May 1.

Last year Nate Smith of Utah was awarded the residency. His playa project was the Pillar of Fire:
images.burningman.com...keyword=pillar+of+fire.... Check out Nate's website at fire-arts.com.

In the future, we hope to offer 2 or 3 free residencies a year, depending on how well we like the proposals we get and what else is going on in the yard. If you are interested in proposing a project for a time other than this summer, please email Jim Mason with what you would like to do. We are always open to hearing pitches for interesting projects and events, whether they are properly called "art" or something else - especially if they are most likely nearly impossible to actually pull off. If in doubt, ask, and we'll probably say yes. Again, email Jim. He likes email.

More information on The Shipyard is available at theshipyard.org.

{Soundtrack to this Special Edition: "Stars" - Hum (of course)}

Andie Grace, Actiongrl
Office of the Jack Rabbit
http://www.burningman.com