For what its worth here's my impression written in '97
In retrospect... my first thought is that the Temple Burn, not there in the 90's gives the entire event ying/yang balance...the climatic, manic burning of the man vs. thr more introspective, reflective burning of the temple .
Otherwise sAmE hiGh !!!
BM 1997 (long and self indulgent...apologies)
The Playa ... barren dry lake bed in the Desert. Nearest town ... Gerlach, Nevada population 200. Temperatures to 100 degrees. Free range of scorpions and rattle snakes. Even these are few. Stark naked canvass on which to create.
Necessary preparations before they arrive. Roads are graded, avenues scratched out in the dirt. They come in jeeps, cars, trucks, buses, trailers, motorbikes packed with bundles and tarps lashed with bales of string, straps, cord. Towing bicycles, rickshaws, rocket-cars, sail-cars , art cars, (one man) gyro-helio-copters, motorized para-gliders, cannons, roving sofas on electric wheels and entire stand-alone living rooms, self-propelled dens and bars on platforms of running car chassis. They bring what's needed for survival, and more.
They build. Dusty brown empty canvass of the playa. Now paint.
Overlay a transparency of a nomadic city of the curious, the jestors, the dancers, the bewildered, the driven, the obsessed, and the repressed. Gay, straight, tall, short, fat, thin, beautiful and ugly. Later they will dress in costumes of cardboard, cloth, foil, warpaint, or any combination of things, or partially clothed, topless, bottomless or with no clothes at all.
Tents, awnings, shades, shelters of cotton, silk, plastic, bamboo and skeleton poles and are secured with rope, billowing and shaking in late afternoon hot wind.
And the art, city of art.
Think Fellini, think Twilight Zone, think Dali, think Oz, and think nightmares and dreams, think fantasies of playful or twisted visionaries that come to life in icons and mask's of plastic, cloth, wood, bone, steel, ferrocement and reinforcing bar. Miniature diorama's of the obscure, dolls, mannequins, robots, heads, arms, feet, legs, faces deformed and decorated into otherworldly parodies .
Larger than life size beings, androids and humanoids, damsels and beast and warriors and machines of all dimensions both prehistoric and future recently arrived, coming in on starships, time machines, transporters, passing through vertexes, looking glass's and wormholes, touching down, some poised with frozen expressions.... some of intimidating terror, some of curiosity, some of perplexity, some blank and barren starring out onto the pilgrims of the desert and the pilgrims starring back.
Larger then life, some three stories tall; tents, temples, pyramids, Trojan horses, iron monsters, windmills, monoliths, towers of wood, bone, cloth, plastic.
Night comes and the City changes. Stage lights down. Overlay a transparency of a giant, mad, lighted carnival. Think Vegas, over Los Angeles over Times Square, over Mardi Gras. Moving, burning, blinking, twirling, lights, candles, lanterns of every color, shape, size pattern and orientation. Explosions, flares, fireworks, flarmethrowers, giant napalm like balls of fire explode and cackle over the crowds through the night.
Think Strawberry Fields, on, top of Mad Max, on top of Total Recall, on top of whatever fantasy moves you . Fill in Your own blanks. Some variation of it will be here. Only this is no movie set ... this is real with a cast of 15,000 (30,000+ in 2003...editor). Even if you have come just to look, forget it. After a couple of days the energy is infectious, it gets inside you and you start living it. Black Rock City: population 15,000 and one!
And ... The Man.
Sunday night. Wild procession of lights, fire twirlers, drummers lead the crowd, march up to the neon Man, he who has given definition and center to Black Rock City.
Dance of fire. The frenzy builds. The crowd is manic. Burn the Man. Burn it. BURN IT! ! ! A human figure clad in protective suit, aflame from head to toe does a wild happy dance at the crotch of the Man, igniting him.
Flames and fire works emit from the arms, legs and hands. Napalm blast billows up through its skeletal innards, igniting pyro-packed wicket bundles that are The Man's veins, arteries, heart, lungs and faith . He cracks and shrieks like a pine tree that has been super heated and has reached flashpoint in the midst of a million acre forest fire. The man does NOT burn. It Nova's. Super Nova. The front line rushes back fleeing front the heat. It's amazing that humans are not trampled in the stampede, but somehow those behind them know and make room
The Man crashes in on itself, slow motion-wise like those old hulks of building they demolish in one swoop with precisely set charges of dynamite
The crowd disperses, crazy charged up mass of souls. Not willing to power down, they go to plunder.
Think the L.A. riots. Think Rome burning. Think the Apocalypse.
Fires are ignited throughout the city. They burn the camps, they burn the mannequins, and they burn the art. Up all night, the City rages. Music blares. The smoke settles back over the us, it's hard to breathe as we try to sleep that night.
The morning after. Smoldering piles of black ash, remnants of twisted plastic and metal... I see a young girl dressed in formal black; gloves and a veiled hat bending over the cinders . She is lookng for remnants, for souvenirs. Something to take back, something to prove it happened. Something to hold on to, because after it ends, one goes away mourning when faced with the prospect of going back to real life