Sights and Sounds of Burning Man 1998

by Allan Lundell

Every Labor Day weekend for the past 14 years, thousands of revelers gather in the desolate Black Rock desert of Northern Nevada to participate in a radical art experiment. Almost overnight, a little city, replete with hundreds of interesting and often quite bizarre structures arise from the "tabula rasa" of the dry lake bed playa, each with its own purpose or theme. And many strange and arcane inventions also dot the playa, promising a special show for the temporary inhabitants of Black Rock City.bm2.JPG (24134 bytes)

Why does Burning Man happen and what's it all about? This is best explored by visiting the www.burningman.com site, as it's history is rich and colorful. What we have to offer you here are some video clips of this year's festivities, brought to you at high risk to our coveted and valuable video gear. The alkaloid dust of the dry lake bed, you see, is very fine and likes to permeate everything, including our equipment, often rendering it useless unless disassembled and cleaned immediately. When one of the frequent playa dust storms strikes, we run for cover, stuffing our gear in plastic zip lock bags, hoping that we have averted equipment disaster.

THE MAN BURNS!
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The first video clip we offer begins with a view of the majestic Man just before he burns, with flame throwers heralding his approaching fiery demise. Stuffed with over half a ton of pyrotechnic special effects this year, the burning of the Man promises to be the most spectacular yet. What we see next is an amazing new illusion, never seen before. Someone has figured out how to make a bicycle appear to be a glowing galloping horse, at least at night! Very cool, the galloping bicyclist never fails to draw ooohs and aaahs from the crowd. I managed to catch him with on the way to the Man while traveling the playa with an amazing inventor and fellow reveler Pat Flanagan (http://www.flantech.com/). We shot the neon galloping horse video with Pat's Sony TRV-9 (http://www.sel.sony.com). Hmmmm...just how did he create that galloping horse effect? We are investigating...So far, we've found that the people who did this fantastic illusion also create the monster Tesla coil out on the playa, reputedly the second largest on the planet. Watch for our upcoming net clip featuring this awesome lightning generator.

In our current clip, you can see the Man being ignited by a fiery human torch, flaming from head to toe. It's also been confirmed that the Man started burning much more rapidly than expected, so before the human torch can light the Man's second leg, some pyrotechnics go off, and he runs for his life. Flame on!bm3.JPG (24119 bytes)

 

Also, check out the colorful fireworks exploding from the Man this year. The white hot Magnesium heart flare was especially endearing to all the lovers in the crowd. A very special touch...Quite spectacular!

Notice the shift in the crowd as the Man plummets to the playa. It would have been interesting to view the scene from above. We would have seen the surrounding crowd begin to rotate counter-clockwise around the Man's burning pyre, creating a massive spiraling galaxy of human motion and dance. And every so often a large burnable object, like a couch or canoe, would make it's way to Galaxy Central, and further brighten the scene.Wheeww Hoooo!

 

The man ecstatically drumming while singing "Burning Man!" after the Man falls is none other than Fantuzzi, a world class musician and a founding brother of the Rainbow Tribe (http://www.welcomehome.org). He has carried the flame of celebration and music since his appearance at Woodstock, back in 1969, when his image was emblazoned (with a fem counterpart) as the icon of the era, on the cover of Newsweek magazine. You will see him again in future clips from Burning Man, performing with the amazing Maui Tribal Trance band, "Lost at Last."

You may notice that many of the celebrants are illuminated by an eerie green light. This is the look of Sony's "Nightshot," a sweet little bonus feature found on many Sony camcorders. It's a very handy feature, allowing us story tellers to record events in complete darkness, using invisible infrared illumination. So far, this feature has been particularly handy in capturing an audience's attention and reactions to stage performances, making it very apparent that a "show" is not simply what's happening on stage, but also what's unfolding in the audience, and how that affects the stage performance, etc., etc. I am often amused at what I have seen...

 

Too bad Nightshot has been discontinued. Apparently, under specific circumstances, its possible to see through clothing with it. Our experiments have confirmed this is true. But that's another clip...

In this net vid, thanks to Nightshot, you can see various cybertribal digerati ecstatically celebrating the Burn, among them, the brilliant and beautiful cyberauthor/poetress Alex Utterman, acupuncturist and technoshaman Steve Zilber, photojournalist Maggie Hallahan, this year shooting Burning Man for the German publication, STERN, riding on the shoulders of playa paraglider aviator "Sebas" (from Icarus Camp), Verbum publisher/Digital Be-in/Party meister, Michael Gosney, with the stunning Carla King, just back from her epic solo motorbiking trip across China.

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If you like what you see and want more, let me know. I respond to appreciation. Enjoy!

AL

ALSO: Burning Man Part II