Burning Man kicks off with art installations by Santa Cruz’s Two Lanterns camp
Last year, Barbie and Ken got divorced and two semi trucks twisted in the air. Where else could such strange things happen other than at Burning Man? For those “not in the know,” Burning Man is an all-out artistic love-fest where creative people will gather in the Nevada desert from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1. It’s also known to be a love fest of other sorts, with drugs and sex abounding (in private). But what is Burning Man at its core? For local artist Jason Guy it’s about “radical self-reliance” and a “celebration of the arts. … When you go to Burning Man, there’s a welcoming gate … it feels like coming home.”
Guy traveled alone to Burning Man for the first time when he was 50. (He’s now 54.) “On one side I had a couple that were drama queens, across the street two gals and a guy who were lovely and said, ‘come with us, we’ll show you around.’ On the night of the burn, an old couple cooked filet mignon on that section of the block. It’s what you make it. It’s a friendly environment.”
For a crash course in terminology, the ‘burn’ is an event that happens on
the last night of Burning Man when a giant wooden “man” is set on fire for all to see. A “block” is just what it sounds like—a city block in this ‘town’ of Burning Man, where more than 48,000 people stay for the week. A ‘theme camp’ is much more than just a campsite; it’s a designated site where a group of people hosts some type of participatory art event. It could be the aforementioned semi trucks that people could walk into, or, in Guy’s case, it’s a series of artistic offerings.
His camp, which consists of seven male friends, is called Two Lanterns. This year, Guy and co. will be creating a collection of interactive art projects that will surely wow the crowds.
The biggest, by far, is their American Dream/American Nightmare piece. Tapping into Burning Man’s theme this year of “American Dream,” the Two Lanterns crew, which includes Guy, Bob Oberg, Steve Ornellas, Ed Titus, Ron Diaz, Bob Diaz and Keith Muscutt, are constructing a 35-foot-tall glowing picture of the Statue of Liberty. According to Guy, the piece will be a “two-dimensional nighttime interactive [electroluminescent wire] image mounted on a wire-mesh framework, attached to an engineered support tower.” When people walk by the camp, a motion sensor kicks in and the image of Lady Liberty will light up, but that’s not all. The image will flip-flop between the lady and another version of her, a much darker, Darth Vader type of interpretation—a war figure with dollar signs coming out of her crown and an empty, vacant face.
“The concept of liberty is a very American idea,” Guy says. “People will come away asking questions and … see how easy the image of liberty will change to a war-like image about oil and money. Maybe they will respond to it and maybe they won’t. It’s nothing more than a political cartoon.”
In addition to the Statue of Liberty art piece, Two Lanterns camp will also hold “uncivil” weddings, and divorces, even. Last year the aforementioned Ken and Barbie duo were a couple from Los Angeles whom the Two Lanterns camp granted a temporary divorce valid for the dates of Burning Man. “We marry a lot of heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, group marriages, and one gal showed up and said, ‘I want to marry myself.’”
And on top of that, Two Lanterns has something they call the Frankenbike Rig, basically a huge bicycle of sorts, an Annoying Phone Booth where people can pick up the receiver and listen to some lousy tunes and possibly connect with a voice on the other end, and finally a Red, White and Blue Stoplight.
“I read science fiction,” Guy says. “And [Burning Man] is a lot like being in a science fiction novel.”
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