Saturday, August 23, 2008

NYT article on Burning Man prep

Here I am again - always interested in Burning Man though I've never been. I mean, gosh, just look at the beauty of these flames....

From the NYT today:

Priming for Burning Man, Flames in Hand

Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Fire dancers rehearse for the Burning Man festival. More Photos >

Published: August 13, 2008

On the back patio of an East Village apartment, Natasha Kouri sat on a bench surrounded by plastic bottles and bags. She picked up a bottle from the woman on her left, who chopped its bottom off at the Poland Spring label. Ms. Kouri wove a handful of bags through the opening and handed the work in progress to her right. A bearded man taped the bags to the bottle, fluffed the bags into petals and tossed the results into the growing pile of plastic petunias: 775 down, only 1,225 to go.

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Art Bound for the Black Rock DesertSlide Show

Art Bound for the Black Rock Desert

David Goldman for The New York Times

Max Darby, right, and Stefan Pildes finish a sign for the Kostume Kult campsite. More Photos »

“We’re the art minions,” Ms. Kouri, 21, said with a smile last week. “What the directors tell us to do, we do.”

With reggae-trance music as a soundtrack, this six-person assembly line cut, stuffed, fluffed. In the building’s central courtyard another team built funhouse mirrors out of mylar, and Max Darby, a product designer and one of the masterminds behind this group artwork, put together vinyl street signs to be attached to an 18-foot-high, 60-foot-long mural that was still in pieces in the courtyard’s nooks.

“We had no money,” Ms. Darby, 41, explained, “so we’re basically making art from garbage.”

Four hours a night, three nights a week, for the last three months, about 80 people have rotated through this basement apartment for craft sessions. None will see the final presentation of their work until it is assembled in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, where the annual Burning Man art festival-rave-love-in takes place the week before Labor Day. About 48,000 people are expected to haul everything they need to survive — tents, water, fake-fur costumes — for this experiment in commerce-free, creatively wild community. Thousands of them will come from New York and set up camps with names like Smoochdome, Disorient and Rubber Chicken.

Ms. Darby and her craft workers are part of Kostume Kult, a camp known for giving away 2,000 pounds of sparkling, sequined, saucy costumes to attendees. This year the camp wanted to make a more artistic contribution as well, so members —friends, friends of friends, and others who found the group through its Web site,, or through the event itself — came up with a New York interpretation of the festival’s 2008 American Dream theme.

“It’s a Coney Island theme,” Ms. Darby said, pointing to a sketch of the mural with roller coasters, balloons and skyscrapers. “The left is all candy floss, childlike colors. Then it turns into grimy Gotham City, all gray and dark.”

The mural will serve as a giant doorway to the camp, which they’ve dubbed KKoney Island. Visitors who wander through the middle of the boardwalk-downtown split will arrive in Central Park, a chill space with carpets, cushions and a canopy of plastic flowers. A critical element of the project, Ms. Darby said, was having everyone contribute to its creation.


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