Sunday was the last burn night, the night to experience the final moments of the Temple of Transition. This temple seemed to set a new bar among the population of the city. There was something about the architecture, the mood, the scope of this temple that brought even jaded burners to a new epiphany. There were some who felt this so strongly that they were unwilling to even watch the temple burn. Somehow it just felt too tragic.
Ah well, I am not one to let a little tragedy interfere with a good spectacle. But before I start distracting you with photos, I want to mention that this burn was indeed special. For one thing, the Temple burn is always a quiet, contemplative, and often emotional climax to the week. The dance music stops, the burn does not start with fireworks or fire bombs as the others do, but instead starts very quietly.
What I found most remarkable about the temple burn was the way that its walls collapsed. The cladding fell first. After the loss of that outer sheathing, the framework burned a bit longer then so gracefully fell to the playa. I have never seen a structure burn with that sort beauty in its final moments.
On that last evening, I biked around the temple area at sunset. The following images start with some of those views. On the evening before, the last that the temple was open, my special temple friend and I had walked up the steep ramps to the upper level one last time and listened to the last Earth Harp performance. If I could set these sunset photos to music, it would be that performance you would hear. The combination of the music and the setting was spine tingling. Then, and now.
On either side of 3 o’clock, on the way to the Temple, waited a pair of Burning Man dinosauri. Above is the Pleasiosaur and below is Life-size Origami T-Rex.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook the more personal pieces of art when surrounded by the drama of the massive constructions and art cars. This reflective collection of star tetrahedrons is called Constellation of One.
‘Truth and Beauty’ was the work of Marco Cochrane, who brought the amazing ‘Bliss Dance’ in 2010. This is the first stage of this piece. Look for its next iteration in 2012.
Laura Kimpton has done a three year play with her letter ‘O’. In 2009 she brought “Who Gave Birth’ (answer is, of course, Mom) and in 2010 she set up Oink in the Deep Playa.
This LOVE sculpture was a gathering place for weddings and for lovers of all kinds. On Temple Burn Night, it was the sole remaining landmark in this area of the playa as the lights had gone out on Truth and Beauty. For those who have not been onplaya at night, it should be noted that most large “landmarks” on burn nights are actually art cars and they move. To avoid taking a bike through the crowds, it is wise to leave it somewhere safe. The issue is whether you can ever find it again.
This inconspicuous piece is where I actually left my bike before the burn. It was what remained of the installation ‘Another Door’ after all the gizmos on top had been removed (wind damage?). I was only able to find it by triangulating off of LOVE and the darkened Truth and Beauty. Metaphors abound.
This next photo was actually taken one sunset earlier, but it really belongs with this set in location and time of day.
Peter Hudson’s zoetropes have been a beloved feature at Burning man for quite a few years now. In particular, people still rave about The Monkeys from 2007 (Homouroboros) as being one of The Best Ever. Seeing this skeletal oarsman as he crossed the river Styx was a 2011 highlight.
Zoetropes only really work at night. A gaggle of people pulling ropes in a concerted effort bring the device up to the proper speed, switching on the strobe which then lights each figure sequentially. The sum, like an old silent movie, has the appearance of motion.
Another photo from the night before the temple burn – this is the surreal sunset playa as seen from the Temple of Transition, during that last Earth Harp performance.
And finally, my personal favorite small installation of 2011 – Raoul Desibour’s Face on the Playa. Her brown eyes frame the Temple, less than two hours from when it will burn.
And her blue eyes gaze back from the eternal, timeless desert.
Now, onward with the night.
Let the festivities begin!