Have you heard of this thing called Burning Man?

So you had to figure I’d get around to talking about Burning Man during my discussion of metal art, right?

Let me begin by saying I am not an expert on Burning Man. Nor do I play one online.

But I have been to this incredible festival more than once, and one of the most magical things about it, is unbelievable amount of truly fantastical art that folks spend months (or years!) creating, to haul out the desert for this week long spectacle, described as “the world’s biggest party”. It really is.

While cruising down the Mandela Parkway in West Oakland a couple weeks ago, I spotted something looking like an art compound… a fenced in lot filled with trailers and sculptures and some really amazing art. There were walls covered with gorgeous murals which I’ll have to cover in future posts, because for now, we are talking about metal.

Check out these two characters towering over the fence… the tall one must be 30 feet high, if not higher. Huge human figures welded together out of small rings of metal. If my memory (and research) serves me correctly, these were part of Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusalito‘s Crude Awakening sculpture at Burning Man in 2007, in which 8 human figures in varying poses of reverence, led to a 99 ft tall oil derrick that would ultimate blow thousands of gallons of fuel and fire into the air. It was clearly a critique of our consumption of fossil fuels, yet in its critique, it devoured a rather sick amount of fuel in mere seconds. Illogical perhaps, but quite a show!

I was there. We’d positioned ourselves on the front lines, just outside the fencing surrounding the derrick.  But when the guys in the fire retardant suits told us it was going to be “quite intense“, we decided to move back a good 50 feet.  Even so, it was like nothing I have ever experienced (or likely will ever experience again) in my lifetime.  Phew.




Here’s a brief article about the piece by Brian Doherty (with photo by Lane Hartwell)… http://www.wired.com/underwire/2007/08/crude-awakening/

And here’s a short clip of the explosion:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj3mWMdv978&feature=related

Obviously the derrick was destroyed (did you catch the sinister laugh that accompanied it’s demise?), but the human figures, or at least two of them, clearly live on.  I wonder where the other 6 now rest…