The Man’s location defines the geographic center where the Black Rock City survey begins each year. The Man and his platform – called The Pavilion — provide an interpretive structure for the theme and a showplace for theme based-interactive art.
THE MAN AND PAVILION
In 2001, the Art Department began building an annual theme-based platform, called the Pavilion, for The Man to stand on. Unlike other departments within Burning Man where year-to-year changes may be minimal, the Art Department begins each year from square one. The challenge is that the theme inspires the platform, stimulates architectural plans, determines the materials purchased, dictates the personnel needed to construct the Pavilion, and the artwork that will be closest to The Man.
In 2006, there was a greater sense of cohesion between the different teams that worked on The Man and Pavilion. While there were some changes in the team roster and team dynamics, it felt as if roles were quickly identified. If there were problems, a challenge, or issue, several people stepped up and offered help, even when the problem wasn’t “technically” their responsibility; so much so, the lines of responsibility between The Man and Pavilion crews blurred. This meant that the crews worked in concert and handled the challenges of installing and rigging The Man on the Pavilion, with the help of the Support Services.
ART DECO STRUCTURE
As Larry Harvey wrote the 2006 Art Theme text, “The centerpiece of Hope and Fear will be a sleek Art Deco palace, the Pavilion of the Future. Art Deco, arising in the 1920’s and 30’s, became a symbol throughout much of 20th Century for all that was considered modern. Its streamlined and dynamic forms derived from an industrial aesthetic that romanticized progress. They summoned up a sense of power, purpose and velocity. As an art style, Deco stands as the West’s last commonly held vision of a utopian future. Today, of course, this art form represents a retro-future: one that never came to be. The principle problems of post-modern life do not concern how we’ll employ our endless leisure. Robots do not wait upon us hand and foot, nor do we jet from place to place in private rocket ships. Along the road to a utopia, these science fiction fantasies gave way to traffic jams. The future, it begins to seem, ran out of gas.”
Planning for the 2006 Pavilion began early in the calendar year. The concept and design was ready for engineering by November, 2005. A local engineering firm was contracted to create construction drawings for the Pavilion, with mechanical responsibilities to be handled by the lead rigger; however, many meetings later, May, 2006, a satisfactory solution for moving The Man up and down during the event had not been agreed upon and the blueprints for the Pavilion had not been completed. By the end of June it was clear that the lead rigger was not going to be able to complete his role in the project.
PRE-BUILD – MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
The Big Challenge was to design and fabricate a mechanism to lower and raise a 50 ft. tall, 8000 lb. structure, 10 ft. up and down. The Man needed to move smoothly in a reliable and safe fashion so his fragile neon would not be jostled loose by sudden movements.
The Solution – Investigation led to the design and manufacture of an elevator-type mechanism that relied on a large winch motor and a custom-made block and tackle system that could be installed and operated in a safe and reliable manner. One of the main problems in 2006 was how to stop The Man if his lift mechanism failed. A hydraulic dampener was suggested, which evolved from four PVC dampeners to one steel hydraulic cylinder that was filled with fluid.
This device, while relatively simple in construction, provided an enhanced level of safety that prevented The Man from a radical decent in the event of cable failure.
PRE-EVENT – ASSEMBLY
Installation of the elevator and the assembly of The Man were two large tasks and two teams were formed. Elevator Assembly involved fabricating much of the rigging assemblies onsite and coordinating with Support Services. The cab that was built to hold The Man required extensive internal rigging to make it structurally capable and compliant with its design. The cab was fitted with eight wheel assemblies to keep it stabilized in the elevator shaft. The elevator shaft was fitted with steel tracks for the wheels to ride on.
The Man was placed on the cab while the cab was on the ground outside the Pavilion. This test fit allowed the team to pre-fabricate the required rigging and test the structural integrity of the assembly as a whole. Once a few moderations were made to strengthen the cab and the assembly proved solid, The Man was removed from the platform and returned to his staging area. With the cab ready, and The Man ready, the elevator shaft needed final prep in order to receive the winch and cab assembly.
According to plan, the Pavilion Crew installed a support beam to hold the winch motor and support-beams to support the cab in its down position.
The electrical contractor installed the required circuits to operate the winch motor, neon, and extra lighting to be installed. The winch was installed perfectly into position and the cab was ready for placement in the elevator shaft. With heavy equipment Support Services did a perfect job of installing the 4000 lb box into the shaft and it was lowered to its lowest position. Now the Platform Crew installed the top most support beam on the Pavilion. This beam held the fixed-point pulley and supported the full weight of The Man and box. With the beam installed, the Pavilion Crew installed the final block assembly and reaved the sheaves of the blocks (pull the wire rope through the pulleys). Once the pulleys were reaved, the first test of the winch and pulley assembly took place.
The final step in the assembly was the hydraulic piston installation. With the assemblies together The Man was installed onto the Pavilion. All teams pulled together and it went perfectly.
When The Man was first on the Pavilion and rigged into position the first lift was another success. With the first lift done the team tested the hydraulic piston for integrity. With The Man in his highest position the valve on the hydraulic piston was closed and The Man lowered. What this would do is put the full 8,000 lbs. on the piston and check for leaks and holding power. The test went perfectly. The hydraulic piston held the full weight of The Man and was the perfect safety device. The valve was opened and regulated to allow The Man to move up and down with complete safety for the tens of thousands of participants soon to arrive.
The assembly of The Man and installation of the elevator mechanism, two days behind schedule, was completed on Saturday before the event started. Everything fit so well it was truly amazing to spend so much time designing something and watch it go together perfectly.
PREPARATION FOR THE BURN
For those who work all year to stand in the presence of The Man while he is released in pyrotechnic delight, it is like Christmas, The Fourth of July, Halloween, every holiday wrapped into one moment. There is something physiological about how The Man burns and falls. And in it is an the attempt to hold onto a moment that is fleeting and illusive that if you were to blink The Man would be gone. To simply burn and fall over before he is totally engulfed in flames is disappointing, but to see The Man continue to burn and burn and burn and disintegrate into burning embers and fall straight down is an amazing feat. Many things must be coordinated for that perfect moment to happen.
The activities leading to that volatile release of The Man are intricately coordinated to ensure that everything that should not burn is removed. Attaching explosive material to The Man and Pavilion means that the Pyrotechnic Crew are the only persons allowed access to the Pavilion from 8 AM onward, on burn day. This ensures that those licensed to do the work are uninterrupted and make no mistakes.
To ensure that all building materials and artwork not to be burned are removed, a Dismantle Crew started their process the night before. Heavy equipment moving large objects is no place for wandering event participants. It is for this reason that the Pavilion is closed to all participants not part of the crew. The Man crew has never been involved with preparation for the burn until this year. They removed the machinery in the elevator shaft, locked The Man into place and prepped The Man so that highly orchestrated and much anticipated vertical drop during the burn occurred.
ART OF HOPE & FEAR
In comparison to the Funhouse in 2005, the number of installations in the Pavilion was relatively small; however, the quality and sense of importance of the installations grew in 2006. The total number of installations was ten, with originally twelve selected for the Pavilion. Due to timing constrictions, one installation (Mark Madel’s Singularity Machine) had to drop out. We are looking forward to Mark creating something for the 2007 event!
- A 19th century-styled lamp post that helped guide participants to look within, to see and visualize what the terms ‘hope’ and ‘fear’ meant to them while wearing LED glasses.
- YOU x 360
- Participants rode a bicycle attached to a platform, setting the platform in circular motion. Other participants jumped onto the platform and a camera captured and developed images of the participants on the platform. When cut and bound together, these photos became a flash booklet of images, showing a full (i.e. 360) view of the participant on the platform. This was a particular favorite of some of the hardworking DPW folks who built the Pavilion.
- Alex and Allyson Grey’s installation included two original paintings and banners of three of their previous works, exploring the emotional, visceral experiences of life. The Greys also created a set of wings mounted at the entry to add to the Art Deco effect of the Pavilion and give more of a sense of grandeur to the structure.
- This Game of Hope and Fear
- Developed from hundred of drawings submitted by a plethora of artists, This Game of Hope and Fear offered the citizens of Black Rock City a chance to share what inspired and excited them, as well as express provoked fear in them.
See also the full listing of Pavilion art installations from 2006.
One of the biggest challenges or setback experiences in the Pavilion was the tardiness of the artists. Several of the artists were late in setting up their installations, missing their contracted Monday morning deadline, when the Pavilion was open to the thousands of participants. This was frustrating for the Pavilion art team as well as the people who built the structure. While the deadline is communicated several times in the months preceding the event and is written into the contract, the artists seemed to have difficulty in honoring the dates. For future events, communicating the guidelines and further strategies to help guard the deadline will be essential for success. One artist in particular did not finish an installation until late in the week of the event, missing the opportunity to share the installation with thousands of participants.
Another challenge experienced by the Pavilion team was graffiti. Unlike previous years, several participants drew and painted on several walls within the Pavilion. When caught and stopped, some of the participants expressed a sense of ownership and right to draw on The Man and the Pavilion. Also, the Rangers guarding the structure seemed to permit the behavior, not understanding that the Pavilion and The Man should not be desecrated by graffiti. Before the next event we should create a plan to educate the participants, as well as Black Rock City staff and volunteers, that graffiti on The Man and the Pavilion is not acceptable.
THE BURN BLANKET AND DG TEST UNDER THE MAN BASE
The Burning Man Project’s agreement with the federal government is in the form of event stipulations. Some of those stipulations embrace the Leave No Trace principle. This means that the Burn must occur on protected playa. Positioned upon DG (Decomposed Granite) which is laid upon Kevlar (woven silica), the burn blanket has been the Burn protection since 2000.
In 2006, the DPW Restoration Team conducted a Burn Shield Effectiveness test in which a strip of playa was protected by only DG (Decomposed Granite) instead of the usual Burn blanket and DG combination. The results of this test proved: 1) DG alone can protect the playa from burn scarring. 2) The Burn blanket is not necessary for the burning of The Man. Photographic evidence was taken. Over years of observation, the burn blanket has repeatedly proven to be unwieldy. Its purpose as a barrier between the DG and the playa was easily defeated upon attempted retrieval and created more mess. It was simpler and more efficient to scrape the DG off the playa surface with a front end loader, without the interference of a burn blanket.
The Man was assembled as in the past but his arms were fitted with a stronger pivot point to handle the extra load required, being rigged to a floating point in 2006.
The care given to a bunch of wood that eventually burned to a pile of ash was extraordinary. The construction of The Man received such loving care one might think this work of art was intended for exhibit in a fancy gallery with a huge price tag. The Black Rock Desert is a gallery of sorts, where mountain ranges comprise walls, and the endless stars of the night sky shine on all who play in the desert wasteland. Yes, a huge price tag hangs on The Man when you take everything into account: builders, materials, heavy equipment, neon, pyrotechnics, fire dancers, Ranger support, fire department, yet it is a priceless achievement. For a brief moment, peaceful humanity stands still before The Man and then, just like the wind through a dandelion, it is gone. The ash blows into the desert air and the lingering memories cling to our cerebellum.
May The Heat Of The Man’s Flame Stay In Your Heart Long After The Embers Have Died.
Ben Stoelting, Will Roger, Crimson Rose, Bettie June