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Special Events

In 2002 the Special Events team produced three Flambé Lounges, a Desert Art Preview event, and the Heat the Street FaIRE! Decompression Event. These were designed to prepare people for and revisit the Floating World theme on and off the playa. It was a year of new challenges and expanded art and community, as our team and the size of these events grew.

Flambé Island
On April 7th approximately 1000 people rowed, sailed and backstroked to this fabled island inhabited by mysterious natives, visiting artist ambassadors, and seaworldly travellers. They came prepared to exchange art and information, give gifts of their own making and share fanciful traditions of their own creation. Of course, there were more than a few pirates there to raise a ruckus, but no one seemed to mind. A treasure hunt of interactive games was held throughout the night and at midnight a volcanic ARTruption nearly destroyed us all. It was only through an act of selfless giving that one of the treasure hunt participants appeased the angry volcano by giving away the treasure he had found to someone else. Seafaring tales and performances by Ed Holmes, Mr. Lucky, The Scurvy Bastards, Exotica Deejays Otto von Stoheim and Kneel NKizmas, Erica Candycane, and others reinforced the theme and made for a playful evening of cultural exchange on not-so-distant shores.

The Blue Ball
On Saturday, May 18th, we had an all-day event, starting with an all-ages picnic on Crissy Field and followed by an undersea ball hosted by the ancient and benevolent sea gods Nereus and Doris. Sea creatures of every inconceivable kind converged, bringing with them treasures of the imagination and inspired tributes to the fifty Nereids and royal courtesans of the sea. This Flambé was the first big turnout of Floating World-inspired art with Paul Da Plumber bringing a prototype of his giant fire Lily Pad Garden (created in collaboration with Jenne Giles); Kiki's plans for the fire fountain, Egeria; Starboy's Ganeshafish; Annie Hallat's ship sculpture; Cool Neon's EL wire fish; a scaled art car by Andrea Dose; sea photos by Julia Ann Ellingson; Howard Cohen's interactive sea anemone light sculpture; and numerous video artists. Artists performing at this Flambé included playa favorites The Mermen, Simran's Underwater Blue Alien, Ape, Bubble Gique, throat singer Danny Heines, Aquaman & The League of Superheros, Trout dance troupe, opera singer Marisa Lenhardt; and D6, Jay T. Tempura, Zach Darling, Laird and Dr. Friendly providing undersea sounds and waltzing music. Theme camps - a bit sparse - included Firetown, Waterboy, the Starlight Drive-In Movie Theater, and Fishing For Compliments. There was also a grand procession of Undersea Marvels, undersea waltzing contests, and - on the outdoor patio - bubbles and fire performance converging in wonderfully unexpected ways.

Unfortunately, the venue was difficult to get to and the costs and challenges associated with the venue (including mandatory pre-sale tickets, mass transit difficulties, having to bus people in from the parking lot, and not being allowed to go past midnight) contributed to a fairly large financial loss on this event. Even with 1100 people we still did not cover costs. Note that the goal of these events is always to simply break even or make just a bit to put toward the next event; but we came up thousands of dollars short and learned some valuable lessons about the challenges of larger venues in out-of-the-way places. On a brighter note, our interactions with the Presidio Trust and National Park Service were extremely positive and they were impressed with how positively and responsibly our community conducted itself - despite being painted green and having gills on our heads! Or was it because? Regardless, the costumes really were inspired!!

The Desert Art Preview Event at Cowell Theater
Held at Fort Mason Center, this event provided insight into the creative processes of six artists that received grants from Burning Man to do Floating World-related large-scale projects in 2002. Artist $teven Ra$pa emceed the event and made seven costume changes throughout the evening, appearing as a different lobster-themed persona to introduce each artist. Burning Man Art Curator LadyBee began the program with a historical overview of art at Burning Man. The featured artists that followed were Tim Black (Ship to Ship), Dana Albany (The Whale), Diedre DeFranceaux (The Sirens), Jeremy Lutes (The Lily Pond), Radiant Atmospheres (The Leviathan), and Mateo (La Contessa). The evening was a testament to the challenges of creating art for the playa and the incredible breadth of art at Burning Man. Technology factored largely in the discussion during the question and answer session, and the artists commented on the differences between creating art for galleries and collectors versus the ephemeral and inherently social art that is often created for Burning Man.

In previous years we held the Desert Art Preview event at the Exploratorium, but this year we felt we needed more space and moved it to Cowell Theater. The costs increased and, as a result, Burning Man lost some money on this event as well. But everyone who came felt privileged to have had personal insight into the work of these artists and why they dedicate so much time and energy to make work that is typically short-lived but touches so many people's lives.

NO SPECTATORS Day and The S.S. Blackrock Launch Party!
This event began with an all-ages picnic and a call for PARKticipation in the former Esprit Park on Mariposa Street in San Francisco. People brought interactive games, made trial runs of their theme camps, built cardboard forts, embarked on a playa survival trivia treasure hunt, and tested new shade structure designs. By 3:30pm the park was bustling with people playing music, games of Bunny Ball, painting their shade structures and the like. And everyone was having the time of their lives! It was one of those afternoons that San Francisco is famous for.

At 6pm the S.S. Blackrock Launch event began across the street at Cocomo, featuring nautical minstrels, a ship-to-shore fashion show and performances by Daniel & Lauren Ari (accordion octopus songs), Salty Walt (sea chanteys), Temple Brady (contact juggling), CaroLuna (opera), Eric Glick Rieman (prepared electric piano), Xeno (dance and multimedia performance), Funkmobile (karaoke funk), George Demarest & Stephen Garth (jazz), and The Mad Piper (bagpipes). Evening Lounge set up an early version of Cleopatra's Barge; and the installations by Inspiration Island, Chocolate Gypsies Camp and Tiki Tom's Mini Golf were stand-out theme camps. Participating artists included Howard Cohen, members of the Temple of Joy, Supersnail, and Jacky Jack. We also screened Renea Roberts' film "Gifting It."

SF Decompression: The Heat The Street FaIRE!
On October 20th, some 6000 people converted Indiana Street, between Mariposa and 20th, Cafe Cocomo, and Esprit Park, into the best Street FaIRE! we have had to date. There were over 30 large scale art installations - many in the park; 40 theme camps; dozens of art vehicles, and hundreds of performers, poets, dancers and fire performers of every kind on four stages. And that was only what was scheduled or registered! The stars of Decompression were as much in the streets as on the stages and registered locations. It was absolutely humbling and inspiring to have brought that depth and breadth of creative expression to the streets of San Francisco! We would list the artists and theme camps, but there are just too many to try and there were more than even we can identify. Suffice it to say, it was indeed Blacktop City and the playa dust WAS in the air! (Thanks to Playa Dust Camp!)

In all, this was one of our most active years and the Flambé Lounge team grew in size and organizational capacity to bring new levels of audio/visual and artistic support to these events. We met our goal of bringing people together year-round to foster community and encourage preparation for the playa and collaboration here in our city. It was challenging financially and we spent more time than ever on producing these events, but it was well worth it in the ways that matter most. We all feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment at having produced such memorable events and brought together artists of every shape and discipline to celebrate our common values and to engage in the kind of self-expression that Burning Man is famous for inspiring. And so we sigh a deep breath of satisfaction, scratch behind our ears, and pull out our 2003 planners!

In 2003 we are planning more experimental kinds of events. Stay tuned and see the Flambé Lounge section of the website and the JRS for upcoming events. E-mail flambelounge (at) burningman (dot) com if you live in the San Francisco area and would like to volunteer as part of the team.

Submitted by,
$tephen Ra$pa

Click here to read the 2001 Special Events report.