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Burning Man 2010: Sculpture & Temple Photos + How To Watch It Burn Tonight

September 5, 2010

And though you may close this book forever and never read another word, wordless the world will come to you and reveal itself to you and there is no other proof that you exist but this, that you are beloved of the earth and the creatures around you, insects and stars are quietly… from “Listen” by Paul Squires

As I mentioned in my previous post, while some people think all Burning Man is about is the Burning of the Man (plus drugs and music and naked people), the Man will Burn without you.

Burning Man is not a spectator sport, but a participatory one–and it is much more about making and being part of art than it is drugs, music and nakedness. Watching the Man burn on Saturday night is not at all what Burning Man is about.

This is so important I’ll say it again: Burning Man is NOT a spectator sport; Burning Man is a participatory experiment in intentional, communal, artistic living.

For me, an important element is the inspiring and experiential artwork and living in a such an imaginative world. It’s not just about watching the Man burn but crying at the Temple and powering a zoetrope like the one in the header, and climbing towers like this year Minaret  as photographed by Jennifer V Baum.

I also love love love living in a City where everyone gets around by bicycle, artcar or foot! You see and experience and can participate spontaneously in so much more this way than in a car!

A friend of mine joined me out there one year (2000, I think). He rode up to my camp on a bike wearing shorts and a t-shirt and laughed at me as I struggled with the awning on my VW van; he was camped in his giant RV and he towed his Jeep so he could drive out on the playa and take photographs. Burning Man was more just a place to camp with a party going on and some artwork and naked women to photograph.

When he said he was going to leave, that he’d been there, seen that, and didn’t need to do the Burn, I told him to go ahead and go: he wasn’t going to get anything more out of it unless he let go of spectating and tried participating.

A few hours later, a guy in a great short black cocktail dress rode up on bike: it was my friend. He traded in his Silicon Valley clothes and engineer self and decided to give participating a try. We even convinced him he had to go commando–the “panty lines” just weren’t working. After participating in a few parades and other events, he started to get a glimmer of what Burning Man is about for many people.  He returned to the playa again this year, better prepared for what the playa had to offer and teach him.

This year, I wasn’t able to convene the forces of the universe necessary for me to go. I was okay with that until I received news my friend Paul Squires died, and then the next day my mom died. I needed to go, wanted to go, especially to spend time in the Temple.

If you’ve never been to Burning Man, the Temple is one of the most special artworks out there. People congregate in a reverential silence, punctuated at times by sobs, laughter, song. The Temple at Burning Man is one of the most spirit filled and spiritual places I have ever been (except for last year’s Temple which reminded me of being inside a disco inferno).

One of the rituals at the Temple is to write notes to the departed on the wooden boards there. Often, people craft glorious testimonies for their loved ones which go up in flames with the Temple on Sunday night of the Black Rock Arts Festival.

You can watch the Temple burn tonight and listen to BMIR (radio from BRC) by checking out these links: Live Feeds Direct From Burning Man, live webcast from Black Rock City 2010, live audio stream from BMIR 94.5, broadcasting from Center Camp.

Since I couldn’t attend Burning Man 2010, Burning Mom Lee Gilmore (author of Theater in a Crowded Fire which I plan to review SOON!) offered to bring something out there for me. Getting to her in LA was impossible to I emailed her the following about my mom and about Paul.

Listen. (from The Puzzle Box)
by Paul Squires aka GingaTao (11/19/63-7/28/10)

July 30, 2008 at 6:53 pm |

Paul Squires was a poet and curator of the website, a non-linear multidimensional text based on the relationship between sound, music and language. He lived in Brisbane, Australia and believes that life, like jazz, is an improvised artform. I knew Paul Squires through his emails and his poetry. We never met in person, but he was one of my closest friends & confidantes & supporters over the past two years. He always wanted to go to Burning Man. Now I know he’s here. Welcome to Burning Man, Paul. We love you & we miss you & we’re grateful to have you in our hearts. Thank you for all of your wonderful words & for your friendship. Love, art predator

I sent along Paul’s poem, “Listen.” Here’s how “Listen” by Paul Squires begins:

Listen. Not to me. On a cool, clear night like this the traffics are louder. They hurrr by like bundles of compressed air whirlywinding someone home. The old man next door has gone to bed. He coughs his awakeness and will soon snore his dream.

This is what I sent about my mom along with some photos of her:

Suzanne Lee Paquette Lawrence
August 12, 1937-July 30, 2010

A talented writer, charismatic performer, devoted historian, committed volunteer, and dedicated mother to her three children and seven grandchildren, Suzanne Lee Paquette Lawrence inspired her family, friends, colleagues, and community throughout her life with her actions, her intellect, and her quick wit.

Passionate about her research into the history of the Bible and of Ventura County, Suzanne enjoyed sharing what she learned through classes she taught and living history performances she gave.

Suzanne loved art, nasturtiums, and cats, especially her tabby Gracie, and a good heirloom tomato BLT.  She lives on in our hearts.

I wrote the above text for the program for the celebration of my mother’s life, held August 8, 2010, 10 days after she died, two days after we were to have lunch together to celebrate her birthday.

I started going to Burning Man in 1992, and I went back from 1995-2002, and again in 2005, 2007, and 2009; for a number of reasons, I am unable to attend this year.  In general, my mother wasn’t all that interested in Burning Man.  While she loved the desert and art and traveling to new places, she hated camping and dust and wind and heat and noise.  Burning Man was not for her.

Among her other attributes, my mother was a scholar of religion, and a practicing Christian Scientist. I realized soon after she passed away that finally my mom was going to go to Burning Man to see it for herself: to see the amazing art and to experience the Temple.

I know she is here in Black Rock City, hanging around the Temple. I know she’s been here for a while, watching as artists erected and came to inhabit Black Rock City and this Temple. I wish I could be here to grieve for her, and to grieve with my family, friends, my nephew who is here, you all who read this. Since I can’t get, I am grateful to know this place exists, and to the friend who brought this note here.

The following words were also on the program. If you are grieving, may they help you find solace also.
Sincerely, Gwendolyn Alley aka Art Predator

“Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver, from A New Path to the Waterfall

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

No man at all can be living forever, and we must be satisfied.
–J.M. Synge from Riders to the Sea

I also sent the text to these three poems I published here:

In closing, here’s a link to hear Paul Squires read “Listen” and below how “Listen” by Paul Squires ends:

And though you may close this book forever and never read another word, wordless the world will come to you and reveal itself to you and there is no other proof that you exist but this, that you are beloved of the earth and the creatures around you, insects and stars are quietly harmonising with your breath and the rhythm of the ocean enlivens us all, the moon’s voice is eternal and God whispers lullabies in breezes, rain storms, traffic and there beside you now, the ever present child drawing warmth from the murmur of your heart as it marks the patterns of joy, the echoes of pain, the wheel which never ceases to turn and touching you rolls on, it hurrrs as it turns slowly fading into just you, you alone, surrounded by and singing with the voice of God.

Thanks to Jennifer V Baum aka Absinthia for the beautiful photographs of Burning Man taken before the gates opened; I especially appreciate the use of the Temple photographs without which this post would not have the same impact and meaning for me.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2010 5:58 pm

    So touching Gwendolyn. I felt cold on the outside, eyes too warm, as I read this. It is a wonderful tribute to both Paul and your mum and testament to your kindness too. Thank you for posting this. I hope that you get to enjoy next year’s… I’m very envious of such a wonderful get together.

  2. September 6, 2010 9:33 pm

    Thank you Narnie. Maybe one day (2011?) Paul’s friends and online family from around the world will be able to gather at Burning Man’s Temple together in his honor…

  3. September 6, 2010 10:34 pm

    Beautiful! Thankyou Gwendolyn – now I understand what you are on about ;)

  4. Jenna permalink
    September 8, 2010 4:37 pm

    Beautiful, artpredator. I am glad I found your site and I am glad I read this post. This Burning Man was the first for me, and it has opened my eyes and begun to change my life for the better. The kindness and beauty at Burning Man floored me.

    When I go next year, I will be among those to honor your friend Paul.


  5. September 12, 2010 9:13 am

    Such a beautiful tribute to both Paul and your Mum, Gwendolyn. Sending you my love and respect. I hope that I can make it to Burning Man for a visit in 2011. xx

  6. September 12, 2010 9:58 pm

    Thanks, Brad. One day I hope to sit with you and Gabrielle both on the same continent at the same table and share a beer and toast our friend and talk about life and poetry and blogging…

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