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Burning Man at VC’s Diversity in Culture

April 11, 2018

As I scanned my mental files for folks who would add something amazing to Ventura College’s Diversity in Culture Festival April 11 and 12, in addition to Alice Bag, it should be no surprise that I’d think of women who go to Burning Man like:

  • Rasika Mathur, actor
  • Deniz Nicole, artist
  • Lynne Okun, artist

I know how attending Burning  Man affected me as an artist and writer and so I asked them via email a series of questions about how attending Burning Man influenced them as artists. Here are their answers.

RASIKA MATHUR: Main Stage 230pm Weds April 11

Rasika has been a comedian and writer since high school, and a storyteller and Toastmaster for four years. She attended Burning Man twice — in 2009 and 2013. In 2009 she participated in Center Camp’s Hip Hop Hour, performing the Sari (W)rap in a tattered outfit she made that unraveled during the show and so she just went with it: “It was in the most supportive environment for ending up completely natural!” In addition, she says “I was an MC for our friends from Canada, on their art project The Bleachers. I also got to tell the story of the Worry Dolls in the 2013 Decompression.”

When I asked how attending Burning Man influenced her art making, Rasika said, “I just had an experience where the work I did on the Bleachers came back to me as a vision of how I should be approaching my female comedy characters that I am writing: unafraid to say what’s on their minds.”
According to Rasika, the biggest influence that Burning Man has had on her life is “Playa Magic” —

“I have experienced quite a bit of magic on the Playa that came from the high vibrations and frequencies of all of us people gathered with common purpose. Story-worthy magic. I have actually now, after sharing those stories, been able to replicate this ability to manifest magic out in the default world.”

“Magic and Miracles are real,” says Rasika. “That’s also what I express in my award-winning story about the Thomas Fire, “Rising From The Ashes.””
Catch Rasika’s performance on Weds April 11 at 230pm on the Main Stage.

DENIZ NICOLE: Main Stage April 11 1:30pm
Deniz began attending Burning Man in 2015, and she’s attended every year since.
“Everything I have learned in order to become the artist I am today is self taught,” says Deniz. “I invented the technique of pyropainting out of a love of knowledge for science and physics, and understand enough about engineering to make an engineer crazy, and have a desire to move people to play and experience joy which i think is based in my roots as a ballerina.”
“Burning Man is the only reason I make art,” continues Deniz. “The experience gave me the opportunity to see myself for who I really was and left me with a set of tools in order to come back to this world and begin to make those line parallel and eventually merge.”
Deniz has brought her art installation “Carousel Candeo” to Burning Man in 2016 and 2017  as well as Burning Man inspired events like San Francisco Decompression 2017, Bequinox 2018, and Lucidity 2018.
For Deniz, the biggest influence that Burning Man has had on her life is The Ten Principles: “I truly believe Larry Harvey and his cohorts really looked at society and asked themselves how do we move forward. Instead of leaving it is just a philosophy they put into practice and now it is a living experiment on society 2.0. Those principles are what I foster and desire to bring back to the default world.”
Deniz’s installation will be up mid-morning Weds April 11 until Thursday at 430pm. Hear her speak on the Main Stage at 130p Weds April 11.

LYNNE OKUN: near Main Stage 12:30-330 both days

Lynne has a BS in design from UC Davis and she attended Parson’s School of Design in NYC. She first attended Burning Man in 2000 and has attended many years since: “I was lucky to attend before cameras were allowed (except by permission) and loved the confidentiality and freedom that inspired. I do have some pix from a later burn or two.”
After having a bike stolen which may have been by accident since her bike looked like a lot of red bikes, Lynne says she “decided to create a bike that definitely would not be easy to mistake as an art bike.   I collaborated with my friend Matt and designed a horse head (and tail,) a zebra head (“She-bra”)  and a Sacred Cow head (“She-Bull”). I have also spontaneously participated in artmaking– my first burn I was carried across the playa by men dressed only in red body paint. I think they were responding to my taking photos.”

For all of us, there are many amazing Burning Man Stories. Here’s one of Lynne’s: “A close friend and I had just had too much of the elements, were hungry, tired and just had a big “blow-out”/disagreement on the playa when a dust storm hit and we were out on our bikes heading towards “the man.” this was the first year that there was interactivity at the foot of the man… as we sought shelter in what looked like a cove, we found we were suddenly on display int a small theater/temple/alcove. We spontaneously became the “Shiva Diva” together and granted people’s wishes… anything from peace on earth to hot sex on the playa : )  Radical self-expression, participation and immediacy became real.”

Attending Burning Man has influenced Lynne in the sense that she feels “a lot freer/less inhibited as an artist.” She says that “I respond more to the moment both when I’m in the studio and when creating spontaneously in the world.  I’m more committed once I have an idea–I do it!  Also have now “embodied” art by taking on an “alter ego”–character shall remain nameless for now!”
When I asked her whether she had attended or participated in regionals or decompressions? or other festivals like Lucidity, she responded with an emphatic “YES!” In fact, she says, “I have even connected with French burners while travelling in Europe.  I love decoms for the small and intimate feel… UnScruz in Santa Cruz, and most recently went to Bequinox in Joshua Tree! My passion was reignited… just such a different form and feel to any other “festival” type of event.” Attending Burning Man had more influence in the early days, says Lynne: “My early burns by far had more of an influence than more recent burns, especially my first.  I felt a lot more free to be myself, moved to live by the Burning Man principles like immediacy, particpation, leave no trace, radical self-expression, radical inclusion.”

Finally, says Lynne, “there’s always more to be said about burning man! : 0”

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