Sunday, September 6, 2009

Radical self realization

We’re safely back from our trip to Burning Man… The place is almost indescribable… It was the most harshest environment I have ever put myself in. It was like a fantasy meet nightmare in my dream, parallel universe, sensory overload… Now I am back at my home looking at all the photos, I miss it there in a very weird sentimental way. I try to trace back our experience via photos. I uploaded some more photos here and am planning to get to the videos in a week or so. After driving for 2 days, we got closer and closer to the site. Cars and RVs usually hauling multiple bicycles on the back have merged from all different freeways. It was the first experience of feeling the sense of community.

By the time we found the camp, the car was covered with the sand. The smell of alkali from the sand gets to your senses.
Soon after we got to our camp, it was time to help out and build our base camp.

Having to build the dorm in the sand storm with a gusty wind pretty much took my “needs to be clean" out of the system. Wear goggle, cover your mouth.

The empty desert becomes Black Rock City, the 3rd largest city of Nevada after Las Vegas and Reno for these 8 days with the population of 40,000-50,000. It has its own street system, post office, recycling center… and everything imaginable that makes city habitable. Just no money. Everything works in trading or just plane sharing like good old days.

This street sign was pretty close to where we lived. The street system totally makes sense when you stay there for a few days.

The length of all street combined is 44 miles and we definitely need this for transportation. (cars are not allowed unless it is transformed into a Mutant Vehicle)

Man made of wooden structure. Each year they redesign the Man. Last year was 84 ft. I wonder how tall this year’s Man was. It stands peacefully with an octopus kite flying over.

The playa can get a white out often in the mid-afternoon. We could sort of see the white wall coming toward us but once we get caught in the sand storm, it almost becomes impossible to navigate ourselves. Wear goggles and mask and just wait… I was so happy to have bought a water proof housing for my camera. Shot like this will be impossible to take without one (or the camera will just break afterward because of the sand). You can see the man standing tall in the storm.

I have a few of these very dream photos I absolutely love.

As we took our sunset bicycle ride through Playa, we found ourselves at Bunny Party.

Best time to be outside… right at the sunset. Temple will be burned on Sunday (tonight) after the Man is burned on Saturday (last night).

Day shifts to the night. The quiet moment before the chaos.

Every night I went to sleep listening to music blasting and people screaming from multiple directions… and woke up to crazy mutant vehicles cruising by our tent blasting electronic music as sun comes up… Surprisingly, I didn’t mind it much.

This would be me in the survival mode. I felt really swollen from high elevation and got a few shades darker even with all the sunscreen I have put on. No access to running water made my hair to be a big chunky carpet and pores on the skin totally clogged up with dust and sunscreen (still recovering from that). The air was so dry that everything dehydrated literally in front of my eyes. I consumed about a gallon of water each day for drinking. Despite all that, I felt empowered.

Metal butterfly sculpture. - little more than 20 feet. People are allowed to climb on a lot of the art installation.

Silhouette of a tree… actually made of skulls and bones from the desert.

All the details in the face was placed further behind the frame. We had to look from the right angle to make a sense out of the whole picture.

A lot of the artwork is lit up at night and shows a totally different face to the crowd. I think I have a lot of night shots on the video.

A day before we left, I took a long walk in the mid-day. After few hours and few bottles of water walking through the sand storm alone looking for interesting things to capture on my camera, I found myself under the Man. It’s in the dead center of the playa and I was there for few hours just observing people who gather under the structure in whatever the outfit they are in (or not) and write their thoughts on the wood to mark their presence on the monument only to be burned in a few days… When people realized it was my first time being at Burning Man, they all greeted me with the phrase of “welcome home". It really made me wonder why people go there religiously every year and why the heck I was there in the middle of it… Now thinking back the experience, we came to sum up the experience as “radical self realization". For some people it is to wear costumes that satisfies their ultra ego; for others it is to create an art installation that has no boundary of criticism and judgment. The nature pushed us to the edge with such a discomfort that we started to realize our very primitive needs that are almost invisible when we live in a society which evolves around convenience and consumption.
For me, I am still in the process of “radical self realization" as I decompress and recover from the extreme 5 days experience in the middle of the desert. After all, I vaguely remember scribbling, “Find myself" on the Man…, which should be already burned with all the other thoughts and wishes and became one gigantic flame last night.


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