Sunday, September 30, 2007

Burning Man 2007: My Name is Tori and I am a Burner

Me & My Man, Burning Man 2007

I don't have a playa name. I haven't earned one yet. Out of 11 people in our camp, only 2 have names, the second earned and announced this year at the end. I tried one on for a minute at the gate for like 5 minutes this didn't work. That's not how it happens. You can't name yourself. It's ok. It'll happen when it's supposed to. Me and that dust aren't parting any time soon. Yeah, I'm going back next year. I can't wait a year plus the weeks I am counting.

Me & The Man before the Burn, Burning Man 2007

You know, it's weird, to finally call myself a burner. It took a random post, the approval of strangers and a comment by a respected friend and mayor on top of weeks of introspection to get to that point. "You are Ms. T." he said, and "Damn straight" he seconded on top of messages and numerous replies thanking me for my poignant conversation topic -- "Who or What is a Burner?" I've written more than once in recent weeks about my struggles with where my type of personality fits into the burner community overall, but I haven't been very public about my struggle with my ownership back here in the real world of who I am out there. Understandably, the first time I announced to the world on a week's notice that I was going, the immediate reactions made me doubt myself and expectations for the adventure ahead. It was hard to convince everyone that it was my thing when I wasn't even sure what it was. When I got out there, it was harder than anyone can tell you and I spent the first night in my tent after puking from the environment change and stress. I thought they were right and I tried to make the most of that week, and I took in the art and the adventure and I came back feeling like it was a growing but isolating and I placed a lot of conditions on what I wanted if I returned. I wasn't sure I'd go back but the longer and longer I was away from it, the more and I more I couldn't stop thinking about it and I just knew I had to try again with the growth of a couple of years under my belt.

Cheese! We Come in Pieces, Burning Man 2007

This time, I stepped out of the car strong, unapologetic and ready. I have done a lot of work on myself since last time I was out there, and I am more aware of who I am and was open to what the playa had to give to me this time without being so afraid. I sprung into action, built camp, stayed when needed and went about life like it was here. Except I was reheating my famous chili on a propane stove instead of an electric one. I was enthusiastic about our camp, I brought the mailbox and I painted the old nasty patio table I had with the coolest krylon paint to make it all funky and then donated it to the life of the camp. I realize now I didn't have to really be engaged with the camp in terms of night life or social interaction to feel the safety and comfort of having my "family" there if I needed them. My friends back here in the default world hadn't had much of a chance to comment on Burning Man since if you don't work with me or find me online, I've been absent since June. It's also just too hard to explain and you tire of defining how it is not a sex fest or a hippie fest or a drug fest but all of those things are there. It's just any old city like this one with a little bit more of a cooperative utopian value to build on and you get to cheer when big things burn, unlike here in the real world when fire is usually a bad thing. Those in my life that did hear about it in the months before were more supportive this time but I was still partially unaware and completely unable to describe the connection that was forming between me and the dusty world beyond. My living room swelled with stuff that I realized later I never needed or wanted and will now live in a costume box for the next 50 years of my life and I packed it all and headed out to build a temporary life for myself away from the crazy things that go on here. I learned a lot about what I need out there, and how "next time I'll get this down". I awed at a friend's set-up at another camp and he said that we are building infrastructure and I laughed. From where we were 2 years ago when I was showering in the dish pan, yeah, we've built a bit. I need to keep that in mind, it's a rolling investment, a hobby, and a lifestyle. I will probably have these coolers, tubs and costumes for 10 years and I am sure my collection of comfort items will grow.


I can already see my shopping list for this year, and we are already brainstorming new camp names, concepts, volunteer opportunities and drive in dates. If I have to work the whole week that I am out there next time, I will. We already have 3 art projects for placement (1 returning and 2 new) and I am already trying to figure out what I am going to do as a solo project. This is actually going to be my biggest personal goal this year on top of the getting involved and building a solid theme camp building a future positive reputation on the playa. It is really important to the part of me that is an artist that I really recognize what the guys accomplished this year and how successful they were. People loved their idea and it's hard in a city of 47,000 people to not impress someone. I mean, I've always gotten generally positive feedback on my art, so why not finally just dive in and think big. Like 20 feet by 20 feet by 20 feet big or bigger. Like not painting like building. What does the American Dream mean to me and how does that inspire me? Watch for news, I'm sure you'll hear plenty. But next year, you can bet I'll drive in early, I'll be at that gate all week, I'll work for the Bureau of Erotic Discourse (BED) and spread the word of respect and appreciation as well as make sure that my camp contributes to the overall growth and betterment of the community. I can't sit back here in the default world another year while my community is changing and I have no control. If I want my world to be what I want and need it to be in 2009, that means in 2008, I need to take action.


Right now, my eyes are on Decompression and establishing myself as a strong and vibrant member of the local burner community. I want to meet the people to help guide me to making the most positive impact I can on this community that I am no longer afraid to say that I am more than a member of, but an instigator of. There is nothing wrong with being a burner, and there is nothing wrong with being the type of burner I am. Every world needs all types, even the crazy guys that do insane things that other idiots praise as art but in the end might just have woken everyone up again. For the record, I hate that fucker and I wish we could all beat him for his idiot publicity stunt. That said, I think it's really going to make for an incredibly facsinating pendulum swing next year and I am going to be one of the ones pushing it as hard as I can towards the good side of things.

Post rainstorm, Burning Man 2007

The man burns in 335 days.


Unknown said...

Thank you for posting your Black Rock City journeys of experience and of the soul. I am an 8 time (is it 9 if the man burned twice this year?) Burner. I wasn't sure I was going back this year after being so jaded by last year. It has been hard to watch Black Rock City become the animal it is today. Burning Man is many things to many people.
Thanks also for the pictures, I have enjoyed seeing the city from your point of view. I hope you enjoyed my pictures (on Flickr). I also live in Santa Cruz so its interesting seeing your comments on the area.
Thanks for the posts!

Unknown said...

Upon looking further back in your blog, I came upon a photo you took at the 2005 Burning Man of a naked guy wearing a tall furry hat. You commented that you broke the rule about asking to take pictures of naked people (although you polled the people standing by you on the street apparently). Then you posted this picture you took without permission online and are quite proud of the number of Flickr hits it has gotten you. Did you even think for a minute that this guy doesn't want to be famous online? Or how selfish it was of you to do that? The very things you purport to have found at Burning Man, the sense of community, of family, of trust: these things are based on people respecting each others limits and allowing an environment where people can be someone they might not be in the "default world." Your attitude that "if he's out there then he won't mind" is rationalization on a level I can't quite comprehend. You did something you KNEW you weren't supposed to do. Your selfish act of posting that picture taken knowingly without permission, completely destroys everything you supposedly love. I hope you enjoy your Flickr fame. Too bad you have to resort to such measures to achieve it.

Tori said...

And I think your commenting about my intentions and my issues with that picture, which I have written about in my real blogs, not just my photo blogs, about a dozen times. I have a relationship with that picture and it stands for my struggles with the community. But thank you for being so quick to judge my values based on a few lines in a photo blog.

Tori said...

Actually, thinking for a moment, YOUR attitude is exactly the issue I have with the community. Rather than discussing with me the issues you have, you lecture and attack. Perhaps YOU should stop being so elitest and converse with people about the community. Ridiculous. Frankly, I'm sick of it.

Unknown said...

By creating this blog you have put yourself out in the open for analysis and judgment. My intent is not to attack. Actions speak louder than words. You did something you knew was wrong. It violates the rules that make Burning Man a place where all can express themselves. In your post with that picture in this blog you write:
"See, taking this picture was such an adventure. It was one of my coolest sightings over all in Black Rock City, but taking the picture broke the "asking" rule. I asked someone else observing him with me what they thought, and they assumed like me, that he had put himself in that position and couldn't be asked. Since then, I periodically get news that this image got attention, but it has now persisted as the most popular image in my collection and is certainly one of my personal faves!"
And you make a point of stating that it is your most favorited and viewed photo on Flickr. Don't take umbrage with me for pointing out your flagrant violation. I am not angry with you personally. Your posting of that photo, while it may embody some personal struggle for you, is not about you. It is about that naked guy and his freedom and comfort to express himself. While this blog is non-profit, your action is no different than if Girls Gone Wild had caught you out in the open in the buff and posted a picture of you without permission for all to see. It is objectifying and dehumanizing. Artists always ask.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tori,

Thanks for taking the time to let us see inside your head!

My name is Dore, and I'm a burner too!

See you on the playa
Tiki Fuckos 8:30 & A