burning man 1999
By last year, my third year at burning man, i was starting to feel that the festival was becoming too familiar, too ordinary. Even worse, i was starting to feel like a spectator. I found myself being critical of the same old installations and costumes, and the lack of interaction. Well, as the saying goes - if you don't like the art, go out and make some of your own...
This year Cassandra and i set up a theme camp, Viridian Camp, and brought an interactive art installation, which we usually referred to just as The Kiosk. Weeks were spent gathering ideas and working on the project. It was to be self-contained, touch-screen interactive, 3d, solar-powered, have an active element of time and an ecological theme. The theme didn't quite get finished, but the kiosk did get built, with the use of my father's tools, expertise and guilt-free re-used construction lumber. With $1500 in solar equipment, it had relatively guilt-free power as well.
First, there was the matter of taking 2 people, 2 bicycles, a large wooden kiosk, a tent, and enough food and water for 6 days in a car. This was simply beyond the ability of my humble Honda Civic, and friend Frederick generously offered the use of his Volvo station wagon. This car is huge inside. People that buy bloated SUVs should be quivering with shame - this car is just damn superior when it comes to moving stuff.
Speaking of impressive automobiles, this year we stopped in Reno, with a destination in mind: the National Auto Museum, known to contain the last remaining Dymaxion Car. They still won't let people see the inside, but it does exist (#2 out of only 3 ever built). After paying our respect and taking lots of photos, we fled Reno due to it's inhuman curse: no espresso anywhere.
Setting up on the playa came with the realization that this year was damn cold. On went all the warmest clothes we brought, in layers. Only a couple days, for a few hours each, were hot enough to hang out naked. The desert, freezing cold in late summer: more evidence of global climate instability?
The Kiosk assembles with a power screwdriver, which came in handy for assembling the shade structure as well. Here's a tip: if you don't have a drill bit for your power drill, a rough nail will do almost as well.
Our camp, with the kiosk charging in the sunshine - note snappy "Big Mike" Viridian banner (thanks to Bruce Sterling for his signage donation). We were joined by an East Coast Viridian named Eric, who arrived with only rice, beans, and a shade structure, and a few more friendly folks on the last two days.
The kiosk itself seemed to be popular - a steady flow of people walked up each night and said "wow" and "cool" - but a lot of people didn't seem to realize they could touch the touchscreen. As one woman said, "it looks like a TV, and i'm not used to touching my TV." Finally Eric put up a sign spelling it out - "TOUCH SCREEN", and the paradigm was breached more consistently.
Leaving at 3 A.M. on the night of the burn was expedient - no traffic - but painful to stay awake, especially after a couple of nights of dilated-pupil experiential absorption. The kiosk made it back in one piece, so it may appear again at an event near you. We might even finish the original concept! Maybe.
P.S. This year we got cute pictures taken by Supersnail. Thank you Julian!!
It appear that seven years later, another party followed in our footsteps: Google. "Google engineers are building software for unbranded kiosks at the pavilion where participants can zoom in to a virtual version of Burning Man..." See: Burning Man Earth