Words and shots: Greg Gillowey aka Braai Bliksem
It’s 3am, and I am standing in a metal cage somewhere on a dry lake bed in Black Rock City, Nevada. Dusty, spent, broken, and ready for more. Did I mention the cage was getting struck by lightening? Yip, from a Tesla coil, to a soundtrack of seriously macabre circus music. This was Burning Man 2015 – The Carnival of Mirrors and I had the ticket to ride (thanks Dox, love ya). Come find me at Rust ‘n Dust and I will tell you the rest of that story, but for now it lies spread out over the dusty highway, somewhere near Barstow, on the edge of the desert. There may have been bats.
What is important right now, what matters, is the story of how I got there. The massive red Cadillac convertible that is the “Hey You, Burner! “ Lakes of Fire – Art Exchange Programme. Wow, that’s a mouthful, but it’s worth every bite.
It all started innocently enough with a post in the AfrikaBurn newsletter. Do you want to go to the Lakes of Fire regional burn in the USA? Do you have an art project? Oh yes and hell yes! Listen to the voices, they know things. Fast forward three weeks, the mail hits my inbox and BAM! What started out as not much more than a fart in the wind had transmogrified into a visa, a plane ticket, an art budget, a future invite to Burning Man, a workshop and an RV in Chicago, USA (side note: Mid-West hospitality is a real thing).
When the Universe says “Be careful what you ask for…” she means it, and bless her Seuss-striped cotton socks for that. Adopting a wide open mindset with little or no expectation can result in some of the best, craziest times you never knew you could have (just ask Duncan, exchange burner 2014 and a tough act to follow). Breweries, blacksmiths, knife-making, The West Loop Craft Beer festival, Green Str BBQ, SGC Geek Night, Randolph Street Music Fest, the World Naked Bike RIde (and afterparty, ouch), and a Jeremy Loops concert at Lincoln Hall… And that was just the few days before Lakes of Fire.
Then with my artwork (Intsy Spider from AB 2011) reincarnated as a Fabulous Contraption, the theme for Lakes 2015, we loaded up and headed out for Lucky Lake. Summertime Michigan is one of the greenest places I have ever seen. I swear if you drop your cellphone, it grows roots. Coming from our dusty patch of dust in the Karoo, this place took a bit of getting used to. Big green trees, lots of shade, soft grass, warm clear water and being able to actually hit in a tent peg. These all made for a surreal start to things.
Burning in harsh environments hits you like a slap in the face the second you get out of the car, but this Burn starts slow, almost undercover and then builds, and builds, and just keeps on building, until three days later you find yourself staring back from the dark side of the lake at a thousand lights reflected in the liquid playa, poofers sending fireballs 40ft in the air, and listening to the collective off-beat hum of all too familiar bass. We’re at a BURN, BABY!
As if burning around a lake isn’t awesome enough, toss in a fire-garden, some of the craziest, interactive art and camps you can imagine, and every kind of delicious tasty treat you could possibly wanna smash in ya face. If you leave this place hungry, thirsty or uninspired, it is no-one fault but your own.
You will freak-easy, you will question reality, you will drink epic craft beer, you may even fall in love, you will have your eyes opened, again and again, and you will absolutely burn shit, guaranteed. You will also meet some of the most incredible people on the planet. Synners, savages and Secret Gentlemen, you know who you are, love you guys. You are the glue holding some of my best memories together.
So again, Hey You, Burner! I’m talking to you… If you have read this far and have a creative bone or three in your body, go and sign up for this exchange programme now. Don’t half-ass it either, trust me, you want this. You will carry the collective spirit of Tankwa Town with you so make it count.
And lastly, to the purple-bearded zip-lining art-prophet of global burner culture. Who knew where lending a drill and a few fire-side chats could lead. Thanks for being the spark that ignited this fire. You fucking rock! See ya in the dust my friend…
Interested in applying for the Hey, You! Burner Exchange? Applications close April 8th – head right this way.
Read up about Pumpkin Darkling’s Lakes of Fire 2014 exchange experience here.