Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My participation at Burning Man 2012

After a few years of soaking up all the gifts and generosity of the Burning Man community, I felt like my cup was full, and I just had to contribute something back.  Of course, I had already participated by enthusiastically jumping into every experience: climbing up structures and sculptures, dancing with all my energy, wearing clothes I'd made and modified, hanging my fine art in the center camp, drawing caricatures and meeting and conversing with new people.  Since my second year, I was part of a theme camp.  First, we produced Babarist Babylon, a religious sect dedicated to the worship of the elephant Babar, from the childrens' books.  We had to have a theme and this rather random one filled in. 

And then in 2007, we debuted Cartoon Commune, which has run for six years.  The first year, we set up an art wall out of blackboards.  In later years, I brought out my little art-piece for our camp, the Shrine of the Cartoon Playa, a repurposed medicine cabinet with cartoon playa scenes drawn inside and colorfully decorated and adorned.

The annual Cartooning Workshop has been the main driver of our theme.  Attendees are invited to learn the basics of cartooning from myself, a professional cartoonist.  After these sessions, we play an improvisational art card game, called "10,000 Blank White Cards". 

Starting two years ago, I have hosted sessions of Laughter Yoga nearly every day during Burning Man.  I received my certification two years ago, and have had nothing but fun and improved health from this activity.  The peals of laughter emerging from our camp always draws a crowd, upwards of 50 people participating.

The "Blue Room" Comfort Concierge program was an idea I came up with, inspired by such projects as "Pimp your Pottie."  The bathrooms at Burning Man are a neglected aspect of the event, being the least fun and glamorous part of the experience.  We aimed to add just a little bit of humor, fun and convenience to the experience of visiting the port-a-pottie.  One of our camp members would set up a velvet rope in front of one of the port-a-potties and stand there in formal-wear.  When a burner approached, we would remove the rope, and open the door, quickly spraying the inside with air freshener, and then welcome the lucky participant inside.  When they were finished, we offered a basket of toiletries and necessities like hand cream, breath mints, lip balm, safety pins, etc.  While at first I was hesitant, thinking that I wouldn't want to stand in front of the port-a-potties for an hour, in fact I had great fun.  Standing humbly in a tuxedo, presenting this persona of the bathroom attendant was a form of performance art.  The smiles, laughs, and knowing nods of passers-by were a great reward, and it felt good pampering my fellow citizens and making a memory for them.

The French Quarter was an amazing theme camp where I had the best times of my burn this year.  As a daily coffee drinker, I would frequent their Cafe de la Fin du Monde each morning, and brought along art supplies.  I often draw caricatures of those I meet in line or anywhere I may be, and this Cafe provided shade, caffeine, and an endless supply of friendly and grateful subjects for me to draw.  I hope to do this again next year on a more formal basis.

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