“it’s so empty it’s full”
- by Kevin Evans
Labor Day weekend, 1989. I, with my roommates Miss P., Dawn & a mutual friend Cindy attended a wind sculpture event in the Black Rock desert sponsored by Planet X pottery in Gerlach Nevada. We hauled a lightweight mobile canopy bed (our sculpture) on top of a tiny sedan out to this remote, inhospitable area. The surreal local combined with mobile sculptures was both incredible and inspiring. That weekend was one that had a great & lasting impact on my life. I never wanted to leave. The desert attracted & stirred me, & I knew I had to go back.
Dawn once said “it’s so empty itâ€™s full”.
When I returned to the Bay Area & started my final year in art school, I rallied a few friends & schoolmates around the idea of planning a Labor Day weekend trip to the Black Rock desert. I had been reading Hakim Beyâ€™s â€œTemporary Autonomous Zoneâ€ & his ideas struck a chord. At that time I was into the youthful notion of destroying parts (if not all) of my artwork as a meditation on impermanence & the importance of flexibility. These concepts fused into a plan of generating a â€œcreative incidentâ€ in the Black Rock desert with a central theme, the ritual destruction & immolation of both structures & artwork (a lager manifestation of the â€œmeditation on impermanence & the importance of flexibilityâ€). For an impoverished, young & naive art student, this vision seemed far too grand & expensive to accomplish alone. I decided to present the scheme to my good friend John Law (whom I had met through my involvement in The San Francisco Cacophony Society) and that was when the idea for â€œZone trip 4, Bad day at Black Rockâ€ was officially hatched as a cacophony event. I approached this individual because I sincerely considered he was (& is) person of great veracity & he would respect and lend a hand in my somewhat delusional concept. I was correct in my impulse & the event was to happen. Along the way, a few months from the target date of the Zone trip, I attended the Baker beach burn of the Burning man. Fortunately, (via the intervention of both the San Francisco police & fire departments) the monolithic figurine was not razed. Amidst chants of “burn it anyway!” and pagan-like drumming, a few of us cacophonist including Miss P. & Dawn thought it would be a great idea to invite Larry & his man along for our strange ride out to the Black Rock. If anything, he had the biggest, most expensive & elaborate piece of firewood that would make a glorious conflagration. It was a magnificent, awe-inspiring weekend. I would return and participate for the next 4 years, 1995 being my last year. (In all, 6 years every Labor day)
The event morphed from a Cacophony event into Burning man. In my opinion, it eventually got too big, supercilious & aloof. It had lost its soul (For me at least) & I felt a profound need to no longer contribute or attend. A year later, after the disastrous 1996 event, John and a few other key participants would renounce. In following years, other members of â€œthe old guardâ€ would trickle away for (I believe) similar reasons. This is not to diminish the importance of what others have contributed & experienced in the years since. The event is what one makes of it & I know countless have had their own, life changing occurrences in that desert. Since 1996 Iâ€™ve silently watched in admiration as numerous fresh & astonishing examples of creativity debut on the playa. Iâ€™m delighted to know that so many have had that same â€œfeelingâ€ I did Labor Day weekend so long ago.
This is severely circumcised history of my experience, but I feel I needed to regurgitate further the early conception of that desert “art” festival. A more concise history may be found in Brian Doherty’s “This is Burning Man”.