Memories of BRC

Share your pictures and video. Tell us about the sights, sounds, and scents, as well as the rumors and truths found at Burning Man.
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quetzpalin
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Memories of BRC

Post by quetzpalin » Mon Apr 11, 2005 11:12 am

I’m writing a paper for grad school on the role of memory in the conception of place at Black Rock City. I would love to hear your favorite or strong memories, particularly those relating to the built environment. If you can, try to tell me why it sticks in your mind, and how it colors your thoughts and feelings about BRC now.

Thanks.

q

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Chai Guy
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Post by Chai Guy » Mon Apr 11, 2005 11:55 am

I never went to grad school, so forgive me, but what exactly does writing a paper on other people's subjective experiences prepare you for?

Janka
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Post by Janka » Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:11 pm

I think sometimes you can do valuable research from doing interviews on people, just ask them to tell about what something means to you, and trying to extract from those stories the "common elements", and the elements that make them different. Just because something is subjective does not mean it cannot be understood. Doing this kind of analyses prepares you to be able to compare, combine, and interpret stories and the experiences behind stories, to analyze what is common to a particular class of subjective experiences, in order to further humankind's self-awareness.

Well, it could do that, if done well. :)

(I am in grad school, or I suppose you'd say I am a post-grad student, if I was in the US, working for my PhD now, but I'm in medicine/statistics, so I hardly do that kind of stuff myself. But I have read such analyses and they are occasionally interesting.)

That said, I would like to point out that an electronic community is a very biased subset of the whole community, and if you really want to study the memories of Burning Man, you would probably need to go on the playa and do your interviews there. Otherwise it is too likely that you will miss some important class of memories simply because people who value certain things might be less likely to use a computer forum.

Also, you would get so much more out from this if you defined the question a bit. "Tell me your strong memories" is very general, even if you later specify that you are interested especialy in stuff related to the "built environment". I for one almost answered, but I am not certain what is meant by "built environment" here. Are installations part of that? Or just the infrastructure?

Do you have a supervisor or teacher who could help you by commenting on how you phrase the question and if ePlaya is an ok recruiting forum for your question?

(oops, teacher mode activated accidentally, turning it off again)

quetzpalin
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Post by quetzpalin » Mon Apr 11, 2005 11:48 pm

Interesting. I would never have guessed this response. I am not "writing a paper on other people's subjective experiences," I am simply trolling for perspectives that might make me think about the issues in a different way. Or maybe get a story that illustrates perfectly one of the ideas I am already exploring.

I am, of course, speaking to people. I am emailing, and calling, and reading many, many accounts published both on the web and in print. Throwing this question out here is just one of many ways in which I am attempting to understand people's memories.

But mainly I am utilizing the theoretical frameworks developed by thinkers trying to understand the conceptions and functions of urban environments, such as Edward Soja, Bachelard, Christine Boyer, Walter Benjamin, Baudrillard, Mike Davis, and the like, to analyze the ways in which memory influences the conceptions of BRC. In particular as it pertains to Halbwachs' idea of collective memory.

And by built environment, I mean everything within BRC. Even the expanse of the playa is built if it is within the trash fence because the fence gives it a specific meaning, making it conceptually 'built.'

Collective memory is not a living memory, but a constructed 'official' memory that ignores the real memories of the people. It pretends that a city is one-dimensional, that its true essence is that thing. Paris is the city of ights, and LA is Hollywood, and St, Petersburg is the Hermitage and Rio is the beaches of Rio.

One of the things that I am exploring is the conflict that arises when the fierce desire of the citizens of BRC to hold onto the subjective nature of the experience of citizenship comes up against both the drive to create a collective memory of BRC from the outside, such as in the media, etc. and the desire of us citizens to explain it to others, which necessarily simplifies and essentializes in ways that are similar to the task of creating a collective memory.

I am also interested in how the temporary nature of the city effects both the experience and memory. It seems to me that the fact that we know it will all be gone in a few days both makes us hyper-aware of the city itself in a way that we are not in our 'other' cities, and makes us aware that every experience is a potential memory, even as we are having the experience. So that it has the potential to make us simultaneously more in the moment and outside of ourselves.

Anyway, there are a number of other theoretical issues to be delved into, but I assume you get the idea. Any memories that situate you in the space of BRC, where the space itself is an integral part of the memory, would be greatly appreiated.

Thanks, q

Janka
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Post by Janka » Tue Apr 12, 2005 12:21 am

Sounds cool, thanks for the explanation and good luck with it. Sorry for having suspicions, but it is too often people post research questions on electronical forums without having a sound basis for the research. You might want to consider (in the future in similar situations) including a short paragraph describing your study, for the information of the skeptical-minded of us. ;)

I am hard-pressed to think of particular memories where built stuff would have a strong role. Of course, I remember cool things that were built - many of the art installations, many camps, etc - but somehow those don't feel like active memories. Here's couple, though. Last year was my first burn, so these are both from there.

On the day when the repeating white-outs got really quite too much for us, they got quite too much to many people in the neighbourhood, too. One of the guys around had a big canvas garage turned into living space as their shelter, and they invited a crowd from around there in for a "happy hour". We ended up sitting there for hours, drinking beer and weird liqours and eating candy, telling each other silly snippets of stories from our lives (what was the first pop concert you ever went to, which job have you had that you really hated, etc). Amateur tellers turn into very good ones when they want to, and the storm against the canvas of the "storm shelter" made an excellent background.

On one night, we were walking on the playa when we saw this installation consisting of rows lights in the form of a cube, that turned into different colors and went on and off, forming patterns inside the cube... kind of like a 3D screensaver. Sorry I cannot remember the name of the thing. I was hypnotized, and we stood quite a long time around the cube, and so did some other people. Occasionally someone would say something like "I don't think it has repeated yet", and others would say uh-huh, but mostly we just looked at it. There were jokes about the Cube Worshippers and about never being able to tell about it at home. And the playa stretched around us to seemingly infinity, and the cube patterns kept on changing, and it was just. Undescribable, I am afraid. :)

I hope these were something like what you were looking for? And I hope other people come up with other memories of "built stuff" :) And I also hope to read your thesis one day...

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Post by Guest » Tue Apr 12, 2005 1:53 am

Quetzpalin...

Hard to tell by your post if you've ever even been to the event you plan on using as your blah blah for your blah blah. A number of other theoretical issues aside, you should get yourself out there and write about your own memories. I know you'd get a much better response from talking to people face to face during that week than some eplaya babble.

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Post by Janka » Tue Apr 12, 2005 2:10 am

Yeah, I did the assumption you have been to the event, after seeing the last explanation (professional enough that I assume you do not try to write about BM without having been there). But if you haven't, please come. It would be fun, and it would help you ever so much in making sense of other people's experiences about it. :)

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Post by spectabillis » Tue Apr 12, 2005 3:02 am

quetzpalin wrote:Interesting. I would never have guessed this response...
Quetzpalin, I greatly appreciate the elaboration of your first post. I realize this may be prior to your experience on this board, but there were certain problems with requests for related information from others. Thier attempts struck many as insincere, relying on others to do thier work (incl. the press).

I think what you might initially see is some backlash so it would go a long way if you were to attend the event. The problem is, when being an observer you would probably miss the point of participation, and I think this would be an invaluable part of your research.

Personally, I enjoy your topic and area. If you do attend I would greatly appreciate posting your work because I think the feedback could be valuable.

quetzpalin
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Post by quetzpalin » Tue Apr 12, 2005 5:27 pm

spectabillis wrote:I realize this may be prior to your experience on this board, but there were certain problems with requests for related information from others.
I see, now it makes a bit more sense. You're right, I haven't been on this board much. I assumed, wrongly of course, that posts here would be treated as though I walked up to you on the playa and asked the same question.

From which you can infer that, yes, I have been. I will be there this year, but the paper will be done before then, so I won't have a chance to talk to people there. In some way, though, it seems more appropriate to ask about memories now, instead of then. In part for the obvious reason, but I also wouldn't necessarily want to fill someones head with these thoughts and issues while they are there. Better to process them off the playa, and think about them on the playa only if they want to, if that makes any sense...

spectabillis
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Post by spectabillis » Tue Apr 12, 2005 6:41 pm

quetzpalin wrote:I see, now it makes a bit more sense. You're right, I haven't been on this board much. I assumed, wrongly of course, that posts here would be treated as though I walked up to you on the playa and asked the same question.
This board can be a bit harsh at times to new members, one reason is people can vent frustrations without the social limitations of face-to-face interaction. Its much easier to complain about something or someone with the separation of the internet - there is less fear of repraisal or being stigmatized.

But its also the reason I appreciate your work because I feel it could provide some valuable insight. This board has gone through seveal stages, but the core beliefs and values run deep. I think the issue of new members being brought into an already established community would have made an interesting sub-topic, or its just something I have been putting thought into.

But this on-line community is very different from the physical couterpart of the playa.

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Post by BRC_Santa2003 » Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:27 pm

If I understand what you mean by 'built environment' correctly, then I would say the U-shaped rollercoaster at BM2004 was an experience that fell right into place with what I feel about BRC.

Please take into consideration that a considerable amount of tequila may have blurred some of my recollection...LOL.

A group from my camp wandered there to find a really long line waiting to ride. One of our group went to the guy that was tending the line and told him that he needed to let Santa Claus go to the head of the line. Yes - you can imagine his response, but when he turned around and saw ME, he waved me up front. He said that IF I could climb the steel ladder to the catwalk that I could go on the next ride. The tequila and I asked that if I made it to the top, could I dance in the cage with the GoGo Girls. With a strange look on his face, he said SURE. I may have approached the land speed records set in the Black Rock Desert between burns as I scaled the ladder. Once there I walked this narrow walkway to the cage and danced with the girl there, before going back down for my ride.

What makes this a special event for me?

I'm a 59 year old big guy that happens to really look like Santa, but was freely accepted into the festivities. This is a place where virtually anyone is accepted and included. The diversity of the people and their lifestyles just don't matter.

Hope that was what you were looking for.

VBS
VBSanta for a reason

Janka
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Post by Janka » Thu Apr 21, 2005 1:42 am

Santa, we saw you! You were very cool. Thanks. :)

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Petalford
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BRC Memories

Post by Petalford » Thu Jul 21, 2005 7:13 pm

I must say I am very intrigued with the discussion regarding this topic...

Burning Man 2004 was my second year for attendance and the most memorable so far, who knows what this year will bring...

There are two memories that still run in my mind that make me long to go home...

The first happened while visiting Center Camp. I believe it was Sunday, the day of the Temple Burn. I went to center camp with my flags (I spin flag/rifle/saber for Sr. drum corps) and decided I was going to cut loose and spin...if you will. I am somewhat introverted in social situations if not with a group of people I know, at least until I either get to know you, have a few tasty cocktails, or smoke a little herb...after that... well watch out! So I get there and I take a seat, sip some water and just take in the atmosphere, feel the beat of the music, catch the vibe. I'm chilling, getting into the music when a nice young man whom resembled Jesus sat down next to me, looked right in my eyes, and smiled at me. It was so genuine that I could not resist the immediate urge to talk to him. So I introduced myself and we ended up talking for a long while, it was amazing conversation. We partook in some greenery and just enjoyed the space. Then I thanked him and wished him a great burn, took a deep breath and went out into the center stage and just started spinning, and tossing, and it felt so freeing...and it as so much fun…it was an incredible experience.

The second memory is that of the Temple Burn. I have never felt so close to so many strangers at once. The citizens were so quiet, when looking around I could see many who were crying... I can still hear in my head the angelic sounds of the two young women who were gently humming beautiful songs. The burn was errggg.. I can't even describe it... I had my two best girlfriends at my side...it was really freaking moving...

Anyway... when I relive these memories, I swear I can smell playa dust... and I still get the same feelings (not as intense albeit) inside when I do

Good luck in your research and on your paper.
Playa road......, Take Me Home...to the place I belong......., Black Rock City....., in the Desert......take me home...., Playa Road.......

robotland
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Re: BRC Memories

Post by robotland » Fri Jul 22, 2005 5:27 am

Petalford wrote: I'm chilling, getting into the music when a nice young man whom resembled Jesus sat down next to me, looked right in my eyes, and smiled at me.
ANOTHER Jesus sighting! I met "Jesus", who was "from Israel", at Bruno's last year! If he's as real as so many people THINK he is, then I'd like to think he's hang in BRC.
Howdy From Kalamazoo

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