Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The visit to Fly Ranch aka Burning Man 2.0

Fly Ranch is the next step in the grand experiment that is Burning Man.
This is not a drill.

I'm not even sure quite where to begin, when it comes to Fly Ranch. And I definitely don't want to repeat information you could easily find/read elsewhere, either about the Fly Geyser on Wikipedia itself or about how Burning Man bought Fly Ranch at their blog.

So let me start with my own visit to Fly Ranch during this year's Burn.

It was only a 10-15 minute drive from Black Rock City, once we hit pavement again. This was the first time I'd been in a vehicle since arriving on Playa several days before. It was still sinking in that I had been invited to visit this blank slate for Burning Man. I snapped myself out of it, while getting to know a Burner from San Diego who was sitting next to me.

Before I know it, we've arrived and we're off the road again, passing through a gate and pulling up to a little dirt road cul-de-sac, barely large enough for the van we'd been riding in to turn around and leave on the dirt road we'd road in on. We get out and are immediately directed to Fly Geyser and the viewing platform.

The last time I'd seen something like this was years ago, on a family trip to Yellowstone. Except this wasn't a natural formation, as the geyser was a happy accident which came about from well drilling in the 60's. I won't waste any more time about that, as you can read more at Wikipedia.

And as we head to the viewing platform, to get a closer look at the geyser, we can see a dust storm passing over Black Rock City in the distance. This was Tuesday afternoon.

The stunning and immediate (and I suppose obvious) contrast to Black Rock Desert, is the simple presence of water. This provides a fundamentally different landscape and experience, which really sunk in (no pun intended), as we made our way to one of the few swimmable hot springs.

And yes...we swam.

Water...being submerged in a body of it...after four years attending Burning Man...was glorious.

And all this time, the only thing we had been asked to do at the time was to experience Fly Ranch. To feel it. To take it in. To simply be. The questions, the conversations would come shortly.

After spending some time in the pool in the photo above, I emerged and made my way to the other pool, the one which the geyser's water flowed to. And the whole time, it's slowly marinating what a different relationship to water one has here.

In Black Rock City, the only water there is that which is brought in. Gray Water Disposal is something that every camp and Burner should have a plan for. And whatever that plan or those resources are, they need only last one week (except for those who are there before and after the event.

So at the basis of ANYTHING that happens at Fly Ranch, the very first question that came to my mind is what is our relationship with water here and what does that look like fifty-two weeks a year? What does Leaving No Trace, one of the 10 Principles, look like year-round?

Not questions I have answers to. And I look forward to seeing what options and possibilities those who know more and have experience in such matters bring to the table over the upcoming years.

What did I bring to the table? Re-imaginging what an artist residency might look like here. Why re-imagine? Because another fundamental question that came up, to inform many other questions, was how activities/projects/etc. could be uniquely informed in a way where the work could ONLY happen at Fly Ranch. Otherwise, why have an artist residency or any retreat, gathering, meeting, event there rather than anywhere else.

Sorry...I'm still trying to process that myself, and a friend who was instrumental in coordinating the visits definitely said it better.

However, as it relates to an artist residency, the fundamental question is how does the land and the relationship to the land, not even as inspiration but merely existence, then inform the work done there. And for me that speaks to a residency that might be more a reflection and refinement of process rather than the creation and production of actual work.

There were other suggestions for activities and projects, ideas about modular infrastructure and truly sustainable resource utilization that I won't try to paraphrase as they belong to others.

But as our trip wrapped up, and we finished drying off to prepare to head back into the dust, it was reiterated that this was still the very beginning of the conversation. And everyone is invited. Literally.

If you haven't signed up to participate, on the Fly Ranch website, and you want to join the discussion, do it. Because even the founders have made it clear, whatever happens here has not been done before.

So don't think about a Burn when you think about Fly Ranch. Because there are certain elements of the Burn that only work because it happens in this confined period of time. But think about the Ten Principles, think about what makes Fly Ranch different from Black Rock Desert, and think about your own regional community, when thinking about what a year-round presence could/should/would be.

P.S. There were a couple of follow-up conversations during the Burn, at Red Lightning, one of which I attended. I will be writing about that shortly, as well, so stay tuned.
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