03 June 2009

Kevin Evan's Flickr Album: Burning Man 1990-1995

"Zone Trip #4, Bad day at Black Rock” & Beyond. 1990 to 1995 from Kevin Evan's Flickr Album. He writes:

History on Laughing Squid.

An evolving photo archive I’ve started of the first year and the following 4 years of Burning Man in the Black rock desert. A time when the event was both serene and surreal.

Special thanks to Sebastian Hyde for contributing some of his photos to this collection.

“It’s so empty, it’s full” - Bringing Burning Man into the Black Rock

Labor Day weekend, 1989. I, with my roommates P Segal., Dawn Stott and a mutual friend, Cynthia Kolnick, 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 locale combined with mobile sculptures was both incredible and inspiring. That weekend was one that had a great and lasting impact on my life. I never wanted to leave. The desert attracted and stirred me; I knew I had to go back.

When I returned to the Bay Area and started my final year in art school, I rallied a few friends and schoolmates around the idea of planning a Labor Day weekend trip to the Black Rock desert. I had been reading Hakim Bey’s “Temporary Autonomous Zone” and 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 and the importance of flexibility. These concepts fused into a plan of generating a “creative incident” in the Black Rock desert with a central theme- the ritual destruction and immolation of both structures and artwork. It was a larger manifestation of the “meditation on impermanence and the importance of flexibility” concept. For an impoverished, young, and naive art student, this vision seemed far too grand and 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 “Zone Trip #4, Bad day at Black Rock” was officially hatched as a cacophony event. I approached this individual because I sincerely considered he was (and is) person of great veracity and he would respect and lend a hand in my somewhat delusional, far fetched, concept. I was correct in my impulse and 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 and 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. and Dawn thought it would be a great idea to invite Larry and his man along for our strange return to the Black Rock. If anything, he had the biggest, most expensive, and elaborate piece of firewood and it would make a glorious conflagration. It turned out to be 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, and in some ways aloof. It had lost its soul (for me at least) and 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 “the old guard” would trickle away for (I believe) similar reasons. This is not to diminish the importance of what others have contributed and experienced in the years since. The event is what one makes of it and I know countless have had their own, life changing, occurrences in that desert. Since 1996 I’ve silently watched in admiration as numerous fresh and astonishing examples of creativity debut on the playa. I’m delighted to know that so many have had that same “feeling” I did Labor Day weekend so long ago.

A more concise history may be found in Brian Doherty’s “This is Burning Man”.

-Kevin Evans


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