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Burning Man Journal
All The News That's Fit To Burn: 2001 Summer Newsletter

The Seven Ages

Our theme in 2001 takes the form of an enormous board game. The object of this game is the attainment of wisdom. In order to achieve this goal, participants must pass through successive stages of life. The theme of our game is choice, striving, trial and transformation. Ranged outward from the center of our city on an axis called the Promenade, these Seven Ages will consist of the Cradle, the Playground, the Chapel, the Coliseum, the Temple of Wisdom, the Maze, and the Mausoleum. Participants will be issued passports to guide them on this journey. At each station, they'll be offered the opportunity to undergo a life experience. Lessons in life must be achieved. Hence, to progress toward their ultimate goal, participants must undertake actions. Assuming the characters of infant, child, lover, soldier, justice and pantaloon, they will encounter trials and initiations that will symbolically transform and test them. Upon successfully completing each of these activities, their passports will be stamped with the symbol that represents the role they have assumed. Each successive role requires more commitment and a more resourceful effort. Having completed six stages of this course (in any order), participants will be eligible to undergo a final initiation that will lead them inward and upward through the Temple of Wisdom. Below are listed the theme areas that will comprise The Seven Ages.

Symbol/Role Theme Place
The Infant First Things The Cradle
The Child Pure Play The Playground
The Lover Commitment The Chapel
The Soldier Struggle The Coliseum
Burning Man Enlightenment The Temple of Wisdom
The Justice Reflection & Decision The Maze
The Pantaloon Remembrance The Mausoleum

The Infant — First Things — The Cradle

First among our stations is the Cradle. Artists Deidre DeFranceaux and Jann Nunn will create this environment. Here participants will assume the character of the Infant. In order to fulfill this role, it must be understood that babies are not blobs that passively await the imprint of their maker. As any parent can reliably inform you, they are extremely enterprising beings. Their task in life is nothing less than the creation of the world. Cast in this role, inhabitants of the Cradle must learn certain first and fundamental lessons. They will discover the existence of an up and down, a side to side, a near and far, and a figure and field. Amid this blooming and buzzing confusion participants must find their way. A primal Mother will preside over the cradle. Participants will be invited to ascend to Her, utter their First Word, and receive the mark of the Infant as their official birth certificate.

The Child — Pure Play — The Playground

Surrounding the Cradle, participants will encounter an area known as the Playground. This stage of life will be devoted to the purest form of play: play without an object or an end, play that rejoices in itself and seeks no further. Within this region we will scatter art toys of every kind. We are also soliciting art works that evoke the unique perceptions and experiences of childhood. Causation is magical in the Playground. Objects and events loom vivid and larger than life. This is a place in which to house our first impressions of a greater world. By visiting a central Play Station located in the Playground, participants can stamp their passports with the mark of the Child. If you would like to submit a work that evokes the spirit or memory of childhood, please contact us.

The Lover — Commitment — The Chapel

The symbol of the Chapel is the Lover. The underlying theme of this stage of life concerns our need to recognize the reality of others. Participants will be asked to select partners with whom they are willing to share vows and exchange gifts. These vows need not be solemn and may involve any form of reciprocation. However, the gift you offer should be real — in some way tangible and heartfelt — and the oath you utter must actually oblige you to honor and fulfill a wish expressed by your partner. Both couples and groups may participate in these "marriage" ceremonies. When this ritual is completed, participants will be eligible to receive a wedding certificate, the mark of the Lover, as proof of their experience. "Quickie" wedding chapels, a hallowed tradition in the State of Nevada, may also be established as theme camps in Black Rock City and authorized to approve these unions. Wedding apparel of any kind will always be welcome in the Chapel, and a special wedding fashion show may be performed here during the event. Every year, also, a certain number of couples actually choose to be married at Burning Man, and we encourage them to consider the Chapel as a site for such ceremonies.

Participants in Burning Man '98 will recall the Chapel of the Burning Book, an imposing mosque-like structure composed from translucent plastic objects, such as hair-curlers and kitchenware. Artist Finley Fryer will re-install this architectonic sculpture as our Chapel. We are looking for volunteers who wish to help operate this station. We also invite artists to install individual works in the vicinity of the Chapel. These installations should in some way address the subject of love. Please contact: themeart (at) burningman (dot) com Groups who wish to create alternative "quickie" chapels within our city should apply as theme camps at: themecamps (at) burningman (dot) com

The Soldier — Struggle — The Coliseum

In contrast to the realm of pure play, the Coliseum will be an arena of competitive play. It is presided over by the figure of the Soldier. This stage relates to that period of life when we must measure our abilities against others in a public arena. In form, it will resemble a great coliseum surrounded by heroic artworks that celebrate the perennial human urge strive, to achieve and to prove ourselves. Artist Peri Pfeninger will design the perimeter of the Coliseum, and Clint Kaster will supply it with a sound and lighting system. Russell Wilcox, the originator of last year's Beaming Man, will create the floor of this temporary stadium. It will consist of crossing laser beams projected in a grid above the surface of the ground. We invite participants to organize contests and games that can be staged in this environment.

The Coliseum will also be the site of the Fauxlympic Games. This event will invert the normal rules of athletic competition. Participants will be invited to invent their own sport. Anyone sustaining a certain number of challenges will become a World Champion. Unlike conventional athletic events, which dictate a winner and loser, our contest will also allow athletes to continuously modify the form or the rules of their sport. Should you be defeated in your chosen event, it is permissible to reinvent it. Participants who sustain challenges will be awarded the mark of the Soldier. Groups that engage in any form of contest or athletic competition at the Coliseum may also have these results so certified by Fauxlympic officials. We are recruiting volunteers to serve as referees, schedulers, drug testers, and creators and awarders of special prizes. To help create, organize and preside over the Fauxlympics, please contact Rob Spence (aka Buttermaker) at: alt-games (at) burningman (dot) com. We are also seeking art works and installations that can be located in and around the grounds of the Coliseum. These should be cast in a heroic mold or in some way suggest either sport or the struggle to triumph over adversity. Please contact: themeart (at) burningman (dot) com.

Burning Man — Enlightenment — The Temple of Wisdom

The Temple of Wisdon
Illustration by Rod Garrett — 2001

The Burning Man is a symbol of our shared humanity and equally represents men and women. Standing near the mid-point of this life course, he forms a moral nexus, a crossroads, and a central intersecting point that unites our life's decisions. This year we have redesigned the platform that supports Burning Man. Mounted atop this platform and the central pylon that forms the tower of the Temple of Wisdom, the Man will rise 70 feet in the air. As in past years, every participant will have access to the deck that forms the base of this platform. However, access to the interior of the tower will only be granted to those who furnish proof that they have passed (in any order) through the six previous Ages of Man. Within the hidden depths of this looming edifice, they will undergo a final initiation that allows them to travel upward through the tower of the Temple to a chamber immediately beneath Burning Man.

Rod Garret is the designer of the Temple, and Russ Leslie, who in 2000 supervised the construction of our Central Camp Cafe, will be its builder. If you have construction skill and would like to assist Russ, please contact us. We are also looking for volunteers who wish to preside over the Temple's gateway and initiate those who enter into this sanctum. As in previous years, we also plan to install Tim Black's circle of computer controlled lights, known as Y2K, around the perimeter of the Man. If you would like to help him and his crew assemble and install this prodigious artwork, please contact us.

Justice — Reflection & Decision — The Maze

The era of a lifetime represented by the Maze lies somewhere in the area of middle age. It is intended to evoke that season of experience in which we reflect upon the consequence of our decisions. The Maze will be a place of genuine puzzlement. You may find it necessary to retrace your path from time to time, or carefully measure your footsteps as you progress through its corridors. At every turning you will confront a set of new and perplexing choices. Modeled on a work from former years, this large-scale complex of passageways, convoluted turnings and seemingly endless cul-de-sacs will lure participants into a world that appears to forever turn in on itself. Your goal is to ascend to a high pavilion located somewhere near the center of the Maze. Here a magistrate will officially certify your completion of this life phase by stamping your passport with the mark of the Justice.

The Maze will be designed and supervised by Tod Dworman and decorated and curated by Charles Trapolin. We are looking for artwork that can be featured here. These works should suggest the many snares, illusions and temptations that may lead us astray as we follow life's path. We are also seeking help from those who wish to assist in the construction and operation of the Maze. If you wish to help, please contact: maze (at) burningman (dot) com

"Etrance to the Maze" elevation study, The Maze 2001
by Todd Dworman and the Maze People

The Pantaloon — Remembrance — The Mausoleum

The Muasoleum.
Illustration by David Best — 2001

The Mausoleum forms a great repository; a solemn monument designed to house our memories of lives we've admired. It will be located at the end point of the Promenade that forms the central axis of our life span. Itself a large-scale funerary monument, it will also serve as both an archive and registry of past lives. Here participants will honor the careers of those who've gone before them — family members, friends, mentors, lovers, or actors upon the great stage of the world. These must be people who have actually influenced how you lead your life and whose example, admired and emulated, has guided your conduct. Our tribute to these heroes will be twofold. Participants must contribute some token or artifact that represents the life they wish to honor. In return, they will receive the stamp, as a memento mori, of the aged Pantaloon. Near the end of the Burning Man event, all of these accumulated memories will be cremated as the temple is burned.

David Best, the artist who designed the gateway to our Central Camp Cafe in 2000, will create the Mausoleum. If you have construction skills and would like to help him assemble this ambitious monument, please contact us. We also intend to line the lantern-lit approach to the Mausoleum with works of funerary art. These may take any form, but should be built as monuments or tributes to the dead.

Shakespeare & The Seven Ages

Our art theme in 1999, The Wheel of Time, contemplated time as a ritual cycle, a journey outward through the past and a return to the eternal present. Our theme in 2000, The Body, treated human identity in its most basic and primal form. The Seven Ages will tell a very different kind of story. It follows an intensely moral script. It is about life as a limited span, an experience with a beginning and a definite end. It is about decisions that we make and how these choices crucially affect who we are.

Flash reads at the Body of Knowledge by Dana albany & Micheal Hopkins.
Photo by Gabe Kerchheimer

The title of our art theme and many of its symbols are taken from a famous speech in Shakespeare's As You Like It. It is delivered by Jaques, a melancholic philosopher. These lines are notable amid the cannon of a writer unparalleled in the power of his negative imagery. Life, as imaged here, is a dark and unredeemable tale of folly, loss and dissolution. Our own Seven Ages is very much the opposite of Shakespeare's vision. We don't presume to improve on the Bard. Life can be nasty and depressing, as is amply demonstrated by this exquisite poetry. Nor do we wish to discourage participating artists from illustrating such bitter truths in their work. We do mean to suggest, however, that the meaning of one's life is an immediate result of one's actions. The following passage is quoted from Act II, Scene VII.

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and the entrances.
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, *
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon*
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
* pard: leopard
* pantaloon : The decrepit old man of Italian commedia dell'arte