Towards a happy Burning Man experience for the artists of BRC.

The Eye, Architect of Disorient
January 2006

Every year I witness joy and disappointments around me by fellow Black Rock City artists involved in a broad spectrum of art activities including theme camps, performances, in-camp projects, Playa sculptures and installations. Although the amount of joy eventually exceeds the amount of disappointment most BRC artists who come up with ambitious projects to build/animate/perform on the Playa are often overreaching.

Recurrent mistakes include overestimation of time, resources and ability to work on the Playa. Another mistake related to overestimation is the belief that everything is possible. It is a beautiful idea and certainly one that is entertained by many of us pre-Playa but it can be rudely misleading when time comes to actually transform your idea into reality. Things go wrong for BM art projects sometimes even before they reach the Playa. On the Playa, more things go wrong and it is a well-known fact that it takes (much) longer to get things done in that harsh context than it does in the comfort of our daily live/work environment.

My recommendation to make yourself a happy BRC artist is to work on only one manageable project per year. And no, this is not a lack of ambition. The sheer fact of doing a project at Burning Man is in itself an ambitious endeavor. If you like challenges, spend this year learning or re-learning how to make your one art project actually exist for several days on the Playa. You can always "go big" next year.

Here is a short list of things and thoughts that I recommend you bring along with you for your journey into desert art.

1.1 Make a list of all the things that you would like to do in brc:
explore the city, chill, sleep, dance, etc.
1.2 List how much time you want to spend on each of those activities.
1.3 Calculate how much time you have left (you should have a lot of time left).
1.4 Take this number and divide it by three.
1.5 The result is the amount of time that you can spend on your project on-playa.

2.1 Make a list of all the art projects that you would like to accomplish by yourself.
2.2 Be aware of nesting: some projects can be part of bigger projects (plug-ins) but they are your personal contribution to those bigger projects.
2.3 Your project--even if it's a plug-in--should be stand-alone and thrive even if the bigger project(s) around it does not happen.
2.4 Great ideas are not uncommon. Thinking-up the idea is the easy part. Making it a reality is more fulfilling, inspiring and demanding.

3.1 Take a look at the artists you admire on the playa: Hedley Davis, Leo Villareal, Michael Christian, Reverend Billy, David Best...
3.2 How many playa projects do they do per year?
3.3 One.
3.4 Boldness is not undertaking many projects and not completing any.
3.5 Boldness is making one simple project happen as best as it can be.
3.6 Choose one project from your list of ideas.
3.7 Focus on making this one project happen this year.
3.8 Remember you cannot do two projects well.
3.9 You cannot be part of two projects because you want to make the best possible project.
3.10 Working on only one project allows you to be more focussed and make something beautiful.
3.11 Make it the best that it can be.
3.12 Find your niche.
3.13 What can you contribute that will be meaningful to BRC?
3.14 Will it make BRC a better place?
3.15 Focus on making this one project happen this year.

4.1 Do not overdo it.
4.2 Make sure you can build your project by yourself.
4.3 Make sure you can manage your project by yourself.
4.4 Do not lie to yourself by making your apparently single project a collection of several mini-projects.
4.5 There are many tasks in one project but there should be only one project in your project.
4.6 Set achievable goals for yourself based on your available time to work on this project pre-playa and on-playa.
4.7 Do what you say you're going to do.
4.8 If you don't you're not going to make your project as great as it can be.
4.9 Don't overestimate your time, knowledge, dedication, will, ideas.
4.10 It is ok to have bad ideas.
4.11 It is less ok to select an idea--even a good one--that makes you miserable.

5.1 Do not count on other people to help you.
5.2 Don't ask other people for help unless they've offered to help first.
5.3 You should set out to do something on your own, this will give you the most satisfaction.
5.4 Friends and neighbors will offer their help once they understand your dedication and witness your idea become a reality. This means that you need to start building by yourself. It also means that you need to communicate about what you are doing if you want others to help you. Building your project and communicating this process well will get you more help than the presentation of an idea.
5.5 See your project as your contribution to the whole.
5.6 Situate your contribution in BRC's network of projects.
5.7 You might want to try to make your project work with other projects already in place at BRC, but don't make your project too dependent on another one.

6.1 Repeat the above process every year.
6.2 Don't keep your old lists or at least don't update them from year to year.
6.3 Start fresh every year.
6.4 This will help you stay focussed on what's important.
6.5 This will help you get rid of irrelevant habits.
6.6 Suddenly it is next year already.
6.7 You can focus on that project that you wished you had done last year a couple of hours after arriving on the Playa.
6.8 Focus on only one project this year because next year is closer than you think.