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Monday 19th, August 2013 / 22:04


Hippos (no, not just hippies) and galactic gnomes roam the Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada, in a midnight city of sand ships, lights and flaming effigies. From August 26th until September 2nd, 50,000 people will participate in the Burning Man Project and create a garden of art, ideas, transformation and connection in the middle of a wasteland. Our Alberta Burner Community will come bearing a bouquet of outstanding art installations, structures, camps, vehicles and stages.

Two of these projects are very close to the hearts of Burner Calgarians. In the words of a passionate member of the Space Gnomes, Tracy a.k.a. Gnomette, “Burning Man is an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.” The Collective was formed several years ago to create events, theme camps and sound stages for their fellow Burners’ inspiration and enjoyment. This year, the Gnomes are bringing their ongoing 60-person theme camp to the Burn, as well as a new Rocket Fuel Sound Stage, which is a collaborative bass brainchild of Todd a.k.a. Cruz, Conn a.k.a. Purgatory and Robin a.k.a. Aviax. These designers and DJs have created a three-level scaffolding stage that is 15 feet high. It features unique wall panelling that can display visual media, illuminated dancing platforms and a bar built to assemble from slot and groove, flat-pack components. It’s able to be built in eight hours by three people and then dismantled in only four. Fundraising events held by the Gnomes funded this epic endeavour, exemplifying Burning Man’s important community support.

Just ask the “Hippo Love” Art Car. This fire-spouting, purple metal mammal is the bouncing tire baby of the Hippo Love crew and was over 60 per cent funded by local fundraisers and an Indiegogo campaign. Technical construction began last fall, under the committed hands of project leader Kane, his girlfriend Gillian and a posse of devoted contributors.

The Hippo sits on the base of a functional 1983 Ford 3/4-ton truck. It weighs nearly 7,000 pounds and its engine shimmies inside 40 yards of perforated purple metallic spandex skin (inspired by a pair of Gillian’s shiny booty shorts). And since Love burns everybody now and then, this giant Hippo shoots fire from custom-made propane poofers.

Infused with a culmination of community, one person decorated the inside as a Moroccan-style nook of rich fabrics and long benches, someone else painted the face, and another person placed detailed finishes within its opening mouth. Together they built a fire-breathing, house-sized violet hippo that carries 25 grinning people on its back. The only thing it still needs, according to Kane, is a bar cabinet built behind the driver’s seat.

Both of these projects are non-profit. Both demonstrate that people can build outrageous, gorgeous things if we come together and craft “us” art out of “you” and “me.” Because Burning Man is a hell of a lot more than just a party; it is a global social initiative.

If you are heading to the playa this year, be sure to visit the Space Gnomes “Red and White Welcome Gnome” Party on Tuesday night, keep an eye out for the Hippo that Love built, and go to for more info about the festival.

By Erin Dingle

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