Catacomb of Veils- Burning Man 2016 Reflections

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Recall:

Part 1: The Project

Part 2: The Inspiration

Part 3: The Team

Part 4: The Scope

Catacomb of Veils Burning Man 2016: Reflections

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Catacomb of Veils designed by Dan Sullivan

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Anna Thorsen (my daughter):

“I’ve back been home in San Francisco from Burning Man for 24 hours and I’ve been trying to figure out how to summarize my first trip to the playa. Honestly, I was terrified to go. I was scared of the emotional, physical and financial demands, scared of the dust, the wind, the darkness of night. Terrified of not getting the right outfits, not eating enough food, not finding the time to rest, not going to the right events and not being with the right people. I was so unbelievably scared of the idea of being caught in a dust storm at night and not finding my way home.🌗

During my 8 days on the playa, there was not one moment were I felt scared, overwhelmed, in the wrong place or unequipped to handle any situation I came encountered. In fact, I DID get caught alone in a dust storm at night and it was one of the BEST experiences of the whole week. My Burning Man was 8 days of pure joy, celebration, self acceptance, resilience, vulnerability, discovery, ease, comfort, strength and learning. 🌘

The most difficult part to translate into words is my interactions with people. Some I’ve known for years, some I met while building the Catacombs in SF, some I met on this trip and some I shared just a brief 30 seconds with. I fell madly and deeply in love with the human spirit, body and soul. Each one of us has stories to tell, lessons to teach and lessons to learn from one another. I am so thankful for everyone who choose to share the vulnerability of their Burning Man experience with me so freely. Thank you.🌒

It took my 7 years to get to Burning Man and if it wasn’t for my best friend @jhkillian, I would not have endured this test. I did find my way home, and all was exactly how it needed to be…🌓”

Joseph Killian (my daughter’s soulmate/best friend, my second son):

“And after 16 days I am finally home. My bed and shower feel incredible and my heart is fuller than I think it has ever been.

We set out on a journey to build the Catacomb of Veils in February and though it was ambitious it was perfect. It became a symbol, a living piece of art that represented our commitment to form a community that was defined by generosity and mutual affection. Through long days and nights of hard work, we opened and gifted it to Burning Man and then we solemnly burned it. It was once in a lifetime and without it I would not have been transformed the way I have been over the last few months.

I found love. The type I’ve not felt ever before and the Catacomb was a monument to the discovery of that love. I looked at it through that lens and it kept me working and fighting for it, even when I thought I had nothing left to give.

Having the crew there as well as @annatfabulous was all I could ask for during the week. We rode through the desert like we were on the moon and it was amazing.

Though it’s gone, it’s in all who built it, all who experienced its interior for 48 hours and all that witnessed it’s beautiful burn. It’s within our hearts now and that can’t be burned.

Words will never be enough.”

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Joseph and Anna

More reflections:

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Anna and David

Courtenay Loechl:

“Friday morning I sat with my Catacomb of Veils crew- my family- and waited in anticipation for our final chapter. Sun rays began to sneak above the horizon and the pyramids were finally lit. As the sun rose, our beloved Catacombs went up in flames. They fiercely licked and beautifully danced; they billowed and coalesced with power and immediacy. And they tugged at every heart string and lit up my soul.

When I walked through the Catacombs the night we opened, I burst into tears. Every corner reminded me of a memory, a laugh, a story. A problem or roadblock, and the solution we found. When I took one last look I cried again, knowing that I had finally poured everything I could and more into this project, and I would do it all over again.

The last 2.5 weeks have been some of the hardest of my entire life. Building for 12 days in the desert meant 16 hours a day, 100 degree heat, white out dust storms, injuries, frustrations. Today I laughed when I reread a text I sent on my way to the playa, where I said I was worried maybe I wouldn’t be tough enough, or would drag the team down. I don’t think I’ve ever proved myself more wrong.

Building on the playa means giving everything you have until you’re empty, and then giving 3 more hours because you’re a crew and you’re so damn committed to each other. It means being really scared of heights but still jumping into a climbing harness and hanging off a pyramid 4 stories up until 2am to finish cladding. It means getting a nose bleed while building a floor and just shoving a handkerchief into your face and continuing with a nail gun because we’ve got shit to do! It also means you’re way is not always the right way, and even if it is, that’s not always most important. I don’t know if I’ve ever had my physical, mental, and emotional trifecta pulled to that extent all at once for so long.

Building also meant community like I’ve never experienced, guidance, trust, determination, perseverance, acceptance, and love. Oh so, so much love. I’ve never been so grateful. Though I’m having trouble with it ending, I remember the feeling watching it burn that my heart could explode in bliss and release.

My last day on the playa was spent helping with our LNT (Leave No Trace) clean up. As I biked away, covered in charcoal, I teared up again. It may look like we started with a handful of lumber and ended simply with ash, but we created magic. We built community. We ignited the spirits of thousands.

The one question I got all week after we finished that I couldn’t quite answer was ‘But how did you guys do it??’ We had a crew half the size of other big art. We had 60 mph winds that cracked a 30 foot wall down the center and nearly took out our foundation, setting us back 2 days. We had bumps and roadblocks and you name it but somehow it just flowed, and we knew every single minute that there was no way we weren’t succeeding. We also learned to define our success in other ways, and sometimes we realized it wasn’t actually about the pyramids at all.

The Catacomb of Veils meant something different to each of us. And when I bumped into a wonderful new soul on that bike ride home from LNT, I knew exactly what to write when he asked for a journal entry.

Feeling so empty and so full is a strange feeling, but one I’m embracing completely. I owe so much growth to this project and family, that selfishly the Catacomb could never give back to the community what it gave to me.

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Anna
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Alfonso, Joseph, Kahai. Photo by Kahai Sumida Tate

Catacomb of Veils- Burning Man 2016, Part 4 of 4: The Scope

Part 4 of 4: THE SCOPE

Catacomb of Veils will be the largest art piece at Burning Man 2016 and one of the largest burned sculptures in the history of the event.

Everyone participating in the creation of Catacomb is all-volunteer with a commitment to the transformative power of temporary art.

[SOURCE]

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Recall: 

Part 1: The Project

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Part 2: The Inspiration

Part 3: The Team

The profound beauty of the Catacomb of Veils is not only the design, the volunteers, the commitment, the structure itself- it is the TEMPORARY aspect of the project and of Burning Man itself.

It is there and then it is gone.

Burning Man 2016 takes place August 28 – September 5, 2016 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Participants join in the effort to co-create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to art and community. [source]

Every year Black Rock City (the festival’s temporary town) becomes Nevada’s third biggest city.  Littering or leaving garbage (‘MOOP’) behind is Burner sacrilege.  Hundreds of volunteers spend the month after Burning Man meticulously combing the sand for MOOP (Matter Out Of Place). [source]

This is my favorite part of doing wheatpasting and street art- the TEMPORARY, THE EVOLUTION, THE RELEASE: once pasted, the piece evolves and deteriorates…

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Emily wheatpasting my portrait of “Thane” at 119 East Cordova, Vancouver Feb 13, 2013

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Nature and the elements and the interaction by the community has become essential to my creative process.

So the temporary aspect of Burning Man resonates as does the burn for I also LOVE to burn my art (which was easier when I lived on the Sunshine Coast)-

What does it mean to allow the BURN- to release?

Therein lies the SCOPE of the Catacomb of Veils.  

For me, it is about tears and grief, air and perspective, anger and earth, fire and release, allowing past and present and future to breathe.

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. – Maya Angelou

So I celebrate the incredible artistry and vision and hard work of Catacomb of Veils and its metaphoric POWER of BUILDING, WELCOMING COMMUNITY, INTERACTING and RELEASING!  And thus forever TRANSFORMING the participants…

I like to think of it as an opportunity for introspection and reflection, but ultimately the community will get to determine how it is. If it’s for ritual purposes, or for an introspective reflection, or a personal journey. It’s kind of not for me to decide… – Dan Sullivan

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Photo by Vincent Lefevre

Catacomb Crew:

 

YOU CAN SUPPORT THIS PROJECT VIA:

INDIEGOGO:

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JULY 14, 2016 FUNDRAISER:

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FACEBOOK:

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Catacomb of Veils- Burning Man 2016, Part 3 of 4: The Team

Catacomb of Veils will be the largest art piece at Burning Man 2016 and one of the largest burned sculptures in the history of the event. Everyone participating in the creation of Catacomb is all-volunteer with a commitment to the transformative power of temporary art. – [SOURCE]

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Recall: 

Part 1: The Project

Part 2: The Inspiration

Part 3 of 4: THE TEAM

 My daughter is a volunteer on the team creating this incredible Burning Man 2016 installation and I love seeing how empowered she is as she participates in the ultimate creative, physical and collaborative experience.

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Anna Thorsen at Pier 70, San Francisco (Photo by Afonso Salcedo)

Being a part of the first build week for the @catacombofveils was UNREAL – I could not be more grateful.  I can now add “table saw”, “nail gun” and “wood stretching” to the resume. @dansullivan__ & Team are legends. – Anna Thorsen

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Photo: Catacomb of Veils

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Scott Prusso, Anna Thorsen, Joseph Killian, Dan Sullivan, Jeffrey Lang. Photo by Afonso Salcedo)

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Photo: Catacomb of Veils

Collaborators aren’t born, they’re made.  Or, to be more precise, built, a day at a time, through practice, through attention, through discipline, through passion and commitment. – Twyla Tharp

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Anna Thorsen, Joseph Killian Pier 70, San Francisco PHOTO BY AFONSO SALCEDO

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Joseph Kilian at Pier 70, San Francisco. Photo: Catacomb of Veils

The first requirement of collaboration is commitment… It helps to have a champion. – Twyla Tharp

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Project visionary and designer, architect Dan Sullivan, at Pier 70, San Francisco. PHOTO BY BETH GOULD

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PHOTO BY AFONSO SALCEDO

This project is a GORGEOUS example of collaborative practice, and at its heart: community.  The team of volunteers cannot avoid being transformed through the process.

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Image: Esteem Hearts (from team training workshop, Toronto June 2016)

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O’Ryan taught us how to build a horse!- Anna Thorsen
In the end all collaborations are love stories. ― Twyla Tharp, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together

What does a day at the Catacomb of Veils build site feel like?  From our crack-of-dawn arrival at Pier70 and morning wood delivery, to pouring ourselves into creating art for our community…. the dedication, the love, the generosity.  We give our time and design expertise, but your donations make this happen. Every tax-deductible donation goes 100% to the materials, construction, transportation, insurance, and build-site rental for Catacomb.  This is our COMMUNAL EFFORT together — and *you* are central to making this happen. Catacomb of Veils

YOU CAN SUPPORT THIS PROJECT VIA:

INDIEGOGO:

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JULY 14, 2016 FUNDRAISER:

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FACEBOOK:

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Next up:

Part 4 of 4: THE SCOPE

Catacomb of Veils- Burning Man 2016, Part 2 of 4: The Inspiration

Recall Part 1: The Project

Catacomb of Veils will be the largest art piece at Burning Man 2016 and one of the largest burned sculptures in the history of the event. Everyone participating in the creation of Catacomb is all-volunteer with a commitment to the transformative power of temporary art. – SOURCE

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Part 2 of 4: THE INSPIRATION

As I mentioned in Part 1: The ProjectCatacomb of Veils speaks to my passion for the creative process- from the inspiration, to the idea, to the planning, to the development, to the implementation, to the product to the celebration to the release.

Graham Wallas, in The Art of Thoughtoutlined the 4 stages the creative process:

  1. Preparation: the problem is investigated in all directions as the thinker readies the mental soil for the sowing of the seeds.
  2. Incubation: no direct effort is exerted upon the problem at hand.
  3. Illumination: connections between the seemingly unconnected.
  4. Verification: testing the validity of the idea and reducing the idea itself to an exact form. [SOURCE]

And personally, research and inspiration (inspiration preceding and evolving out of research) are integral parts of each stage.  Inspiration is about ALLOWING the tangents.  Going along for the ride with eyes open wide.  Catacomb of Veils takes inspiration from the landscape itself.  And it inspires our own further research, helps us make connections, pulls out the past, brings us to the present, facilitates contemplation of the future, holds space to grieve, immerses us in magic and allows us to let go through temporary nature.

For example, let’s take a look at the word Catacombs.

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What are they? Will investigating them enrich our understanding of the creative process of the Catacomb of Veils project?  Enrich our connection to it?  Where does your mind go as you get inspired by this project?

Catacombs of Paris:

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For me, this project is:

• approach,

• ascend,

• enter,

• descend,

• embrace,

• acknowledge,

• emerge,

• release.

Next up:

Part 3 of 4: THE TEAM

Part 4 of 4: THE SCOPE

YOU CAN SUPPORT THIS PROJECT VIA:

INDIEGOGO:

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JULY 14, 2016 FUNDRAISER:

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FACEBOOK:

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Y-STR
Katarina Thorsen, 2016, chinamarker and embroidery on paper

Catacomb of Veils – Burning Man 2016, Part 1 of 4: The Project

Something extraordinary is underway in San Francisco:  Catacombs of Veils.  

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Catacomb of Veils will be the largest art piece at Burning Man 2016 and one of the largest burned sculptures in the history of the event. Everyone participating in the creation of Catacomb is all-volunteer with a commitment to the transformative power of temporary art. – SOURCE

Be still me beating heart!  My daughter is a volunteer on the team creating this incredible Burning Man 2016 installation.

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Anna Thorsen with project visionary and designer, Dan Sullivan, at Pier 70, San Francisco. PHOTO BY AFONSO SALCEDO

I am LOVING watching it unfold.  This fascinating project and its EXTRAORDINARY TEAM sings to my passion for the CREATIVE PROCESS!  I can feel some drawings coming out inspired by this project so I’ve decided to take a deeper look in 4 parts.

Today’s post is an overview:

Part 1 of 4: THE PROJECT

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At 220′ across and covering almost 19,000 square feet of playa area, Catacomb of Veils will be the largest art piece at Burning Man 2016 and one of the largest burned sculptures in the history of the event… Catacomb rises like a rocky outcropping off the desert floor, and as the dust swirls up and around, it evokes Black Rock Point itself.  It is a ruin of a previous society– a remnant of our collective search for moments of quiet, introspection and reflection. It is a journey of discovery and a descent into a subterranean world. – SOURCE

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A path winds up to the Narthex at the Eastern Pyramid of the Catacomb and from this vantage point the community begins its descent inward. Ancient relics of a collective history adorn the walls as shafts of light illuminate effigies and offerings. These are moments in our primeval memory, inviting us further downward and inward into ourselves. The journey culminates in an inner sanctum– a Sanctum of Veils– a confluence of concealment, revelation and sublime beauty. – SOURCE

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Next up:

Part 2 of 4: THE INSPIRATION

Part 3 of 4: THE TEAM

Part 4 of 4: THE SCOPE

YOU CAN SUPPORT THIS PROJECT VIA:

INDIEGOGO:

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JULY 14, 2016 FUNDRAISER:

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FACEBOOK:

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“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

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Crow with Skull street art, Katarina Thorsen 2016 (chinamarker)