The Burning Man was founded by San Francisco Artist Larry Harvey more than ten years ago. Held every Labor Day weekend in the Black Rock Desert 117 miles north of Reno, Nevada, this event is characterized by a variety of art performances, happenings, and spontaneous celebrations. Nearly 800 people attended the event during 1993, and they camped in a large circle in the middle of the vast dry lake bed. The focus of the event is the Sunday-evening burning of a forty-foot-tall wooden figure outfitted with blue neon. Today, participants number just under 50,000!
In Search of Ritual: The Burning Man video interprets this "neo-pagan" art festival from a different documentary approach. While many documentaries are characterized by the disembodied yet soothing narrative voice, this project sought to employ only the voices of the participants. Instead of the single authoritative voice, many voices are heard, including Burning Man originator Larry Harvey, Danger Ranger, the Mud People, Joe (drive-by shooting range), "Aboriginal" Matt, Pyro-Man, Butterfly Lady, Santa Claus, the Archers, and Reverend Al, among others. Because the spirit of the festival reflected the creed, "no observers, only participants," the video crew actually participated in the event, as shown by the camera angles during the filming of the ceremonial burning. Also, all audio and video originated from the event, with the background music the only exception. The resulting montage was not intended to tell a single story, but instead reflects the chaos, energy, and spirit of the ritualized event.
Produced by Peter Goin, In Search of Ritual: The Burning Man had to overcome many obstacles. Either loud motors from generators or high winds distorted audio tracts. Blowing alkali threatened the camera, and battery power was limited. Given financial limitations, tape stock had to be rationed. Lighting depended on ambient light; artificial light was impossible. This video was a one-camera shoot, adding to the risk and complexity of the directing since the Burning Man always had numerous events conducted simultaneously (schedules for events were non-existent). Given these limitations, the program offers a testimony to the early days of the Burning Man Festival. This program was a finalist for an EMMY in 1994.
On 16 July 1945 at 5:29:45 A.M. Mountain War Time near White Sands, New Mexico on the Alamorgordo Bombing Range in the Jornada del Muerto desert, the dawn of a new age began. Shortly after the Nagasaki explosion, CBS radio commentator Edward R. Murrow said: "Seldom, if ever, has a war ended leaving the victors with such a sense of uncertainty and fear, with such a realization that the future is obscure and that survival is not assured." The sobering influence of the dawn of the nuclear age reflected a nearly universal and collective sense of imminent doom. Fallout shelters were offered for sale in Sears' catalogs. Theologians argued about the morality of shooting a radium-contaminated neighbor at the door of your family's shelter. Now the possibility of contaminating the global village created an ironic entertainment venue--"nuclear" movies--for how human ingenuity might save us from ourselves--if only for a little while longer.
Program Description: Mickey Rooney emerges from a destroyed "test" house at the Nevada Test Site, colossal men and women tear through frightened towns as giant ants, locusts, and spiders force the military into armed conflict. This program, an investigation of the fear that surrounds anything nuclear, contrasts these film segments with nuclear detonations, nuclear training films, government documentaries [only recently declassified], and public relations documentary footage from the Nuclear Defense Agency. Although narration is essential, the dynamic comes from the visuals as Nuclear Monsters triggers viewer's memories of the role of the movies and archive footage in their ideas and beliefs about the nuclear age. This program is not a chronology of nuclear films, but explores the visual history of the nuclear era. Ironic, informative and humorous, Nuclear Monsters has been described as a unique representation of the visual history of the nuclear era 1950s-1980s. The project is 27 minutes in length.
Just as westerns endorsed the myth of the West during the 1920s, gangster movies typified the 1930s, and musicals signified the 1940s, nuclear movies shaped as well as reflected cultural attitudes, behaviors, and feelings. Since the nuclear era promoted science fiction to science fact, the public demanded entertainment films that reflected "atomic" stories. More specifically, these "nuclear" movies, ranging from the highly crafted to drive-in grade-B formula films, have become important cultural indicators. Hundreds were produced, and they were rigorously stylized, and functioned within prescribed social guidelines. Normalcy no longer existed, as mutants, blobs, distorted and gigantic insects, creatures, and crazed zombies terrorized innocent Americans. Nuclear monsters became symbols of our collective fears as ordinary citizens confronted something that had never been seen before, forcing humankind to rise above the unknown by creating a new social order of understanding and confidence.
Deserving the focus on nuclear themes, this year surpasses the fifty-second anniversary of the world's first atomic explosions. Nuclear Monsters is a unique visual montage of movie clips combined with rare, nearly lost archival footage of above-ground nuclear tests, training films, and atomic explosions. Nuclear Monsters has the potential to inform, educate, entertain, and visually challenge a broad audience across the country. Nuclear Monsters will be offered for national distribution within the next year.
Outline for Nuclear Monsters:
These "nuclear" movies will be woven into a montage/narrative.
- Nuclear Monsters will begin with historical footage of nuclear detonations from the Department of Energy.
- Awareness of the unknown, suspicion of something unusual happening. These suspicions, voiced by ordinary citizens, frequently lead into the narrative of the "nuclear" film. The protagonists are calmly discussing strange events, unbelievable events...the narration reflects the prevailing expectations of how citizens should react to the unknown. The premise of these narrative accounts reflects the need to adapt, without panic, to a changing global scenario. Often, scientists provide the initial leadership in communicating how to deal with the scenario.
- First visions/screams/fears of nuclear monsters.
- Nuclear monsters [e.g. mutants, enormous insects, half-human/half-animals, fish-like carnivores] on rampage [this section will have nuclear monsters woven into a montage].
- Struggle for survival: human against nuclear monster. This section deals with the conflict and debate over how to adapt to the changing global scenario.
- Struggle for solution and prescriptions for social behavior. After the cause that created the monster has been identified, this section reflects the prescribed social habits and attitudes necessary for successfully adapting to the changing global scenario. The morality tale is revealed, and the narrative reinforces prevailing official prescriptions including preparedness, determination, patience, and perhaps most importantly, trust in the authorities to solve insurmountable problems...for now.
Structures of Everyday Life
Using DVcam technology, this 56:40 minute program weaves together narrative and visual vignettes with expressive footage of rave music events. The vignettes are selected from months of intense videotaping during school lunch breaks, at parties, at night, with friends and even during the most intimate moments. Topics include honest expressions of sense-of-self, sexuality and teenage pregnancy, drug use, feelings of isolation, and finally, healing. The rave, an underground music scene catering to adolescents, thrives in the Reno area and in nearby Sacramento. These visually dynamic dancing and music 'performances,' perfect metaphors for adolescent expression, are the warp of this program; the vignettes are the weft. The central theme of the program is about adolescents speaking their language, their views, and expressing their desire for acceptance. Healing is the concluding passage into adulthood.
Adolescents live in the best of times and in the worst of times. Statistical analyses reflect greater participation by adults in adolescent's lives. Since the early 1960s, the quality of all child-care programs has improved dramatically, and most communities like Reno have a wide variety of challenging and beneficial options available for adolescents [Odyssey of the Mind, 'Kids University' at the University of Nevada, Reno, and highly organized sports leagues]. School districts have implemented health and "Share" [content-approved sexual education courses] curricula, after school 'latch-key' learning opportunities, and local arts agencies have funded and maintained arts programming [Spectra Art]. Many adolescents have a dramatic interest in new media, including computer technologies and television production. But these are also dangerous times. The variety of after-school programs, while frequently beneficial to adolescents, reflects busy adult lives. Families are not what they seem. The terrible prospect of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases complicates the adolescent tendency to experiment with themselves and their bodies. Body scarification, tattooing, and piercing are now common marks within middle class adolescents. Drug use among adolescents has exploded, and sexuality is hotly debated. While some adults preach "just say no," adolescents are trying to reconcile their changing bodies in an environment where parents are separated, divorced, politicized, or removed from daily mentoring. Where is the healing?
Structures of Everyday Life begins with a survivor's statement, "I think sometimes that we treat children or adolescents as little strangers, you know, little 'others.'" Children wearing Halloween masks parade around a neighborhood. Masses of High School students surge down a hallway. The 'warp,' the foundation of the visual narrative, is revealed as the rave. The 'weft,' the interlacing of many vignettes, creates a unique visual pattern. [(vin yet/) n., 1. A decorative design; 2. An engraving, photograph, drawing or the like that is shaded off gradually at the edges so as to leave no definite line at the border; or 3. A short, graceful literary sketch].
This initiative is a concerted look at adolescent life weaving elements of selected individual's worldview into a fabric that reveals what I believe to be the Structures of Everyday Life. This program is designed with a high level of visual energy, montage editing, and first-person 'informant' views. Videotaping will happen in low-light, without the usual technical support, and in specific settings-such as rave sites-where the stories, scenes and events inevitably happen. The flexibility, ease-of-use, and versatility of the digital video are essential. The Structures of Everyday Life includes chapter sub-headings, briefly introduced by the central narrator.