Friday, March 8, 2013

Robot Love

It finally happened. After 17 years of threatening to physically drag my butt out to the barren middle of nowhere, my long time friend and fellow creative spirt Nick Myerhoff finally convinced me to take the plunge and participate in the 2012 Burning Man Festival. And what wild ride it was, surpassing expectations in every way possible. For creatives who have been there before, this festival represents much more than a week of outlandish, dusty fun. This is the western world's Mecca of artistic superheroes; the best and brightest DIY minds in full, glorious bloom. For the uninitiated, all I can say is, there absolutely nothing I could possibly write in one page or a thousand that would do a modicum of justice to the experience itself. And I am a perfect example of why that is true.

For almost two decades now, I've had easy access to the most epic post/pre Burning Man gatherings, hung out with it's core creators, seen zillions of photos, videos and documentaries, and even used to date an amazing woman who ran the Burning Man Film Festival. I'm very lucky to live in an area where there are more "Burners" per capita than anywhere else in the world. Given my creative nature, I've always just fit right in. Any yet, somehow I'd convinced myself that all of this awesome peripheral exposure was enough to fill my thirsty creative cup…so, I didn't really need to actually go, right? Boy was I ever wrong about that one. My first night out on the Playa, witnessing first hand what cannot justly be described in words, basically, my head exploded. What my eyes were seeing and what my brain could actually process were leagues apart, requiring a complete re-synchronization of my creative DNA from top to bottom. I had been altered, modified, upgraded even. And that was just night one….

I could speak endlessly about the breathtaking and remarkably personal experiences waiting to happen in this impossibly perfect temporary city of 55k spiritulized revelers. There are favorite works of art, favorite people, even a favorite temporary building filled with heart-wrenching letters of love and suffering, waiting to be ignited and offered to the endless desert night sky. So many beautiful stories of what a community can do if it sets its mind to create something truly amazing. And for so many of the wild at heart, this place is as much Home as it is the refueling station to spread the spirit of Burning Man beyond its dusty borders.

But I was out there for a specific reason, at least on the surface. And that reason was to represent and support a project born of dreams co-created with my pal Nick, years before. Nick applied for and won a 5k grant to build a giant recycled-object robot sculpture for the largest daytime party camp at Burning Man: Distrikt. Here's is how blue-sky dreaming and artistic collaboration with a creative friend made it to the front page of newspapers and websites around the globe:

From the Dragun Robot blog:

"Nick Myerhoff and Mike Parisi have been misfit artist comrades since 1995 when they worked together on the original Armymen video game at the 3DO Company. Together they spent countless hours envisioning giant robot games, toys and sculptures.….The Giant Distrikt Dragun robot concept stems from Nick and Mike’s 3 year old vision of building giant robots out of auto parts as large scale decorative sculptures. Of course scrap metal giant human forms are nothing new, but ours will maintain some relevance and authenticity based on classic 1970’s Japanese robots. The Distrikt robot will be 20’ tall constructed of recycled sheet metal and scrap auto parts…."

It ended up that Dragun (aka, Recyclatron) was more like 24 feet tall, and required a crew of five awesome humans to engineer and build. Many a weekend was sacrificed and much trial and error went down before the final form found it's way Home, as the 2012 mascot for Distrikt's insanely over the top daytime revelry. And for one crazy week, our giant robot watched over the tens of thousands who came to our camp to dance the days into night, the nights to morning, and mornings into hugs and tears and silty sweat. It was a ecstatic and exhausting journey, and watching it all come together for that brief period of time made me think of that 5 year old robot-obsessed kid, who fell in love for the first time and never, ever gave up. And that is the only "final destination" that matters.

PS: This super cool Distrikt clip below has almost 4 million! hits, not exactly SFW, but if you watch closely you will see the Recyclatron.

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