The Pulse Cube

by Mark Donovan


The inspiration for this piece was a series of  “light objects” that the collective Numen/For Use created several years ago culminating in a cube that “breathed” on exhibit in the Rizzordi Art Foundation, St Petersburg Russia, in 2011.

The Pulse Cube. Photo by Mark Donovan

The Pulse Cube. Photo by Mark Donovan

I saw a video clip of the cube and knew right away that it would be at home on the playa. I have done quite a bit of woodworking, but never ventured into the world of purely aesthetic art before. My struggle is not the creative aspect of purely aesthetic art, but the making of things that have no real function (Engineer, sorry!). My curiosity was piqued when I attended my first burn last summer with Camp Tsunami and the Desert Wizards of Mars and was blown away by some of the art there. Even more inspiring were the reactions and interactions that people seemed to be having while looking at it all.

When Rachel Willman mentioned BEquinox and the LA League of Arts grants my thoughts immediately turned back to the exhibit. It would be a really fun and challenging build… this could be the perfect opportunity to make something unique for a community that would appreciate it, and contribute to the making of some good memories in the community.

The Pulse Cube by Mark Donovan

The Pulse Cube by Mark Donovan

It was inspiring to see the way people’s eyes lit up and to hear the exclamations of excitement and surprise to one another as they poked and prodded the sides and watched the pattern change inside the cube. One of the best things about the weekend for me was watching people transition from a fast walk to slow their pace as they drew nearer the cube, then stop altogether, then circle back to walk 360 degrees around it with a big smile on their face. Talking to them and hearing their impressions and their personal stories was easily the most fulfilling part of the weekend.

We liked the interaction with the people and the interesting conversations that the piece helped precipitate, and were happy with how quick the setup was. We did learn, however, that we should have built the sides of the cube a little bit sturdier; a few nights of exposure to the forgetful muscles of the occasional inebriate took their toll and we had a few cracks that will need to be repaired if it is to make its way to burning man this year! The hydraulic system that was designed to flex the sides of the cube did not move them as much as we anticipated, either, and there are already plans in the for a design that will have a larger range of motion while preventing accidental damage to the piece this summer. Hope to see you out there!

—  Charles White introduces The Pulse Cube, Mars Rover Art Car, and Black Rock Observatory.



Black Rock Observatory: Yes, We Have a Model!

by Pat Rapp


The Desert Wizards of Mars are making great progress on Black Rock Observatory, the newest project for the crew that is known for its ability to create art that gets people excited about science. If you haven’t been over to blackrockobservatory.com yet, or are not yet following the project on facebook, prepare to be amazed. Black Rock Observatory (BRO) will be coming to Burning Man 2014, bringing the gift of the universe to the citizens of Black Rock City. The plan includes an architectural design by Gregg Fleishman, architect of the Temple of Whollyness, which appeared at Burning Man 2013. On Saturday, March 29, a group of seven Wizards got together to build a 1/6 scale model of the Black Rock Observatory. The model included about 300 pieces of 3-ply and 5-ply ultra thin birch. The router cut pieces each replicate what will be the full size components of the dome.

Architect Gregg Fleishman and Lead Artist Tom Varden lay out the pieces of the BRO model. Photo by Michael Tupá Engel.

Architect Gregg Fleishman and Lead Artist Tom Varden lay out the pieces of the BRO model. Photo by Michael Tupá Engel.


The BRO will be assembled on the playa using rubber mallets to fit the pieces together like a giant puzzle; no other tools will be required. Once assembled, the BRO will be a fully functioning observatory that will enable the residents of Black Rock City to see stars, planets, and deep sky objects.

Desert Wizards assembling the model observatory. Photo by Charles White.


Follow us over the next few months and watch this come together. Black Rock Observatory is going to be a beautiful site on the playa.


Bequinox 2014

by Anthony Lanni


This last weekend was the second annual Bequinox, the Los Angeles Regional Burn event. A little background:

Bequinox was conceived after the Fire Marshall at L.A. Decompression told the L.A. League of Arts that there couldn’t be a burn at Decom, due to fire hazard. With the Seraphim structure built, and the plan for the reveal of the Human Spirit in place, the leaders of LALA decided that Los Angeles deserved–nay, needed a burn. A campground was found in Joshua Tree that would allow us to burn a structure, and Bequinox was born.

This year was, if anything, better than the inaugural Bequinox. Starting Thursday night, Los Angeles Burners began to arrive and set up, and by the time I arrived Friday afternoon our little version of Black Rock City was all in place. Conversation Camp and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the Effigy we were to burn and the Mars Rover Art Car, all were up and ready to go. For the rest of that night until early Sunday morning, I wandered through the camp, drinking, dancing, mooping, everything a Burner does.

Home again, exhausted, I took a couple of days to reflect on the experience. Among the camps, the art displayed, the food and drinks shared, the costumes (and lack thereof), the music and dancing and singing and everything else, one thing came through to me:

These are not the things that make the Burning Man community great.

The thing that makes the community great is the community itself. Among all the activities of the weekend, among all the laughter and partying and drinking and wildness, the best time I had came Saturday afternoon, sitting in a lawn chair under the tarp my brothers and I set up for shelter.

You know that feeling; it’s midafternoon, you spent all night partying and when you got up you spent a few hours wandering around the city. Now, you’re back at camp, maybe napping or reading a book or sewing EL wire on tonight’s costume, recharging for the evening to come.

I was reading. My brothers were sleeping. Somewhere in a nearby camp a couple was making love.

And, slowly, one by one, people began to join me. First a brother; then the girl camping next door. Another girl, from the camp on the other side, and then one of her friends. My other brother. One by one, our little shelter became full of people, chatting and laughing.

And I realized, right then, that this was what Burning Man is all about. It’s about people connecting, making friends, the human connection. All the sharing, the radical inclusion, the projects, the Temple and the Burn; they all bring us together, show us that each and every one of us is connected to the other, all friends whether we’ve met yet or not.

And I love you all.


MRAC Takes On LA Decompression Party

by Phoenix della Mare


In the Burning Man community we have a cycle, much like the seasons. Unlike our seasons which change due to weather patterns and our relative distance to the sun, Burning Man’s seasons are: build-up to the event, the event, and recovery.

Events related to Burning Man occur within this cycle. There are a series of pre-Burning Man events such as Precompression, Burnal Equinox, fundraisers for various theme camps and art projects, and so on.

And then there’s the post-event event, the thing we call Decompression. It’s a chance to have one last hurrah and wind down from the year’s Burning Man event. It generally takes place about a month after Burning Man (depending on region). The main Decompression event that is put on by the Burning Man Project is in San Francisco, but most regions have a decompression event. This allows artists to bring out their projects one more time and share it with their local community. For people who cannot attend Burning Man, this is a great way to participate. For people returning from Burning Man, the regional decompression gives them a chance to share their work again.

I generally go to the San Francisco Decompression party. I’ve made the trip to Santa Cruz for their Decompression party, as well. These are both local to me so they are easier to get to.

Last year I decided to make a bit more of a trip. I went to LA Decompression to help out where I could with the Mars Rover Art Car, which was nicely placed between the Human Spirit and the Flow Arts stage, not too far away from the entrance.

LA Decom was much larger than I expected. It ran the length of LA Historical Park, not too far away from Little Tokyo and Chinatown in Los Angeles. The size of the event was impressive, considering that San Francisco Decom is only a few blocks long. For someone used to smaller scale events, LA Decom can be a bit overwhelming.

The amount of interest in the MRAC was truly awesome. In the time that I was there, we had quite a few people who came over to check it out. They asked various questions which were answered by the members of the crew. The overall vibe was chill and Camp Envy shenanigans were happening as the MRAC was streamed over the Camp Envy website.

While my health made it difficult for me to stay as long as I had wanted (I learned some important lessons so I won’t repeat the same mistakes again), going and supporting MRAC at LA Decompression was a lot of fun. The people were great to talk to. Overall, it was a great time.

And I’m curious about the thoughts of others who were there. Feel free to send me your thoughts about MRAC at LA Decom, Burning Man or any other local events to risingphoenix13@gmail.com. I might just collect them for a future post.


Do-Ocracy? What Does That Mean?

by Phoenix della Mare


Being around the Burning Man community you start to pick up a lot of new words. They are words that could have meaning in every day life, but you would have never thought about prior to that first trip to the Playa. Words like MOOP (matter out of place), using the word radical in front of self-reliance… things like this. One word that I have repeatedly heard over the years is the word “Do-ocracy”.

This is the very core of what makes things tick at Burning Man. If you think something’s missing, if you want to see something at Burning Man, you make it happen. After all, Burning Man is a Do-ocracy.

It’s such an awkward word that has a lot of power behind it. It means you can help form the reality that is Burning Man.

So, what do the Mars Rover Art Car, Black Rock Observatory or Black Rock Astronomical Society have to do with this?

It’s simple. While there have always been quite a few people who would look at the stars while at the event, it was never accessible to the masses.

That is the core of what MRAC, BRO and BRAS want to bring to Burning Man. We seek to bring science and astronomy to the Playa. This is something that hasn’t been done before. We will bring science to more people through a more hands-on and approachable manner.

Sure, it sounds like a lofty goal. It’s also an achievable goal.

It’s also the very essence of Do-ocracy. We saw something that we found lacking at Burning Man. We are making it and filling that void.

The Do-ocracy is part of what makes Burning Man an ever-changing experience. It also makes it continuously unique. The word might sound funny, but it’s part of what helps nurture the creative spirit. MRAC, BRO and BRAS are the essence of the word Do-ocracy.


The Black Rock Astronomical Society

by Wabi Sabi


The Black Rock Astronomical Society, BRAS, is a rowdy band of travellers culled together by Bo Peep and Hypnotic of New York City to build their wild desert vision of a 20” aperture Dobsonian telescope in the Deep Playa. At Burning Man, wild visions cannot consist simply of a 10’ telescope with fragile pieces sitting in solitude on the playa waiting for passersby who want to peek into the galaxy. No. Their telescope will be an elegant behemoth amidst the swirling dust, rewarding brave souls who dare to climb upon its back to contemplate her or his place amongst the supernovas, nebulas, stars and planets.

The telescope will be a beacon to travelers venturing out to the Deep Playa, calling to all the aliens, starships, spaceships and those who dream of flying–and it will do this from within the oasis of the Black Rock Observatory. This is where weary travelers will rest and learn from wise men about what lies beyond and what the stars and heavens can tell them about what lays ahead in their future. There they will meet other travelers and share their stories and describe that intimate moment when their eye fell upon a distant star…

When Bo Peep and Hypnotic came upon the builders of the Black Rock Observatory, it was explained to them that they were an observatory in need of a central telescope.  The destiny became clear to them all as Bo Peep and Hypnotic described their vision of a telescope, and they immediately set off to find a crew. The first person chosen on the journey was General Pumpk1n.  General Pumpk1n was Hypnotic’s childhood friend and now that they were grown, Hypnotic could see he had become a man with intimate, formal knowledge of the brutality of the desert.

Pumpk1n is educated in chemical and bio-engineering and knows the magic of nuclear engineering. He told tales of being a special processes engineer and project coordinator for the government. He explained that it was he who was responsible for ensuring the survival of objects in harsh physical conditions. He could control the effects of shock, vibration, and harsh environmental conditions on objects precious to the government, such as heavy rains, sand and dust. Bo and Hypnotic asked the man to join them and he accepted.

They then happened upon Wabi Sabi. She would gather people near and far to join her in her ventures and connected those who were seeking with those who were sought. Bo and Hypnotic had traveled with her and knew she could gather together those who would seek out the telescope. Wabi Sabi agreed to bring the people to the telescope and joined them.

On and on they continued and happened upon Richard Berry, known as the Idea Guy. He was a learned man and had written books on telescopes. He built telescopes and brought them and his knowledge of the stars to the  people. Bo and Hypnotic knew this would be invaluable as they began building and Idea Guy accepted the new challenge of teaching them to build one of his sought after telescopes in the desert.

Together, we will all welcome you to share in Bo Peep and Hypnotic’s vision in the Deep Playa.


Pre-Launch Reflections

by Pat Rapp


Everyone says your first trip to Burning Man changes your life. For me, my life began changing before I even arrived on the playa. It started when I was picked up at the airport by Mama Overlord and taken to the launch site. Once there, I was greeted with big hugs by both Mama Overlord and Admiral Jet Burns. In those first moments while we were taking my four suitcases out of the car (virgin year – I overpacked), I didn’t feel like a stranger who had just come from the other side of the continent to meet the crew for the first time. I felt like a family member coming home for the holidays.

I’m pretty sure I had tears in my eyes when I first viewed the Mars Rover Art Car. It was a beautiful sight. Although I had been watching the progress from the east coast through online posts, I had no idea how moving it would be to see it in person. I remember putting my hands on my cheeks, Home Alone style, and saying, “Oh. My. God.” This was not something that had come off a factory floor. This wasn’t a vehicle that had a few lights thrown on it to make it look arty and fun. This larger-than-life-sized replica of the Curiosity rover was hand-built by a volunteer crew who put in long hours after work and on weekends, completely as a work of passion.

Mars Rover Art Car

Photo credit: Tom Varden

It was an amazing sight.

And it wasn’t finished yet. Motorbike Matt and Captain Everything were still working, despite the fact that it was 11 pm and the mission was set to launch in 12 hours. I realized then that the mission was not necessarily getting this thing built and hauled to Burning Man. The act of creation, and the year of work leading up to this point, was as valuable as the finished product. They were savoring this work and continuing to share ideas and tweak the Rover until 3 am, when they finally grabbed a little sleep on the couch or floor before getting up again in the morning and doing more final adjustments.

Shawna and Switch were there in the morning, as well, having arrived at some point while I was still sleeping. The build site was a flurry of activity and excitement. The Rover was prepped, the truck, RV, and trailer were loaded, and the site was cleaned up. Jet’s brother John spent hours organizing gear and packing the trailer, even though he was unable to go with us to Burning Man.

Although this was not in any way a NASA-sponsored project, we acted like it was and took our roles as Rovernauts very seriously. We wore NASA-style orange jumpsuits. We practiced our “NASA walkout” a few times before John filmed it. We launched on time.

One of the principles of Burning Man is Radical Self Expression. This crew extended that principle into one of Collective Radical Self Expression. We expressed ourselves as the science nerds we are and, collectively, became Rovernauts. We set our course for exploration of the Mars-like environment of the playa.

The large number of people who worked on this project was something I don’t remember ever experiencing before. The skill sets involved are vast and the dedication unparalleled. These are people who get things done.  This is a close group of talented people who welcome new ideas and new people, and enjoy the thrill of creation.

My life had already changed that first day at the launch site. I had discovered a group who would be my family for nine days in the desert. I discovered that each of us can be part of something amazing, and that collectively, phenomenal things can be accomplished. All this, and we hadn’t even left the house yet.



Mars Rover Art Car and Inclusion

by Phoenix della Mare

Burning Man is an interesting experiment in temporary communities. Each year creates a new and unique community structure. While the community itself is both temporary and amorphous, there are a set of rules referred to as “The Ten Principles”. Primary on the list is the idea of “Radical Inclusion”. In short, it means that anybody can take part in Burning Man.

 Not all theme camps are as inclusive as others. It’s rare to find a place that’s willing to be open enough to allow people in. My experience with the Mars Rover Art Car is much different feom those I have experienced with other theme camps.

I should probably start out with a little self-history to explain where I am going with my tale.

I attended my first Burning Man in 2004. I went with a group or people who thought the only correct way to Burn was to do it like them. For them it was about the party and not necessarily about the community. At least that’s what I got out of their experience.

I approach Burning Man differently. I enjoy working and gaining the experience through interpersonal interaction. There’s nothing wrong with either way, they’re just different.

My first year I wound up hooking up with a theme camp that’s local to me (the San Francisco Bay Area). I thoroughly enjoyed the years that I had with them.

In 2009 I had no job and couldn’t afford to go back to Black Rock City. It was at that point that I stumbled upon a brand new online community of fellow Burners and those that wanted to make the journey to Black Rock to be known as Camp Envy. We envied the experience that everyone out on the Playa were having.

It was through Camp Envy that I met some of the crew of the MRAC, many of them being in Los Angeles.

As you’d expect, it would be difficult for me to participate with actually building the car. It’s more difficult for me to take off for a work weekend as I’m about 5 hours (depending on starting point) north of them.

Regardless of locale, I was accepted with arms open. It’s an inclusion that I felt my first year when I found the theme camp that I wound up with for 3 years. It’s an inclusion that they continue to exceed at now. I may not be able to have a physical presence at work weekends or on Playa, but they have accepted me all the same.

A good theme camp or mutant vehicle crew or art crew, in my mind, treats all its members like family… and not just the red-headed stepchild. This is the inclusion that I found at Burning Man in 2004. This is what inclusion should be.

I may not be able to go to every work weekend. I may not be able to be a part of the flight crew at Burning Man. I am still a part of the crew.



Who We Are

The Desert Wizards of Mars is a group of talented craftspeople, cooks, gofers, welders, stitchers, super-models, strippers, hot-tubbers, electricians, and misfit toys. We all come together to make science based art projects.

“Any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” once said Arthur C. Clark. That is the basis of what makes us Wizards we are because we hang out in harsh extreme environments of the Desert. Our eyes are always looking towards the stars, where our path leads to Mars and beyond. Thus, we really are the Desert Wizards of Mars.

Although we meet in Los Angeles, we attempt to provide things to do via the Internet for those remote Wizards, but it does require some effort on their part.

We have done the Human Spirit for Decom 2012, and Bequinox. We have built the Mars Rover Art Car (MRAC). We are rebuilding the Human Spirit for Decom 2013 and will continue mission operations of the MRAC.

Future projects may include “The Black Rock City Observatory and Science Center”. More details to come.