out with sounds of patriotism, then transitioned into different sounds of chanting and worship from around the world. So again, the commentary is our global suffering from our alliance or worship of oil in our economy and what it’s doing to our different countries and villages of people whose lives are interrupted or ended into war. After the fireworks performance, there are four massive cannons that shoot fireballs at the oil derrick and set it ablaze so that the oil derrick starts to burn.
It had been choreographed so that the next morning on the ashes of the oil derrick, we had brought in a 50 foot tall redwood tree to post. The symbology there is the return to the worshiping of nature and living harmoniously with the resources she provides us.
The Crude Awakening piece really was, I hope, the biggest project of my life. I’m still recovering from it. The construction of the derrick, the figures, the music, the fireworks, the visual effects, it was 9-12 truckloads of art shipped into Burning Man. It involved over 300 people.
A: How did you coordinate that?
KAREN: Just by chance. In art, there are always going to be those unexpected things. It wasn’t something we could have a dress rehearsal for. There was no certainty that what we wanted was going to happen.
A: Do you feel you have made an impact, and on what scale?
KAREN: On the playa, 45,000 people witnessed the show. All of them seem to have been impacted in different ways. Some had a lot of angry diatribe about al the consumption of materials used in the producing of it. However we were conscious of what we were using and where it came from. So for example the fuel that ignited the derrick was actually retired jet fuel. NASA took it out of their planes and they cant just put it back in, so generally what happens is if they have a 55 gallon barrel of fuel, they burn it and they actually bill the government for it. We took this fuel off their hands and didn’t charge anybody for it and burned it in a more artistic way that had a better message than just getting a jet off the ground.
Other people focused only on the power of the message and were deeply moved. It’s really weird for me to think that, what I feel is a very personal message- I’m very environmentally motivated, that this little part of my composition magnified by the massive amount of energy this crew put together, created this one message that was big enough to be seen by so many people. It kind of underscores the power of collaboration and what we can achieve together when we all focus on that one goal.
Karen Cusolito: www.karecuso.com
[Editor’s Note: The video above was made by Nicole Salmeri of San Francisco. Nicole is a fabulous photographer and videographer. I met her a few years ago when she came to my apartment to rent a room in the historic Haight/Ashbury of San Francisco. She captured all the heart of our experience here in this video. More of her work can be seen here: www.citysymmetry.com or find her on Instagram, @citysymmetry.]
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