Ten years ago this weekend I went with my brother to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to help with his art installation, The Jupiter Fone, at Burning Man. He had made a radio telescope and set it to receive the signal of the planet Jupiter as it passed by a certain time each day, and you could listen. You could also send your own signal – words or whatever – to Jupiter in case anyone is listening there. My brother is a telescope scientist in the aerospace industry, so the thing really worked. Since it was an art installation, though, some who examined it thought it was a faux telescope and were delighted when they learned what it did.
It was an extreme event – hot, cold, dust storms, little sleep. You brought whatever you needed, including food and water, nothing provided except porta-potties, ice, Black Rock Rangers (police, in skirts), coffee, a medical tent, and extremely well-done organization. Everything else – including a bicycle repair shop, post office (no stamps though), a radio station, a newspaper, and a fantastical and immense array of art installations on the playa – was organized by Burners at the event.
Aerial photo of Burning Man by Jim Urquhart. Others by Rick Kendrick.