The following blog entry is in response to a request from Tess to describe my experience with LHNM in Detroit. As much as I want to describe how beautiful my babies were I think you might find it more interesting if I speak to what I gained from participating.
Christmas of 2010 I wanted to get together with the burners that had stayed back in Detroit. At the lunch Dondo tells me that several people in the community were excited about pulling together an art event that had started on the coasts. I found the concept of converting rented trucks in order to create a pop up art event completely captivating and told them I was in.
I was in my mid 50’s in 2011. I had gone to my first Burn in ’06. Although always interested in art in general and avant-garde art in particular I had been consumed with a corporate career and my family for most of my adult life. All of that collapsed in ’05 which resulted in tremendous personal growth as I found and engaged the Detroit Regional Burner community. So besides helping with the Playa Q/UberCarney theme camps at the Burn and writing poetry in my spare time I had never taken on the creation of any visual art myself.
As an engineer working in the auto industry I have had an adult life filled with the need for precision. Nature has no sensitivity to how hard you worked on something, nor how much you need the career boost, or how devastating a failure will be for the company. The freedom to create and shape the interior of the box truck with such minimal regard for the structural or functional aspects of something was shocking. The focus was on the statement not the function. So that was the first gift LHNM participation afforded me, this deeper understanding of an artistic process.
The second gift was the group that was associated with this effort. Over half I knew from my involvement in the Detroit Burner community but others outside the community heard about the effort and were just as excited. I met one guy clearing weeds in the lot we decided to use. He turned out to be a Chef/Owner of one of the best restaurants in the city. I created new friends with quality people I would have never met any other way.
My truck was to be a performance space coffee house. At the time my financial resources were tight (divorce does that) so to make this work I was cutting every corner I could think of and asking people to help donate or let me borrow as much as possible. It was a stretch for an introvert and a growth experience. I asked Grace if she was interested in bringing her vaudeville act (Torch With A Twist – TWAT) to the truck. She had been performing successfully for several years in Detroit venues. She and many of her performers showed up that night and put on a great show.
My favorite story relative to TWAT is that Grace had a hard time getting a band together to play for free in a truck. The trombone player had never played with her before. At one point Rabbit did a shadow dance strip tease. She had people 10 deep outside the truck watched through the scrim — but the band saw her in “living color”. About the time she dropped the last bits of clothing the trombonist lost his focus and the keyboard had to soldier on with Big Spender alone for a bit. If you go to the TWAT website Grace has the video uploaded.
One of my good friends had recently had her first book of poetry published and did a reading along with me. It was only my second time reading my work to an audience. It was terrifying to be so exposed but it was thrilling to feel the connection with the audience happen. More insight, this time into the addiction of the performance. The sense of what it is to be the Producer was also there.
I think it is fascinating what people do with these trucks. One guy created an audience participation game with a wheel of chance, there was a bake shop with French pastry, the chef I mentioned made high end peanut butter sandwiches with a woman who was a sultry abusive French waitress, and then there was my personal favorite. Friends of mine made a forest of black trees inside the truck. They used black light and ambient music to set the mood. Participants then were given black light sensitive paint to express themselves by painting the trees. The trees were so well laid out I got lost in a 26 foot truck. Amazing experience.
That was year one.