Cafe Temps Perdu at Burning Man 1998
Mauricia Gandara, designer, and Bob Stahl, construction foreman, created a floating world of spirits, people, and creatures inspired by native American petroglyph art and Bedouin tents for Ms. P. Segal's cafe in the center of Black Rock City in 1998. This year we wanted to make the Cafe at least twice as large as last year, with more artistic elements, and I think we succeeded in creating a pleasant place to sip hot or cool drinks and enjoy the panorama and procession of the temporal city around us. We received a fantastic amount of help from volunteers. We loved having you work with us this year and hope you help on future projects; email me if you want to comment on this year's efforts or contribute in the future.
Mauricia Gandara, a native of Brazil, created images for the Cafe inspired by the rock art of native peoples of the deserts of the American Southwest. Media included latex paint, and oil paint, pigments dissolved in varnish applied to masonite. The wood was primed with sand-mixed latex, giving a rock-like texture and soft look to the objects. The framework supporting the shade structure was draped with wire mesh and colored a light reddish-brown so as to blend with the surrounding desert floor and provide a lithologic backdrop for the artwork. Amber-colored fiberglass quarter-spheres (segments recycled from the ice mold for the 1997 piece by Jim Mason, "Temporal Decomposition") were used as focusing elements and to create translucent lanterns, onto which the images would cast ghostly shadows.
Additional features included a chandelier fabricated by volunteers using zinc-coated steel, cut and shaped by hand. Salvaged wooden cable spools used for tables were painted by volunteers. Virtually all elements of the Cafe were created from recycled, recyclable, and reusable materials.
We wanted the Cafe to stretch with arms wide open under the sheltering sky, visually stunning from above and below, giving the compass center of Black Rock City a visual focus. We were blessed with a Full Moon on Saturday of the event, so we thought an appropriate iconic image for the Cafe, to fit in with the theme of Outer Space, might be a black sun eclipsed by a white moon, as shown in the sketch, which shows an initial conception for the Cafe:
This initial design was altered somewhat for practicality and high-wind considerations, and to adapt to the available materials, time, and personnel in the last-week rush to finish construction and placement of art. The covering consisted of black polypropylene fabric stretched between wood battens and steel guy ropes, stabilized against the force of the wind using auger-type ground anchors.
In initial design discussions with Joegh Bullock, Center Camp coordinator for the Burning Man staff, central structures in Center Camp were to employ metal scaffolding as the main structural support. The Cafe was located at the City center facing toward the lane to the Burning Man, with a separate stage structure facing away from the Man. The Cafe provided a shaded area of about five thousand square feet. A large shed was erected for Cafe supply storage, and 32 feet of serving counter was built. This photograph shows the Cafe under construction, in the direction of the gateway leading to the Burning Man:
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Ms. P is the editor of the zine "Proust Said That" and has been going to the desert for many years with artist friends. To put the Cafe project in a Proustian frame of reference, it is a tranquil, elegant meeting place at the center of it all, a place to drink coffee in the shade and view the cacophony around us.
The ferocity of the desert weather is hinted here, here, and here in these photos from 1995 (credit to Barb Traub & Rusty Hodge). (Distinct photos of the Cafe from 1995 and years previous were difficult to locate.)
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