The Temple of Mazu, Prairie Wind Chapel, Life Cube, and Black Rock Bijou… Unique Buildings of Burning Man

The Temple pf Mazu, Goddess of the Empty Sea, was guarded by dragons at Burning Man.

The Temple of Mazu, Goddess of the Empty Sea, was guarded by dragons, a manticore, and thousand-eyed demons at Burning Man.

The folks at the Department of Public Art in New Xishi City, Taiwan decided it was time to have a presence at Burning Man— so they built the Temple of Mazu, Goddess of the Empty Sea, and brought it to Black Rock City. It is an ideal location for the Goddess. The Black Rock Desert was once part of a large Pleistocene lake of sea-size proportions. Now it is mainly dust and rock, a mere shadow of its ancient past.

The written description about the temple tells Burners, “You walk through the dust and heat of day, beyond the heart of the city, and from the haze before you emerges a shape that is both plant and place, flower and temple, both open and contained. No fence keeps you out, but one hundred and eight lanterns mark out the space, like a fairy ring in the forest, like the hundred and eight beads of the Buddhist rosary.” A giant lotus rises from the heart of the temple. Dragons, a manticore, and thousand-eyed demons guard it. I visited the temple during the day and at night.

Temple of Mazu at Burning Man 2015

A giant lotus rose from the top of the Temple Of Mazu.

A fire-bathing temple dragon.

A temple dragon.

Mazu Temple Manticore at Burning Man 2015

A mythological manticore with its scorpion tail…

And a thousand-eyed demon.

And a many-eyed demon.

A view of the Mazu Temple at night displaying its lantern and lotus.

A view of the Mazu Temple at night displaying its lantern, lotus and fiery protectors.

And a fire breathing dragon.

A fire-breathing dragon perched on the temple, blasts out its fiery breath.

A windmill reaching into the sky is usually the symbol of a lonely farm or ranch in the dry West of distant vistas. Often they can be seen from miles away. So when I saw a windmill way out on the Playa, I assumed I would find a structure reflecting a ranch or a farm. Instead I came on a chapel where a wedding was being held. The Prairie Wind Chapel is the creation of Robert Hoehn and the Wind Tribe out of Venice, California. According to Robert’s creative imagination, the chapel was “excavated from a dust bowl near the border of Oklahoma and Saskatchewan.” It “was once the heart of the roving town of Aeolia until a tornado wiped it all from the map.” A Victorian reed organ served as the centerpiece of the chapel. Burners were invited to stop and rest, or play the organ, if they were so inclined.

Looking up at the windmill attached to the Prairie Wind Chapel. Photographs from the 1930's Dust Bowl had been placed on the side.

Looking up at the windmill attached to the Prairie Wind Chapel. Photographs from the 1930’s Dust Bowl had been placed on the side.

A side view of the Chapel.

A side view of the Chapel.

Front view of Prairie Wind Chapel at Burning Man 2015

And a front view. The wind was invited into the chapel whenever it blew by.

A close up of the organ.

A close up of the organ plus candle lanterns and jaw bones. Playa dust, left behind by the visiting wind, outlines everything.

This impressively carved bull skull with its adorning feathers was hung above the organ.

This impressively carved bull skull with its adorning feathers was hung above the organ.

Skeeter Cohen’s Life Cube Project from Dobbs Ferry, New York was based on the concept “that if you write down what you want to accomplish in life, the chances of attaining it are much, much higher.” Cards were provided for jotting down Burners aspirations, or you were welcome to write them out on the large, cube-like building. Large murals had been painted on the front and sides of the structure. What impressed me most were the 440 individual art creations on the back.

The Life Cube building at Burning Man was designed to incorporate the life aspirations of individual Burners.

Burners were invited to express life-time goals at The Life Cube building. Covered with murals and graffiti,it was designed to be burned.

My friend, Don Green, captured this mural on the side of the building.

My friend, Don Green, captured this mural on the side of the building.

440 individual drawings and paintings covered the back of the building.

440 individual drawings and paintings covered the back of the building.

Here's a close up of the art. Check it out.

Here’s a close up of the art. It’s fun. Check it out.

“The Black Rock Bijou is that movie theater located in the Deep Playa, outside of Black Rock City that may or may not exist. Our mission is to shock and delight you with a movie theater that transports you to another time and place during your Deep Playa exploration.” –Release Neuman and Sam Gipson

The Deep Playa is the “Outback” of Burning Man, to steal a term from our Aussie friends. All that separates it from the desert is a fence that BMO puts up to protect and contain Burners. DO NOT CROSS  is the rule. Given that my Burning Man name is “Outlaw,” of course I had to climb over. A BMO truck was bearing down on me in seconds, kicking up a dust storm in its wake. Apparently the organization keeps Rangers out there with binoculars. As fast as they were, I was back over and on my way by the time they arrived. Let’s hear it for spry 72 year olds!

A relatively small percentage of Burners make it to the Deep Playa; it’s a long bike ride and a much further walk. But some artists enjoy placing their art out there. You have to work to appreciate it. That’s apparently how Release Neuman and Sam Gipson feel about their beautifully detailed Black Rock Bijou. It’s a theater out of the past that actually shows movies at midnight, 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. (beyond my bedtime).

The Bijou’s design is based on that of the Royal Theater in Archer, Texas, which was used in The Last Picture Show (based on Larry McMurtry’s book). I’ve been to Archer, not so much to see the Royal Theater as to check out the huge bookstore McMurtry has turned his hometown into. Peggy and I will be returning there this spring as part of our 10,000-mile road trip through the US and Canada.

Black Rock Bijou at Burning Man 2015

“Strangers on a Train” was playing at the Black Rock Bijou. If the first showing hadn’t started at midnight, I would have gone.

I provide a side view of the theater for my last photo today. Different murals are put up each year. This one reflected Burning Man's 2015 theme: A Carnival of Mirrors.

I’ll provide a side view of the theater for my last photo today. Different murals are put up each year. This one reflected Burning Man’s 2015 theme: A Carnival of Mirrors.

NEXT BLOG: Who goes to Burning Man… a look at Black Rock City’s annual census.

 

32 comments on “The Temple of Mazu, Prairie Wind Chapel, Life Cube, and Black Rock Bijou… Unique Buildings of Burning Man

  1. The Burning Man is truly amazing, Curt – to the point where most of us run out of descriptive adjectives. I know you must have told us before, but how large an area does it take to hold these gatherings?

  2. wow of the wow! 🙂 I lived in Houston, TX for 5 years, but I’ve never been to Archer, but I did go to… Paris, TX! 🙂 btw, you know “bijou” means “jewel” or “piece of jewellery” in French… 😉

  3. This one reveals the stories of Burning Man. Of course there will be stories in such a place. Stories of years before, stories made up on the spot, stories cleverly planned ahead of time. The Dust Bowl story, the theatre that may or may not exist, the pre-history of that great desert, the Temple of Mazu, a windmill from the border of Oklahoma and Saskatchewan. I spotted one of my favourite animated characters, Totoro, on the panel of 440 pieces. Each of those pieces has a story, I’m sure.

    The first time I ever lived in a place of my own after leaving home, that was not an Air Force dormitory, was a lovely, tiny, old home on Bijou Street in Colorado Springs. I loved the name of Bijou street and it was symbolic of my introduction to adult life. The word “bijou” has been magical to me ever since.

    This post is simply packed with delicious goodies. I wanted to say that the dust on the chapel organ is perfect. I think if the instrument had been clean, it wouldn’t have looked as good. And the Chinese dragons (perhaps a water dragon?) are a delight out there in the dust pond with the dust lotus.

    • So many stories, Crystal. I love doing research on the different art pieces. Of course there is never enough time. If I took all of the time I am tempted to, I’d never get a blog up. (laughing) Wonder how many Bijou theaters there are? I had to look up Totoro. (More research.) As for the dragon, a good point. Possibly a sea wyvern? –Curt

      • My kid is an enormous fan of anime, and Totoro is probably the most famous anime character (I’m guessing), and Miyazaki is one of the most loved anime directors in the US and possibly Japan as well, though obviously I can’t speak for them. 😉

        Anyway, in my quest to be involved in Tara’s life, I naturally absorbed an interest in anime, and now Totoro is a pretty common reference in our house.

    • I am glad you are enjoying them, JoHanna. I have a lot of fun putting the blogs together. One of my greatest challenges is picking which photos to use. There are so dang many of them. 🙂 –Curt

      • Yes, it really does hone the editing skills and sharpen the eye to what a good photo is. And then there are those moments when I just have to include a favorite, though maybe not so technically or aesthetically pleasing…just because it was an excellent day to be on the planet and the photo reminds me of that.

  4. The Temple of Mazu… Incredible. Literally shipped all the way from Taiwan. Just making sure the same number of cartons/containers made it here caused a lot of people to lose sleep, I’m sure. It is phenomenal in size and concept…down to the fires.

    But my favorite is the Bijou. What a hark back to the days of old. I can imagine beautiful Agent Peggy Carter strutting out of there in her red hat and matching high heels.

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