The Artwork of Michael Divine

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Bringing it to the Masses

September 26th, 2006

I was a younger kid once (i’m still young and oftentimes still a kid), out on the scene, looking for something cool. After my favorite bit of music passed I ended up out again in the night looking for the next spark for my imagination. The nights would pass and some would end better than others. But always I hoped to find some bit of magical inspiration.

Now I’m older, and, I would hope, a bit wiser. I have learned a few things over the years. One of them is that in order to make the magic spark- I have to do it myself. No one else is going to do it for me. However, there have always been those who provided a few fans for the flames, fodder for the fire or bits of actual spark.

Now I take my artwork to some event, some relatively mainstream event- the kids there want to feel they are part of the underground, and maybe, in some ways they are, but nonetheless it is a mainstream event. It is not a party- I go to parties- out in the desert or maybe someone’s land… those are parties- where common intention creates a very safe and funky space. The djs want to be playing not because they want to be superstars but because they like what they do and they like people to dance and they want to have fun, get down, get high, be the light with everyone else- we are all one movement in those times. There is a familial feeling and I love it.

I have friends who frown upon the “mainstream” event. In the same way- they frown maybe on the music they used to listen to- the Cure, Nirvana. Me, I have a soft spot in my heart for those bands, amongst others, still listening to Nevermind with the windows down while I drive fast on a sunny blue sky day… ah teen spirit…. We are all one and even the mainstream party, festival, etc, has it’s gems, it moments- it’s reason for being.

We brought the tesseract structure violet had designed some years before for Burning Man, The tesseract, a three dimensional representation of four-dimensional space, not just a figment of Madeleine L’Engle’s mind, would be strung with four banners of my artwork. That and an EZ-up tent of our usual “traveling gallery” consisting of stretched prints, maroon velvet walls, posters, a couple of lounging camp chairs and some lighting would serve to be a little bit of inspiration, a spark dispensary if you will.

The tesseract, a giant lower-case T shaped thing made of metal tubing painted with white blacklight paint went up fairly easily, though a fair bit of grunting and heaving was involved. The first cube gets built, made of heavy duty steel piping seven feet long creating a 7 by 7 foot cube, with various hanging wires and the like attached to it. Then the next cube gets built, the other one raised up and set on top. Four more cubes get built coming out of sides of the bottom cubes of this two cube pyramid. Appropriate cables are attached for structural integrity and then the fun begins.

Now, to put our energy levels in perspective, Violet and I had only gotten six hours of sleep the night before, on top of the running around for the past few days, the six hour gruelingly slow car ride from San Diego the day before, trapped in Labor Day traffic, getting to LA to pick up the construction materials we’d left there before our move and then another two hour ride to San Bernardino where we would sleep in a hotel and get to the festival grounds early in the day to begin our set-up.

Luckily we were being paid, our expenses were covered and we had some wiggle room. Otherwise we would have quit before we started. Setting up art for other people’s parties is a hard job and a lot of work and often the artists go through far more work than the superstar DJ, whoever they may be, so I’d decided a while back there were no more free parties, people have to pay for the art to be there. So there we were…

Anyhow, the winds were picking up, our EZ-up was beginning to be knocked down, thrown about and we had to come up with another five or six more people, on top of our seven friends who’d showed up, enticed by the promise of free tickets to the event and their gas money paid for, to help us to lift this thing, get the next two cubes underneath and create the four cubed, twenty eight foot tower. From the outer cubes we were hanging the banners that would hang diagonally to the top of the bottom cube (Note figure 1.0). we had spotlights to light them, barricades to put around it and about two hundred feet of rope to secure the thing.

We find a few more people, they always are there right when you need them, and, with a great heave, sixteen arms lift, the cubes waver, WHOA WHOA WHOA… the ropes are pulled, steadied, another cube is slipped underneath, and the structure is set on top. OKAY! One more time… one more cube. Okay guys, lift! And with a heave, another HO! It is raised. Steady! The ropes are pulled, rebar pounded into the ground and we laugh- We’d not gone to Burning Man this year because we’d traveled through July and had moved through august and had no funds or time or energy left for burning the man. Yet, here we were, our hands raw, the tesseract, a former BM project, was now erected and Geoffrey, our friend and production companion on the previous couple years journeys, was right there with us, helping out, as he’d not gone to BM either. And that night in Black Rock City, would have been the night to burn the man.

(We burned our little two foot effigy of the man later in Corndog’s musical dodecahedron thingamabob.)

So we get the tesseract set in place. Banners are secured, lighting is configured, barricades arranged, EZ-up gallery settled and we are done.

Oy.

Anthony and I sit in the afternoon sun, in the lounge camp chairs, the paintings behind us with the maroon velvet, drinking Maker’s and ginger with a splash of lime and watch the kids arrive.

“Nocturnal Wonderland” the promoters call it. It’s been going on for years. Cool stuff, no doubt, at one time. But now it is just another massive themed festival grossing over a million dollars. All your top name crapped out Djs play and a bunch of kids, most no older than twenty one, show up, in their full regalia. Some regalia hasn’t changed a bit- the plastic jewelry, the blinking chew toys, glowsticks and baggy furry pants. But the pants aren’t as big as they used to be (somehow practicality settled in) and the plastics have given way for more scenes to add their elements so it is this giant conjunction of fashions.

But on the other hand: there is a new phenomenon that I’d not seen before. Sure, I’ve been to Burning Man and seen every fashion- all the fur and lace and moon boots and bustiers and all kinds of stuff. But now I’m watching eighteen-year-old girls in this fluorescent day glow lingerie looking quite sexy, expression their budding sexuality, and Anthony and I are like, Whoa…

These are kids who haven’t found Burning Man yet and as far as they can tell this is pretty big. Course, this is like two blocks of Burning Man but hey… don’t want to harsh their mellow.

Throughout the night we meet all types- the tripping candy ravers, the goth kids, the punks, the drunks, the girls who are so cute and sexy and the ones who are not. The smoking drinking dudes and the really intelligent kids who are truly diamonds in the rough, totally stoked to be alive. Plenty of people who are high and plenty who are not. We have wonderful conversations and share a wealth of information.

Through it all we got one thing: people were stoked to have found us. With our warm glow, the bright blow your mind paintings, the big art structure: people told us we’d made their night, they couldn’t believe it… they found people who not only supported the psychedelic world but that they came from something which was wholly beyond even that, and that world was completely accessible and we, violet, myself and the others with us, were just very very real people.

I stood in the night, explaining, briefly, the painting “The End of Conditions” to a girl I’d been talking to for a bit- how it is all about breaking through the conditioned mind into the true original mind- breaking through the conditioning of governments and societies and religions and family institutions…

“Wow,” she said, “This suddenly makes me totally sick at governments, totally… O my god… I hate it. I can’t believe it. I want to get rid of them.”

“Great,” I said, happy to have inspired another revolutionary.

What a night. The music, what brief bits I heard, was nothing to write home about. I know good music. We have good parties. But this, for us, was not about the music. It was about the people. And bringing the spark to them so they can take it, grow with it, and become who they have always been meant to be.

At four in the morning it was over. Trash strewn grounds greeted us under the phosphorescent glow of white spotlights.

“Leave a trace,” said Geoffrey, “I think is the motto of this thing.” Compared to all the events we go to which are all about leaving no trace… being responsible for what you use.

After a bit of asking around we found some kids to help us take down the tesseract and with the same grunting, heaving, pushing and pulling, steadying and whoa-ing we got it down. Exhausted and running on caffeine we cleaned and packed up our rental SUV. Our friends left, with warm hugs, blessings and, from us, many thank you’s- because we never could have done it without them.

We were on the road. The sun rose above distant desert mountains and a pink skyline off in the west as I drove south on the 15, back to San Diego, our new home.

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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