Just on time, as Burning Man kicks off its ticket madness today, here is a recollection of events at our theme camp Gymnasium and beyond in 2017. If you would like to get engaged with our camp this year in any way, please e-mail us or leave a comment to this post! You can read more about the concept of our camp on its webpage, but overall our theme refers to the Ancient Greek institution for athletics, philosophy and socializing.
Traditionally, our first even was a running race – from the esplanade to our camp at 7:30 Plaza.
Being on the first day of the festival, the race was dominated by our own campmates,
and the winner turned out to be yours truly 😉
This time, we no longer used laurel wreaths ordered online – instead, we had them hand-made by two campmates from the Netherlands. They added a bit of a Dutch twist to it though: judging by the shape of the leaves, it was more of a ‘weed’ wreath 😀
Our Gymnasium also featured a massage station,
especially popular after sport events, and some lucky winners even got a four-hand massage.
Even though our theme camp was first conceived with an idea to revive the ideals of the Ancient Olympics, we keep on adding more elements to have a more complete ‘gymnasium’ in its original meaning – with philosophical discussions and arts as well.
2017 saw our first installment of a pottery workshop, which was a lot of fun, for campmates and guests alike!
It all started with a block of clay.
and after rolling a few pieces, we moved on to creating vessels using the coiling method.
Of course, our inspiration came from Ancient Greek vases,
more specifically, of black-figure type
(but not without some Burning Man twist to it).
Though only the most determined students remained until that stage of the workshop 😀
In 2016, we pumped up the acrobatics compartment of our Gymnasium by adding a gymnastics wheel, aptly fitting to that year’s theme of Burning Man,
but in 2017 one of the campmates brought and entire aerial rig!
Needless to say, it was a very popular attraction among our guests
and campmates alike.
Some poses seemed easier
than the others,
but all of them evoked flying!
The gymnastics wheel was busy too,
but not everyone needed equipment for their acrobatic tricks!
Surely, there was also plenty of fun to be had and art to be seen outside our camp,
and we had a couple of group outings.
A great aspect of art at Burning Man is that it is interactive,
and 2017 was particularly good in this respect.
Many art pieces were calling to incorporate you, to become their part!
The Tree of Ténéré was certainly one of the most popular installations day and night (you can see it by night in the video above).
This cylinder of LED stripes seemed like a pretty simple construction,
but once you got inside and someone spun it, it would turn into an amazing spectacle of color!
Inside this red circular tunnel, one could feel like on a spaceship mission.
And Incendia was our favorite sound camp to dance [naked] at night –
their roof was on fire, literally! 2017 was a hot year at Burning Man, but the nights were still quite chilly, so that fire felt nice.
It was hypnotizing to observe the fire from below, but if that wasn’t enough,
you could use special viewing glasses that multiplied the visual input.
We first saw this camp at FreeForm Festival in 2016, but at Burning Man their installation was much bigger. And thanks to that fire, we could dance naked all night long – till sunrise!
I was gifted glasses that transformed any source of light into a heart ❤ shape, so when I tried them with the rising sun, it was amazing!
The DJ who played that night – Seth Schwarz – was really good, my major music discovery of 2017. Along with mixing records, he played an electric violin, and it wasn’t just a gimmick but an essential and natural part of his set.
… Well, and if you have heard about our camp before, by this time you must be wondering about our famous naked oil wrestling. Of course this was the main feature of Gymnasium again!
Unfortunately, there was a mistake in the Burning Man app and info center that showed our camp in a completely wrong location, which we found out only after a couple of days, but we still had a good attendance of our most popular event.
We had three wrestling events, with a winner in each, and one was particularly memorable. Despite seemingly having a disadvantage,
he knew what he was doing
and sent his opponents out of the ring with ease!
That golden laurel weed wreath was well deserved!
And here is a video with clips from some of the matches, enjoy!
Are you going this year? Let us know and join our events!
There have been countless interpretations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but this summer Torn Out Theater has presented perhaps the boldest version and at the same time also the truest to the character. After all, Hamlet himself wrote to Claudius: “High and mighty, You shall know I am set naked on your kingdom”, – to which he confirmed: “‘Tis Hamlet’s character. ‘Naked!'” You may argue that there is no need for such literal interpretation, but through this production, Torn Out Theater aims to draw attention to “fraught, complex world of male body image”.
The cast is all male, which is actually in accord with the theatrical tradition in Shakespearian times. In this respect, last year’s performance of ‘The Tempest‘ with an all-female cast was even more revolutionary. If the Tempest was played by amateurs (mostly from the Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp fiction Appreciation Society), this year’s production features professional actors. Jake Austin Robertson did amazing job playing Hamlet, in my opinion (and I heard the same from other spectators), and as he reveled in the press release at Pix11, nudity might have helped: “It’s a means of discovering his own truth and figuring out who he is regardless of whatever everyone else wants him to be”. However, not all actors in the play were naked, and those who were – for various periods of time. It seemed like nakedness was used as a tool to show that the character revealed his true colors, especially in emotional moments. This may be a pretty good theatrical tool to keep the audience engaged, given that there are studies showing that people are more compassionate and empathic when they see images of naked people compared to clothed people (not to mention saving money on costumes). Actors, on the other hand, get an additional way to express themselves – with the body language (and probably even without realizing it) – as such features as tension of the muscles or subtle changes in the posture would usually be concealed by costume. All this certainly worked for [spoiler alert! but you probably know the storyline to some extent anyway] the brilliantly choreographed fight scene between Hamlet and Laertes, or the final scene of Hamlet dying in the arms of Horatio.
So, you could (should!) see it all for yourself this weekend in Prospect Park in Brooklyn or in the beginning of September in Central Park. While the more known Public Theater features Hamlet “running around in his underpants“, our advice is to check out Torn Out Theater that goes all the way! Moreover, the performance is also free of charge (but donations are encouraged). Arrive earlier to get better seating; only limited amount of chairs is available for rent – but the atmosphere has a nice picnic vibe to it, so seating on the grass is what most people opt for. Overall, it is a great idea to have this performance in the parks out in the open, which makes this theater truly public. Compared to the famous ‘Shakespeare in the Park’, this is a much more intimate, immersive show… and who knows, maybe at some point there will be a show where the audience can be naked too. This is what is going to happen during the rock musical ‘Hair’ in London.
It would be good to hear opinions of people involved in theater professionally, so feel free to leave comments here. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure there will be some coverage form a couple of major outlets soon.
The Adirondacks are great for hiking and kayaking, but even relaxing by a creek may turn out very special there, as it happened to us at the so-called Potholers on the East Canada Creek. One of the reasons was that it was secluded enough to have the spot to ourselves most of the time, so we stayed comfortably naked.
Upstream from where we stayed, the creek was deep enough for swimming.
Downstream were the rocks, flat and comfortable – you can’t ask for a better way of relaxation than chilling outdoors with the sound of running water.
Well, maybe if you get in that running water for a shoulder massage!
Some of the “potholes” create perfect natural bathtubs, where you could sit with the water flowing over your shoulders and massaging you! And the temperature of the water was (in July) just perfect – refreshing but not chilling.
It was also nice to go behind that water wall and close yourself from the outer world for a moment.
Of course you could still see through, even though quite distorted. But there were some very peculiar things to observe indeed!
Check out this video:
We are pretty sure this behavior has never been seen (or at least recorded) before, and we still don’t know its meaning. What is it?
Maybe that is what happens when naturists become naturalists and artists at the some time 🙂
On that trip, we also visited the G-lake. It was great for swimming, but while bushwalking around it, one of us got stung by wild bees!
And not to make you completely against the idea of visiting this lake, we also saw a leech there. But it was actually a pretty sight, because it swam gracefully at the surface and was brightly colored – green with orange spots; so I actually regretted I didn’t have my camera at that moment. Well, but at least we were lucky to record the elusive Homo tritonii at the Potholers!
Theme camp Gymnasium has become a big part of Active Naturists project, and we are set to continue at this year’s Burning Man festival. We’ve already scored some tickets for the core crew, and a few of us are applying for Low Income Program, but the rest should get tickets through the Main Sale: registration opens next Wednesday, and the sale itself is in two weeks (info and dates here). We are open for new campmates too, so if you would like to participate, please e-mail us or leave a comment below!
If you read this blog, you must have heard about our theme camp quite a lot, but if you are new here or would like a reminder, here are some key links:
Burning Man festival this year saw the second installation of our theme camp Gymnasium, which refers to the Ancient Greek institution for athletics, philosophy and socializing. You can read more about the concept of our camp on its webpage, but here is our report with some imagery that should help you imagine what it was like (or evoke some good memories, if you participated in our events).
Even though our theme camp was first conceived with an idea to revive the ideals of the Ancient Olympics, this year besides the athletics we put more effort into another aspect of the concept of ‘gymnasium’ in its original meaning – philosophical discussions (with wine). For one session, each participant received a quote of a Greek philosopher and lead discussion on its subject, which let us cover all kinds of topics. We also had a session when we talked about our personal attitudes towards nudity as well as our views on the possible role for naturism in the [default] society. The common theme was the feeling of liberation and bonding with others that brings the simple act of social nudity – and the photos here seem to confirm that.
An entirely new idea for this year was the gymnastics wheel (aka German wheel). Several month before the festival, I stumbled upon a photo with German wheel gymnasts from 1920’s and immediately got an impression that it would be a big hit at Burning Man. As you can see below, it provided a perfect link between the theme of our camp and the theme of Burning Man this year – ‘Da Vinci’s Workshop’.
We of course refer to the drawing of the Vitruvian Man by Da Vinci, and expectedly the Man himself took the iconic shape this year.
We were so happy to see that our idea was immediately understood by other burners – as soon as we rolled the wheel onto the playa, we had people queuing to take a picture,
and it seemed like it was self-explanatory that one was supposed to get naked for a photo à la Vitruvian Man 🙂
This was a big success in terms of bringing all kinds of people to try a new fun activity in the buff and in public,
and they were creative with poses.
But we didn’t forget the primary function of the gymnastics wheel,
and the flat playa surface was perfect to roll it.
We had to be careful to avoid possible injuries, as even one rotation proved to be a lot more difficult than we had anticipated. The gymnastics wheel turned out to be a great magnet for people back at the camp too – dozens of passers by stopped to try it every day; only a few managed though, even with helpers.
In their defense, I have to note that in the first days we only knew one, difficult way of holding yourself in the wheel during rotation: pushing up with your arms with all power while maintaining them as straight as possible. That was until someone came by and said that there had been a workshop on gymnastics wheel at Hellfire Society camp. (On what subject isn’t there a workshop at Burning Man?) So we went there, and the camp lead gladly arranged another workshop specially for us. It turned out that while our technique wasn’t impossible, the typical and much better way to hold yourself during rotation on the wheel was by hooking your feet.
After we learned that, the success rate among all the newbies to gymnastics wheel skyrocketed, and we were on the roll 🙂
Our first athletic event in the week was the running race.
This year we only had a short race on our street,
but it was a nice way to get attention from our neighbors and passers by.
It was all for fun, but it was a competition nevertheless.
Our Gymnasium also offered daily fitness exercises, with Matt leading push-up sessions every morning.
This year we had a certified yoga/acro-yoga instructor among our campmates,
so we had a few sessions at the camp
and also played a bit on the playa.
We probably should have spent a little more time posing with those amazing and massive art pieces,
but unfortunately some of them were burned much earlier in the week than we had anticipated (e.g. the pyramids on Friday morning).
Some installations were quite interactive and served as great frames for photos, literally.
Other installations referred to familiar views of the “default world”, like NYC skyline at the Kostume Kult, making the whole experience only more surreal…
(I wish we could sip our morning coffee in Manhattan just like that!)
Unfortunately I enjoyed my nights out in an immediate manner, and recorded neither my own naked dancing on the ashes of the burned Man and at the White Ocean nor the performance by a couple of naked fire-spinners at the Mayan Warrior art car, which was probably my favorite mutant vehicle in terms of the music (and certainly in terms of the lights). But here is a short clip from that night I found online, where you can see those two naked fire-spinners, but resting in the crowd at the time – perhaps a video with their performance will appear at some point too, but I’m just happy to have witnessed it.
As you can see, our camp was primarily focused on providing interactive events rather than art and installations,
but we arranged some decorations to highlight our reference to Ancient Greece.
This year we added a statue depicting Hercules wrestling Diomedes for his 8th labor. By the way, I haven’t been able to find an explanation behind that ‘penile grip’ – so if there are specialists in history of art among the readers here, please enlighten us in the comments 😎
And yes, we are long overdue with our report re Burning Man experience this year, but it’s coming. And here is just another reminder about the nu-dancing video we shot at Burning Man last year with our instructor damoN – still can’t get enough of it!
I know many of you are eagerly awaiting our report from Burning Man, but I am still working on the photos. However, this reminded me that I’m also overdue with reporting on an ambitious photo/digital art project by Angelo Musco, where I participated as one of the numerous models… but became a focal figure in the final art piece! You can read about this project in the Huffington Post article, or watch the video below to get the idea and the work behind it.
By the way, can you spot me?
I really like Angelo Musco’s works, which create intricate landscapes and shapes made of hundreds of human bodies. I have been following his art for a while, and was happy to finally be able to participate in his work as a model this June.
Looking at his previous works, I was wondering if I’d be even able to spot myself in this immense ‘Sanctuary’…
so I felt very honored when I found out that I got in the spotlight, being a landing spot for the butterfly, which, as mentioned in the video, symbolizes metamorphosis.
I hope that I’ll be able to see the actual printout at an exhibition – whether in New York, or any other city,
as I am sure that will be a much better way to fully appreciate this masterpiece than on a computer screen.
But it’ll be also fun to try to spot myself as a ‘brick’ in a wall or a part of a column of one of those towers…
And just a few words about the photoshoot: Even for a person like me, who is naked whenever possible and has participated in massive events involving social nudity, e.g. Philly Naked Bike Ride and NYC Body-Painting Day, this was a very special experience. The way we, models, had to act and interact with each other was quite unique and intimate – it was a bonding experience for all of us, although we mostly didn’t know each other at all. It was interesting to participate in something together while only guessing what the final product would look like, and feeling like becoming a part of something much, much bigger. And the result is quite amazing indeed!
PS It was also my first time naked in a church. (Yes, the NYC photoshoot took place in a church!)
Our NuDance project has become a regular feature now, with nude dance classes on Friday nights in Midtown Manhattan. We have fun trying to imitate and learn from our instructor damoN, and then sometimes going out together to New York City’s nightclubs (where we do have to wear clothes, though). Our long-term goal is to stage a performance, perhaps also attracting external professional dancers, and also organize a naked dance party in the city. If you are interested, let us know and get on our e-mail list for updates as well as to find out the location and timing of the classes.
Here comes our report from Burning Man festival this year, when 18 of us gathered together to create a camp themed around Gymnasium as an Ancient Greek institution for athletics, philosophy and socializing. You can read more about the concept of our camp on its own webpage; we launched this project a few months earlier at FreeForm Festival, and here you can see how it came about at the festival of festivals, Burning Man. (But keep in mind that this is by no means an attempt to write about the festival as a whole, there simply “too much” fun stuff happens to be able to grasp more than just a fraction of it.)
After months of preparation, the last days before the festivals were very exciting but also a bit scary – with this endeavor being our first experience as such a theme camp, something was likely to go wrong! Indeed, our early arrival/construction crew had a flat tire at the start of the trip in San Francisco, and as we collected all the stuff that we planned to carry to Black Rock City, we realized we had to buy an extra trailer. We resolved all the issues smoothly but experienced another setback due to the weather, as on Saturday before the opening of the festival, when we had planned to construct our camp, a severe dust storm took place; we could only enter Black Rock City in the evening and started construction early on Sunday.
Well, luckily we didn’t plan on building anything complicated, so we raised most of our shade structures before the rest of our campmates arrived. (Then later on in the afternoon a strong gust almost blew off a part of our shade structure, bending some of the carrying metal parts and tearing apart one of the tarps, but we were able to fix it; although it doesn’t say so in the instructions, it is apparently important to fix the structure with additional ropes and rebar.)
The final touch was putting up the banner of our camp.
Our location was great – at 7:30 Portal and A, we were at a busy intersection, but also with easy access to the Esplanade and an open view all the way to the man.
And that view proved to be nothing short of amazing on the first night, with the supermoon rising next to the Man statue.
Another nature’s wonder was a mini-tornado coming to us from the playa –
it was not any dangerous though, as you can see in the video below.
Well, this video shows a few other things too, but there’s still a lot more to the story (and two more videos) – so keep on reading. A couple more words about the camp:
We had a simple bike rack available for the visitors (note the horse head masks used for its decoration, I’ll mention them later).
For decoration, we used an olive tree (artificial – live plants are prohibited at Burning Man), columns adorned with ivy, and a small statue of Poseidon (without a trident, to make him look more like a generic Ancient Greek athlete…) – next time, we plan to team up with a 3D-printing camp to make a bigger statue.
The schedule of our activities was put daily on the blackboard.
Our first event included two running races – a 100-yard sprint
and a longer, approx. 1.8 km run from our camp to the Man and back.
The sprint was won by Chris, and the long run by yours truly 🙂
Admittedly, there weren’t that many participants, but it was still very early in the week, while many camps were still wrapping up their construction. We had other races planned, e.g. piggy-back and barrel-run, as we did at FreeForm, but we had to postpone and eventually cancel those due to dust storms and because the horse head masks which were meant for the final run of that race were stolen borrowed without asking from our bike rack. We also had to cancel our only night event – ‘discus (LED-lit frisbee) throw in the dark… and in the buff’ – because the nights were bitterly cold in the second half of the week! (Though as you can briefly see in the video above, we still managed to dance naked at some night parties getting warm by the fire from the art cars.)
Our ‘Naked Philosophy’ session was more of a personal introduction among our camp mates, as we did not know each of us in person; and then we discussed our experience in naturism and what it meant for us.
Our most successful event by far was the naked oil wrestling, and here is our second video dedicated to it. Unfortunately some of the video is quite blurry, because oil got on my camera, and most of the footage was not usable at all Oh well, at least it was a GoPro in a sealed casing, so the camera was totally fine after washing.
Our naked oil wrestling drew a lot of attention, even people in fancy mutant vehicles stopped to watch the match.
As at FreeForm Festival, we used sumo rules, which are the easiest to follow from all wrestling types, and added some Greekness to it with olive oil (and nudity), as a reference to the authentic Olympics.
Each match started with ceremonial wide steps, and then opponents tried to push each other
until one of them stepped outside the ring;
and the soles of the feet were the only part of the body allowed to touch the ground – so pushing the opponent down could also work.
But perhaps the most effective approach is simply carrying the opponent outside the ring, preferably keeping him upside down! 😀
For each pair, the victory was decided in 2 wins out of 3 matches.
We didn’t structure the whole event as an ultimate competition though – anyone could challenge whoever they wanted, and more than once. But we had two wrestlers that stood out
and were well matched –
so their sparring was very intense and captivating.
But even the fiercest match ended with a hug.
And both of them received well-deserved golden laurel wreaths!
(By the way, I lost their contact, so if anyone knows them – please put us in touch!)
After the final match, all wrestlers were welcome to go to an amazing massive group shower ‘perfoamance’ at the camp called ‘Something Freaky Foams This Way’. Next day, we arranged the same competition at their camp – so that people queuing up to get foamed would try their strength in wrestling and entertain the public, and skip the line. We got in touch with one of the organizers of this camp at FreeForm Festival, and this was the best collaboration we could ask for – getting clean and relaxed felt particularly amazing after days in the dust and then even more so after wrestling. Decent showers are obviously quite sought-after at Burning Man, but this camp brings the whole experience to the next level by making it a massive group (40 people at a time) and entertaining activity (with countdown and music, water and foam sprayed under high pressure).
Here are some more photos from the wrestling matches at our camp and ‘Something Freaky Foams This Way’, if the ones above and the video aren’t enough.
Besides planned events, we had a few spontaneous activities, e.g. dance practices by Antony and damoN.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any footage of our fun session of a naked Greek dance with music from ‘Zorba the Greek’. It was lead by our new friend from another camp, and he rightfully suggested we would like the idea of performing this dance naked, which he said was his fantasy from a while ago, when he learned it at a Greek restaurant.
And if you follow this blog, you shouldn’t be surprised seeing some naked capoeira here 🙂
And with Tam around, acro-yoga was bound to happen sooner or later –
to our own and guests’ entertainment.
Then we toured a bit around the playa and did more acro-posing with some of Burning Man’s most interesting art constructions in the background.
This structure proved to combine very well with acro-yoga,
as its multiple lines were quite easy to align with the body parts of the posers.
From afar, it looked as if the giant metal ball was resting on Antony supported by Tam’s legs…
And one of the Mars Molecules seemed to be designed perfectly for acro-yoga, not just as a background, but as a base too.
Here is a composition with three men again.
And now, three men intertwined into one ‘laughing dragon’ –
laughing and causing laughter in viewers alike.
There were a few other camps that offered activities in the buff. Besides washing your body from all the dust, sweat and, in our case, also oil at the ‘perfoamance’ camp, cleaning the nose from accumulating dust seemed like a good idea too… and of course there was a camp for that – Neti’s (naked) Nose Spa – and naked too! I really liked how I felt afterwards, so when I got home I immediately ordered a neti pot. Some events were missed due to dust storms or cold nights (e.g. black light naked twister), others I simply forgot about (e.g. naked skateboarding session).
The camp across the street from us, Decadent Oasis, provided the best light show at night, with their technicolor ever-changing palm trees and great music. We were invited to do a striptease for their bachelorette party, though we first had to find some clothes to put on 😀 They also had a slackline,
and we were treated with a show of really good slackline walker who was naked and walked it all way through.
which featured plenty of nudity in its decoration among other elements.
Another view of the R-Evolution statue.
Riding on the bike in the heat of the day felt pretty nice thanks to the light wind (unless it turned into a dust storm!)
But the best conditions seemed to be around sunset time – the sun wasn’t scorching but it was still very warm before the onset of the cold night, and the air was still – that’s when we liked strolling around in our altogethers. But the photo below shows how you can be well protected against the elements while being naked!
And for comparison, this is how the same place looked like one day after the end of the festival…
Sad that everything has to come to an end, but on the other hand Burning Man celebrates immediacy, so realization of the temporary nature of… everything is part of the festival.
We made sure to leave no trace behind us and were ready to go home for the next adventure. Gymnasium proved to be a great experience for its organizers and visitors alike (hopefully all of them, let me know if not) and will hopefully develop only more in years to come!
And here is our third, bonus video with damoN performing on the playa. This was shot while the festival was still rocking, just outside Black Rock City. In case you thought it was difficult to escape from the crowds at this massive festival, it is actually easy to find a place where you can be alone when you would like to reconnect with your ‘inner self’; and the vast open landscape of the desert will only help with that. But it’s good to know that you’re next to the city full of your friends or yet-to-become friends.
Many of you are eagerly awaiting updates from our experience as a theme camp at Burning Man, but it will take some time to get through all the amazing photos and videos – stay tuned, it’s worth the wait 😉 Meanwhile, enjoy our new video from the NuDance project.
We see dance as a celebration of human body in movement, and what a better way to celebrate and appreciate it than in the nude? Beach provides a great setting for dancing in the buff, and those old poles remind of piano keys, referring to the soundtrack by Eric Prydz – ‘Pjano’. We experiment with masks here to shift focus on body expression.
By the way, we will have our last beach session of this summer at Sandy Hook this Saturday – Gunnison Beach on the right side at 16:00. Then we plan to start again regular weekly classes in New York City; if you are interested, get on our e-mail list for updates and find out the location and timing of the classes.