Welcome to Graveyard City, an interactive installation art that was created specifically for Midburn, Israel’s regional Burning Man art festival in June 2016 (9,000 people)
Every city needs a graveyard. It is the “Yin” to the “Yang” of life.
This art installation is about stories, experiences, and community. The process, in my opinion, is far more interesting than the results. Here is our story of how it was created, built, and burnt down …….
The installation was created with two of the 10 principles from Burning Man in mind; “Radical Self-Expression” and “Radical Inclusion”. For me, radical inclusion was crucial, and as such a team of 10 people came together as the “core” of the project, and over 40 people participated in creating 70 different graves at different “fun-shops” we held, open to anyone who wanted to participate.
“One of my best experiences was to take part in this installation and to make my own headstone. I loved my grave so much that I told everyone about it.” – Hagar Yankovitch
Our team put together a video to raise awareness of our project:
We had an all-night sculpting party with only women, making the three “crying women”
And some people came especially to my studio:
Then came the “fun” part…… building it in the heat of the desert…. 40 degrees Celsius in the shade! (104 degrees Fahrenheit ).
Finally …. Five days to set up the installation, with our amazing team, and on Wednesday, at 2pm…. The first day of the Burn, the installation was completed. 70 graves, four dug out graves: double grave, mass grave, one single, and one with a podium for “funeral” ceremonies, where you could draw a tarp over the top.
For five days people interacted with the Graveyard:
“This installation was where I spent the most of my time. I discovered it while they were building it and fell in love. There were shaded areas to sit during the and intimate lit areas at night. It was a place to find intimacy among the throngs of people at the burn. Thank you for this. I was able to take moments to relax and breath, like no other place on the Playa. Thank you. It was perfect.” – Adi Hay
“I was hanging out one day with a friend in the graveyard, and suddenly we realized that some of the graves were dug out. In that instant, we saw as if in slow motion, something starting to rise from one of the grave. I jumped from fear and started shouting, “OMG – there’s someone in there!” Suddenly two people, super colorful, begin slowly to peep out, like they want to say something….. We got closer to hear them…. “Do you have a light?” one of them asked. Then we exploded with laughter.”
– Hagar Yankovitch
“What was fun about the graveyard, was that only there did we feel eternal rest” – Eyal Leon
“Under the tree, we had a secret ceremony in the middle of the night. It was the perfect place. Thank you Debi” – Yonatan Sch
“My Lego porn was making couples horny… Just what I wish for- couples making out on my grave! :)” – artist Avivit Ben-Zur
And then came the last night of the Burn…… the night we were supposed to burn the graveyard down. Everyone on the team was supposed to show up around 24:00 midnight for an unofficial “marshmallow roasting”….. But things never seem to turn out the way you expect at a burn, and at 2:00am I found myself sitting alone in the Graveyard. Everyone on the Graveyard Crew had a different reason for not being there, however I didn’t know it at the time. It was one of those “now or never” things, because the alternative of burning during the day was not an option.
I was pulling out the metal, gloves, and lighter fluid from under the bushes, when I saw a small fire just up the hill. I thought I could take some hot coals to start my fire. When I got there, I discovered an unofficial burn of an unofficial art installation by Caminante Hirsch. I stayed with him for his burn, and then he came and helped me start mine.
I placed the half barrel in the bottom of the mass grave, and Caminante helped me start the fire
Once we got it going, Zombies from the Playa, drawn to the fire began to arrive. We invited everyone to choose a headstone and through it into the flames.
A fascinating discussion occurred around the fire, based on people’s choices.
“What a crazy experience it was to go into a cemetery in the middle of the desert. What an experience it was when we met Debi on the last sunrise of the Burn. There was a huge fire for burning all the headstones that were created for the psychotic graveyard. Months of thought and creativity. We wondered through the graves and chose the headstone that we wanted to burn. Moments I will never forget. Thank you”. – Gony Nehama
When the dawn came, I knew it was time to shift into high gear. Me and a few other Zombies started throwing everything that could burn into the fire. I felt so empowered! Full of energy. I felt like a lion roaring strong. It was probably one of the most empowering moments of my life…. The knowledge that I don’t have to wait for anyone to do what I want…. There will always be “zombies” around to help.
“I visited the cemetery on the last night with Caminante . In retrospect, Im sorry I did not discover the place before hand. Thank you Debi on so many incites and for the opportunity to burn something with such a strong statement. I won’t ever forget that evening.” – Eliran Cohen
The last of the Zombies helped me clear out the Graveyard, and by 7am I was resting under the trees, trying to get an hour or two of sleep before heading back to the camp and to begin packing up.
THE OFFICIAL GRAVEYARD CREW
Any project of this magnitude needs a good teem. Here is ours, with some personal epitaphs from me to them.
Debi Oulu – Because I didn’t want to live anymore if I couldn’t create a Graveyard.
Marrian Boo – My partner who put the “Fun” in Funeral.
Boaz Rom – Such an angelic smile, …. and he got shit done!
Daniel Milstein – The Devil reincarnated (but in a good way)
Amnon Jislin – The wizard of anything cylinder shaped
Uriel Sade – The man who never stopped pounding!
Nissan Ravid – The Master Grave Digger
Noa Serina Peleg – The Queen of Photography
Gotz Scheffel – A simple man, but good with his hands and a shovel
Amelie Carthee – Always with a surprise “something” up her sleeve, and a happy smile.
Special Thanks to all the people who made their own headstones, helping to make the graveyard very personal, varied and different.