Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Strange Glorious Story of La Contessa

(Photo: unknown)
My own favorite memory of La Contessa is seeing her at night... she truly appeared as a ghost ship floating across the night sky- the Flying Dutchman doomed to endlessly wander among the clouds... It was an amazing site...That was the year of the Floating World, by far the best year Burning Man has ever had for art and art cars. After the the man burned that year, we turned and walked outward to the perimeter to take a breather from the massive madness of the burn itself and it was like stepping out onto a sea at night... the ships, boats, and a myriad of lighted sea creatures helped create the most magical and surreal setting I've ever experienced in my 10 burns... I will always remember her fondly...
Well, I was doing some research to find out what ever happened to this storied vessel. Why was she banned from Burning Man? Why did she come back? Wasn't she burned down? Is so, what was that ship that was burned in the bay last Friday night? I found out others had done the job already, and much better than I could have. So here ya go....

Au revoir La Contessa
by Erik Davis
Feb. 3, 2007
(photo: Lane Hartwell)
On a recent Friday night, with a full moon glowering waxy from above, a feline and freaky crowd gathered on a toxic finger of San Francisco's bayside no-man's-land to bid symbolic adieu to one of the most powerful works of art that the Burning Man arts festival has ever seen: the great dame La Contessa. A massive Spanish galleon encased around a bus, with crow's nests and rigging and a scuttlebutt for all I know, La Contessa was, on the playa anyway, a manifest dream, a fully realized mobile archetype that featured such fetishistic and finely-grained detail that it became a vessel in more than a literal sense. Standing on the bow at night, the Dutchman sails flying above, a bardo-shaking brass band drowning out sense, and some unseen meth-head driving too fast or erratically for your own cowardly comfort, one did not need drugs to achieve the escape velocity of full imaginative transport. And on Dec 6 of last year, this great vessel of the wayward spirit, its forty feet parked on a ranch in Washoe County, Nevada, was torched to ruin by a local landowner who never hid his hatred of Burning Man, and whose legally dubious and almost certainly vengeful act is parsed, along with much else, in Steven T. Jones' solid SF Guardian cover story.
for the complete article
To see video shot of the burial at sea, click here
La Contessa at Burning Man at sunrise (photo: Scott London)La Contessa sails the playa (photo: D. Madison)
The ship burning, set on fire by arsonist (photo: Quinn)

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