Robot Heart and Burning Man trailers make their New York debut

A shirtless young man with elf ears and a pink beard danced to trance music. A crowd sipped Liquid Death, a new brand of water being marketed at festivals, while rocking and swaying and engaging in conversation with strangers. Bystanders sat on grassy mounds for a bird’s-eye view of the colorful scene. In one corner, a woman tested a “sensory experience” chair and wore a virtual reality headset while her high-tech chair vibrated violently. Candy-scented clouds drifted from vape to mouth into the air.

Welcome to Robot Heart. Organized by the Robot Heart Foundation, which bills itself as a “collective of dreamers and doers,” these parties typically lean towards a more collaborative, counter-cultural brand of fun and are typically found during the Burning Man festivals in the Black Rock Desert Nevada instead.

On this occasion, however, the Foundation celebrated its inaugural event in New York City, billed as Fare Forward at Wollman Rink in Central Park. The hilarity was a little more controlled in the new urban environment. Police officers monitored the scene, and the whole action began at 2 p.m. on a Saturday and Sunday and ended promptly at 10 p.m.—an acceptable bedtime.

This two-day event on April 30th and May 1st was in some ways a return to glory. The pandemic has put Robot Heart, which debuted in 2008, on a harsh hiatus, as has the much larger Burning Man Festival. The loss was acutely felt among “Burners” (passionate festival fans).

This gathering has become a haven for a motley crowd that includes creative nomads, Bushwick artisans and Silicon Valley tech heads. At each event, a ‘Mad Max’-esque 1972 Bristol bus equipped with speakers and dubbed the ‘Robot Heart Art Bus’ plays sets by acclaimed DJs

The sun-drenched respite from the outside world was founded and directed by George Mueller, known as “Geo,” who died unexpectedly of a cerebral aneurysm last year. This month’s festival was the first Robot Heart event since his death, and attendees went out in part to honor him.

A democratic, egalitarian spirit reigned on the dance floor. Bodies were pressed close together as strangers bonded. Occasionally someone would spot an old friend they met at Burning Man and shout hello. As night fell, colorful LED lights swept over the crowd and items of clothing were scattered throughout the grounds. Kisses were exchanged here and there.

And there was plenty to do in the VIP area, accessible with tickets. Guests ordered huge plates of sushi (which ranged from $200 to $1,500). A tent for meditation and tarot card reading was pitched.

This robotic heart may not have embodied the full festival experience that many of the attendees were desperate for. That’s coming this summer as Burning Man makes its long-awaited return to Black Rock. But after a two-year hiatus in festival life, the weekend served an important purpose that mirrors much of this year: slowly returning to normal.

Age: 36

Out of: Washington, D.C. and New York City

I heard you’re a pageant star.

I was the first Miss USA runner-up in 2012.

Congratulations. What are you doing now?

I work in blockchain at a company that was started by the guy behind Ethereum.

What brings you here today?

Today is a celebration of life. Robot Heart is one of the most famous camps at Burning Man. If you go to Burning Man, you know Robot Heart.

How many times have you been to Burning Man?

This will be my fifth year. But my freshman year, I hitchhiked from the airport, found a piece of land, pitched a tent, and lived alone in the desert for a week.

did you find friends

Yes absolutely. It is truly a journey for yourself whether you are in a camp or not. It changed my life completely.

What did you learn from this experience?

You really learn what you need to learn in that particular moment. I was really struggling with loneliness back then. And be alone. So I was alone for a whole week! I’ve learned to finally come to terms with being alone. Now I have manifested a huge community here and in other places.

Do you still feel lonely?

no I found myself And the catalyst was Burning Man.

Age: 63

Profession: writer and entrepreneur

Out of: Miami Beach, Fla.

tell me about your outfit

Today’s inspiration was Walter Mercado meets Endora from Bewitched. This is my everyday move. This is not festival wear – I look like this every day. I have never packed for a trip faster and with more joy.

Where are some of the pieces from?

Bag and glasses are from Gucci. The ostrich jacket is Zac Posen. The ring is Alexander McQueen. Suede cowboy boots my cousin bought for me in Texas. Vintage tights. Vintage Napier necklace with pendant, probably mid 70’s. Tom Ford beauty makeup.

Can it be assumed that you are a big fan of vintage clothing?

Yes. I exhausted my saved searches on eBay. You won’t let me sit anymore!

What’s the number on it?

About 150 I think.

What is the power of fashion for you?

It’s about expressing yourself. But in order to express yourself, you have to know yourself. And to know yourself, you have to love yourself. I know myself very well.

Age: 41 and 45

Profession: Musicians performing as the Illustrious Blacks.

Tell me about your outfits.

Manchild Black: These are actually ours after the show. We performed today and had a completely different ensemble. But that’s more of our casual after-performance look. And we bring you purity with the white.

Did your outfits also fit on stage?

Manchild Black: Yes. They were multicolored.

Monday: And close!

where are you based

Manchild Black: Planet Brooklyn. We are currently located in the Bed Stuy Republic. However, we will travel to the magical land of Flatbush very soon.

Tell me about your style of music.

Manchild Black: We call ourselves the “Afro-Electro-Disco-Space-Punks”.

Monday: It ranges from house funk, disco and techno, there’s a bit of punk in there.

What shows are you looking forward to?

Manchild Black: Lisbon, Portugal! We will celebrate Pride with them there.

Age: 36

What is “Dining Dominatrix”?

I’m all about pampering you with food, love, permission and indulgence.

tell me about your outfit

If you take the word “compassion” – which is about loving other people having love and pleasure – and put it in a kaleidoscope and then take the color pink. Ta-da! It’s an explosion of pleasure.

Age: 60 and 44

How are you?

Andy: i am a surgeon

Tell me about your outfits.

Andy: It’s from our costume closet. This is bigger than our normal closet!

cookies: I wanted something shimmery. Something that shimmers in the sun as I dance.

what brings you here today

Andy: We go way back with these people. We’ve been going to Burning Man for over 10 years. For us it’s like a family reunion. With the pandemic and all, we haven’t been able to see our friends. You know, people who go to Burning Man love masks, but we fret about social distancing. We like to hug.

Do celebrations play a big role in your marriage?

Andy: Not festivals in general. Rather, they are specific festivals, specific events. Many of our friends like to dress up. It’s more great parties with wonderful people that we happen to meet in the desert.

Age: “Timeless”

Profession: designers

OK, tell me about the horse prop you’re wearing.

Apparently, according to 23andMe, my female genetic line comes from a group in Africa that settled 2,000 years ago and cared for horses. Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to it. I have horses of many colors and I match them to my outfit. But I only take them where they are accepted, like here.

does he have a name

Fernando.

How long did it take to get ready?

Not long. I had to dress the horse and so did some of my friends.

Age: 34

How are you?

I have a costume shop here in New York City. That’s where I got this costume from.

what do you call it

Harmony New York.

tell me about your outfit

I tell a story about happiness, fluidity and celebrating the cause of life, which is why we are all here today. We are here to be happy, to express ourselves. This outfit is spring awakening.

Do you often go to Burning Man and other festivals?

Yes, I’ve been gone for five years. I’m also a DJ, I play the after party.

Did you make new friends today?

I actually know a lot of people from Burning Man here. So there was a lot of catching up to do. I also have a baby so I was busy with him at home before. Now the babysitter is looking after him.

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