The line stretched through a hall glistening with silver mylar and blue lighting. An EL wire sign over the inner doorway spelled out the event’s name: TechNoir. Those waiting to enter were already moving their feet to the strains of the dance floor beyond. The line terminated at a desk so massive it rose above the crowd, New York City’s eminent doorman handled admission; his steely-eyed portrait behind him ominously proclaimed “Guncle Is Watching.” It was April 27, 2013 at the Red Lotus Room in Brooklyn, and Digital Native had just opened the doors on their first solo Burning Man fundraiser.
It’s been a whirlwind year for Digital Native. It started with the kitchen-table planning that led to their first presence as a theme camp at the 2012 PEX Summer Fest, serving bloody marys and music in an open-air living room and hosting workshops for Horny Camp and Hack Rock City. By winter they’d graciously been invited to collaborate with Entwined on their End of the World fundraiser held on December 21st 2012 in an abandoned cathedral, and with The Love Muscle on the Digital Love fundraiser, which transformed a raw space with art cars, projections, chill domes and heart-themed art.
At the center is a camp that acts with intention. “In Digital Native,” explains chairman Christian Trella, “we do it for the love or we don’t do it at all. Our policy is to infuse every interaction with positivity.” The purpose they’ve chosen as a Burning Man theme camp is to offer grants and curation to the community at large, expanding the concept of free expression through participation beyond the confines of their own collective. They hold events with a strong art component in mind, welcoming contributions from outside artists and providing inspirational examples of costuming, decor and atmosphere to the guest list for their events.
The theme for TechNoir was contained in the name: science fiction tropes filtered through noir aesthetics. The Red Lotus Room was the perfect backdrop for this atmosphere with its red brick walls and arches, paper lanterns and shadowy corners. Faux propaganda posters by DN artist Michael Pish hung on the walls, adding an air of dystopian paranoia to the proceedings. Many of them had an anti-MOOP theme, an initiative discussed during planning and embodied by DN artist Larissa Towers’ hand-drawn pen and ink poster.
Native Patrick Christ brought together an army of volunteers to transform the entrance hallway into a glowing chromed limbo. It was the perfect waiting room for the line to Guncle’s towering desk, where the assistant producer gazed down at the waiting crowds with bureaucratic authority. Impatient partygoers peering past him could catch glimpses of TechNoir’s producer J. Good in his trademark green ribcage t-shirt striding from room to room, making sure every touch was in place and ready to go.
The dance floor beyond was saturated with the light of the city’s premiere video artists and the sexy beats of a DJ lineup hand-picked by Digital Native’s musical director Peter Clement, known to many as NYC’s DJ Pony. The bar alongside the dance floor was finished in panels of beaten, tarnished metal, perfect for the theme. All night long glittering visions washed across brick walls while the DJs played from a booth built by fellow camp The Love Muscle, covered in gears and circuit board patterns and painted to a weathered finish.
As the evening progressed the dance floor filled with smiling revelers who came to greet old friends and meet new ones, show off their ever-more-fantastic costume creations, get painted with backlight-reactive stencils, perform for the crowd with their flow toys and glow toys, and dance with abandon. Glowing accessories and robotic accents mingled with cyber goths and femme fatales until it all added up to a crowd that wouldn’t be out of place in Mos Eisley’s Cantina or Night City’s Chatsubo, and photographers threaded through the dancing masses capturing the sights of the moment.
Guests climbing a narrow candlelit staircase found the second music stage and bar, with more space to dance and relax. The space was flooded with blacklight contributed by fellow camp Disorient, highlighting reactive artwork and costumes alike, and the ceiling and walls were hung with brightly colored silks. Everywhere couches were asprawl with fantastically dressed guests deep in animated conversation, as if holding forth at some otherworldly salon. Tucked into the far end of the room was the ever-growing Digital Native cuddle puddle brimming with handmade pillows, stuffed toys and snuggling friends.
Those who needed a smoke break or a moment of quiet found themselves in an intimate outdoor backyard surrounded by ivy-grown walls, complete with its own little burn – a central firepit provided by the venue and tended to by doer after doer as guests came and went. Throughout the night it held the center for an ever-changing campfire circle of free-flowing conversation, a little oasis of festival amidst the joyous chaos of the party.
Eventually the evening of support and celebration drew to a close in fine burner fashion. At closing time volunteers stood by ready for disengage, some having first arrived the previous afternoon for setup, some having partied all night long, but all ready to do their part. Dedicated hands made light work, and in the hours after the doors closed anything that wasn’t removed was staged for the following day.
With the funds raised by their latest event Digital Native has the resources to grant for and create new art, and to cover the operational expenses of their presence at festivals. In upcoming months they’ll be providing a soundtrack for the FIGMENT NYC art exhibit and hosting their theme camp at PEX Summer Fest 2013, and on the Playa you’ll find them camping in Disorient’s village. With the lessons of a busy year under their belts they’re looking eagerly forward to the next one, more ready than ever to help make things happen.