Flipside The Effigy

The Effigy and the Burn

The centerpiece of Burning Flipside is the Effigy located at the heart of Pyropolis. The Effigy is a huge and intricate collaborative art installation This huge effigy is burned on the last night amid great pageantry, debauchery and hedonism. The cathartic release is both collective and individual.

This years effigy was Hula Girl and was a collective structure made of hand made elaborate working wooden gears, pulleys, wheels, cogs and sculptures. At the top metals structures hung from wires. The number of man and woman hours involved is mind boggling. This piece of art will exist in toto for less than a week and then the art will be offered up in FLAMES!


After a hot day that blazed over the ranch, the weather cooled off a bit and people swam and lazed in the creek at Hippy Hollow. After some food, people cleaned up and dressed up for the night’s entertainment.
The wind was high and so were the rumors about the timing of the burn.
The burn was pure spectacle. Lighted Art Cars and people in costumes or nude milled about the effigy in expectation. It could happen any time between 12 and 6 am were the estimates.
Timing for the burn depended on 8 miles per hour wind was the word in the informed art car camp ( the propane for the burn is in the hands of several capable and incredible art car drivers)
Many of us glanced up over and over at the banners and flags over the camp trying to judge the wind.
About 11 it became a little hot and muggy as the wind seemed to die down a bit. The effigy crew came by asking for the propane crew, important doors were banged on and the BURN was officially ON if the wind held at the present levels
We set off for the effigy as the effigy burners went on duty.
The sense of expectation and waiting was palpable.
People began crowding closer and closer to the the effigy while the volunteers on duty asked people to stand behind the imaginary line, which most were quick to do.
Finally the crowd grew quiet and drums began to beat
A huge tribe of fire spinners danced around around the effigy bringing the crowd to a boiling point.


Expectation grew as the Art Car Camp put on their annual Fire Cracker Hat Dance. I watched them assembling the hats this morning and I can say it is an elaborate and well thought out risk. Another burner is always on safety duty and the few newbies allowed to participate are given a lot of help and a lot of teasing <G> They have a bit of an interrnal competition to be the most creative and to be the last hat spewing fireworks! Timing the different components in the hat is essential!! During the FC hat dance the crowd was reaching peak!

After the last hat had blown its last load, a huge fireworks display was followed by hushed silence.
Slowly, the crowd broke out into whistles and tribal noise. The tension was incredible. The ranch resounded with the cries of the multutude
In a cresecendo of noise and emotion, a huge swoosh and a tower of fire propelled by propane set the effigy on fire!

The crowd went wild and different parts began to burn

The crowd sat in rapture as the structure began to burn on in earnest. The metal parts at the top fell into the flames as the crowd roared, emotions rising and falling as each part took fire and was consumed

The safety crew stood by controlling the direction of the burn.

About 30 minutes later the structure had fallen inward and the safety crews rolled the various out fittings into the bonfire which went on burning all night.

The crowd broke up with a sense of collective release and went off to examine their experience or depending on their stamina to dip back into the craziness in the satellite camps
One of the fire spinners who had spent months on the Effigy helping build it sat quietly in camp choking back tears. The firecracker hats stood smoldering in a ring about the skeleton with the art car artist tag around his neck
The costumes began to be shed for comfort and the camp chairs began filling up at the art car camp as people gathered and swapped impressions and jokes and stories. An amazing number of people from other camps stopped by to thank and pay their respect to these incredible artists and to the people who have been making the burn happen for years and who tonight made reality a spectacle wrapped in illusion and fire.
About 4 am the generator at the art car camp switched off, a light rain began to fall and I went to my tent as groups drifted off to slumber or fantasy.
The remains of the effigy smoldered on this morn as the last revelers went off to sleep or off to pack up and out everything they had brought with them


One Response to “Flipside The Effigy”

  1. Carthel Says:

    Thanks so much for your wonderful pictures and discription of the Burning. I almost feel like I was there.