The New York Optimist
November 2008
by Tola Brennan

How do I begin to write about Decompression? That very problem has been probleming
me for almost two weeks. I like to think of it as trying to fit a balloon into a thimble. I was
there, but I am one person, and so, unavoidably, I didn’t really see that much. Think of it
as trying to fit a blimp into a thimble. See the difficulty? Alright, enough analogies.
Decompression is an annual event put on by the participants of Burning Man who reside in
New York City. It began in 2001 as a somewhat casual party in a loft in Dumbo. One
attendee, “claims to have cried after the 2001 Decompression because it was so amazing.”
From these humble beginnings Decompression grew, suffered many legal troubles, and
was held at a variety of places including the Queens Museum of Art, and most recently at
Aviator Sports (a sports complex housed inside two airplane hangars).
Decompression is a smorgasbord of various art installations, performance art, and music,
all having varying degrees of interactivity. The participants (every attendee is encouraged
to add to the event in some way) are generally dressed in resplendent costumes
reminiscent of a Dali painting (and that’s a quite narrow interpretation). The whole
atmosphere attempts to convey the ethos of Burning Man, which translates to some sort of
transition out of normal functioning and into an entirely different mindset (what that might
be is not the subject of this article, but it is incredibly enticing). In short, the event is aptly
named. Decompression is a playground for adults, in the least derogatory and most
rapturous manner.
I’ve never been to an event such as this, but according to hearsay, this Decompression
was relatively lackluster. It rained through about half of it, and there was a football game
going on immediately outside the premises (11pm in the rain made it all the more bizarre).
There were, for the early hours, a motley collection of hamburger-eaters and sports fans,
who were not conducive to artsy weirdoes having a blast. Despite that, I was impressed
When I walked through the door, I was greeted by a humongous white plastic lotus flower
hanging from the ceiling, booming rave music and a couple dozen people hula hooping,
roller skating and dancing. The space was divided into three sections (totaling about a
football field worth of ground). The other two rooms contained such things as a igloo
made from balloons, a giant moving dragon head, various constellations formed out of
fluorescent lights, three foot dominoes, and a life sized metal horse on wheels. Various
bands performed in various locations, most remarkably a spontaneous and excellent
traveling brass band which clashed with the rave multiple times. There were fire jugglers, a
Glam Rock band, a Jazz band, Hare Krishnas, and all sort of other things and people which
are too numerous to list.
However, the most extraordinary of all, and the one thing that keeps me brimful of fond
memories was something so magnificent that it requires its own sentence just to name.
There was a pool full rose petals. Yes, there was a pool full of rose petals. I spent at least
twenty minutes rolling in rose petals, throwing them at strangers and friends, smelling
them, drowning in them, watching them fall, molding them. Ahhhhh!
In conclusion, I wish I’d known about it last year. I wish I’d told more people. I wish it
happened more than once a year (or twice, including Burning Man). I wish more people
had seen it as more than just a “cool party” (some of those present were clearly
uninformed and had bought tickets online with no context). And I wish I’d been able to
participate more. I wish normal life wasn’t as drab in comparison. Despite these setbacks
and complications, afterwards, I cried because of how amazing it was.
NYOP, Bonus Video:
The Grateful Dead, Franklins Tower
@ Radio City 103180