AfrikaBurn 2024: 29 April to 5 May

The Caterburner – A Lot Like You & Me

Words: Daniel Stächelin / Photos: as per credit on shot

The Hungry Caterburner was born out of a simple yet difficult-to-answer question: What are the consequences of mass consumption and the endless yearning to want more, of never being fully satisfied with what we already have and constantly being faced with the fear of missing out?

Playful and curious children at heart, our team tried to think of symbols that, within the context of the Burning Man experience and through the personification of art, could help us begin to answer this rather complex question.

That’s when Ole Massow, the Raupe Daddy (“Raupe” in German means “caterpillar”), came up with a magical idea: Let’s recreate a certain caterpillar from our childhoods which, “eating” its way through different artworks on the playa in an act of co-creation, would help not just us as a team but also the entire Burning Man community begin to reflect more deeply on and answer this rather complex question.

The first day we arrive at the playa, we come with a lot of baggage. A shit load of baggage. Sure, we’ve got all our supplies to survive for the week, but because we just left the Default World, we also arrive bearing a number of mental patterns – insecurity, fear, emotional walls, impatience, the urge the consume various stimuli we’ve spent months anticipating. And most importantly, a voracious appetite to break free and let loose.

We exchange initial hugs, say hi to a few new friendly faces and then begin to set up camp. But as we drive our stakes into the ground, roll out our sleeping mats and put on our outfits, our inner child impatiently screams, “but I wanna play now!”

It’s not long before we’re let loose and prance across the playa, consuming everything in sight. We explore the different streets and mingle with the different camps. We scout out the different dance floors and try to figure out where all the workshops are.

While the journey is different for each and every one of us, most of us share the urge and longing to reconnect and to be reinvigorated and inspired by all that the family has brought together in a communal effort. But after a while, this initial urge subsides as we begin to settle into the realization the, “fuck yeah, I’m not in Kansas anymore. I’m fucking Home.”

This urge to eat, to consume, to take it all in, is what the Hungry Caterburner symbolizes. But the Caterburner also represents the transformative process we all undergo when we’re Home, because, if all things go well and we’ve really opened ourselves up to all that the Burning Man community has to offer, we’ll undergo a transformation by the end of the experience, turning into a butterfly who, hopefully, will soar back into the Default World with a lot of love and authenticity and generosity to share.

Who we are, plus a little music

In terms of progress, we’re pretty much already finished with the Hungry Caterburner. Raupe Daddy (Ole), Lollyman (Hendrik), Jellyfish (Adinda), Stephan, Julian, Carina and Matchstick (me), all of whom make up the core construction group, met up back before year’s end in Nuremberg to implement all the ideas and considerations we came up with over months of discussions, Skype sessions, phone calls and late-night drinks and tunes.

All of us are from Germany. Raupe Daddy and Carina live in Nuremberg, while Lollyman, Jellyfish, Stephan, Julian and I live in Munich. Then there’s Johannes, Benni, Dave and Sina, all four of whom are taking care of the Caterburner-themed gifts we’ll be sharing with all you lovelies down in Tankwa.

We took the Caterburner to Burning Bär back in February. It was a real hit. Now we’re bringing it to Tankwa, and we’re so grateful that we were selected for an art grant this year. So, thank you, AfrikaBurn! You’re helping us share this gift with all you dusty lovelies!

Before I end this contribution to the Binnekring Blog, I’d like to share two things with you. The first is a Playa Tech and Downbeat set that Lollyman put together just for the Caterburner. I called up Lollyman the other day and told him he needed to work his magic (he has a wonderful ear for music and has performed at a number of burns so far) so that we can really round out everything we, collectively, want the Caterburner to represent.

I showed up at his house and he looked absolutely beat. Long day at work. At the kind of job where you see a lot more business suits than you do unicorns or dusty goggles. So I gave Lollyman a little fluff, cheering him on as he selected the tunes he’d later mix together. Then we cracked open a couple beers, he started mixing and I started writing this blog.
You can listen to the set, which Lollyman titled “A Night with the Caterburner,” here:

The second thing I’d like to share is a series of mini interviews that I conducted with our core crew so that you can get a general feel for who we are and what thoughts when into the Caterburner.
But first, some pictures of our friendly faces!

Team interviews

Raupe Daddy (Ole)

What does The Hungry Caterburner mean to you and why were you inspired to be involved in its creation?
I’ve seen quite a few virgins who turned from virgin to burner, who didn’t believe the stories about the creativity, the acceptance, the consent. Who came to consume the experiences, the music, the art. But then emerged from their cocoons throughout the burns, spreading their wings and really taking off as burners. Plus, I just wanted to have it at a burn and enrich other people’s experiences!

What do you hope that our Burner family in Tankwa Town will get from The Hungry Caterburner?
Enjoy the experience, reflect on their own transformation. And then take off and fly 😉

What’s your favorite principle and why?
Participation – bring on the crazy creative stuff 😉


What does The Hungry Caterburner mean to you and why were you inspired to be involved in its creation?
When I was at Burning Man last year, I was so incredibly overwhelmed by all the amazing projects, the art, the effort and the love, all these unbelievable ideas that make this experience exactly what it is – and so I thought to myself that it would just be so nice to be able to contribute something myself. Because I’ve loved the story that the Caterburner is inspired by since I was a kid, I was completely enthusiastic about Ole’s idea and was raring to go 😉

What do you hope that our Burner family in Tankwa Town will get from The Hungry Caterburner?
I hope the Caterburner will be one of those details for some people in Tankwa that they think back to fondly with joy. Ideally, the Caterburner will remind them of the story it’s based on, inspiring them to reflect on why exactly it is that they eat up so much in their lives before finding what’s right for them and being content.

What’s your favorite principle and why?
When it comes down to it, all of the principles are important, and it’d be nice if they’d find more of a presence in the world outside of Burns. But I think for me, Radical Inclusion is the most important, because every day I experience and hear the stories of people who are cast out by society.


What does The Hungry Caterburner mean to you and why were you inspired to be involved in its creation?
The project started shortly after my first burn (Schloss Schönburn, Austria). The people involved are the same people who introduced me to burns. So for me, it is firmly connected to the burner community itself. It is the expression of a creative and collective effort aimed at bringing joy to the hearts of others.

What do you hope that our Burner family in Tankwa Town will get from The Hungry Caterburner?
At Tankwa Town, my hopes are precisely to reach that goal. Plus, I expect to experience all the wonderful things the Burning Man community stands for at a whole new level, since it will be by far the biggest burn I’ve attended.

What’s your favorite principle and why?
Radical Self-Expression – because this what our societies comprehensively suppress. People can be so much more interesting, inspiring and capable of sharing joy with others if they overcome the boundaries of default-world society and show their amazingly beautiful inner selves. It is a catalyst for the people around you and to yourself, strengthening self-confidence and deepening self-expression.

Jellyfish (Adinda)

What does The Hungry Caterburner mean to you and why were you inspired to be involved in its creation?
The Caterburner, for me, is the perfect metaphor for what takes place at a burn. The first time you go to a burn, you’re so overwhelmed by the art, the scenery, the way people interact with each other and all the magic of the location. You begin to allow yourself to merge with this world, gradually soaking up everything and being pulled from place to place to experience wonderful moments with others and to celebrate life together. With every step we take on the playa, our hearts are filled with new memories and moments of joy. With every compliment we receive, we develop the feeling that we are fully able to be the people we truly are. We enrich each other’s lives until, by the end of the week, we’re so full of love and then undergo our transformation into miraculous butterflies. We leave the playa changed . . . until our next transformation.

Anaïs Nin once wrote in a diary entry that, “each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
The same applies to every burn . . .

What do you hope that our Burner family in Tankwa Town will get from The Hungry Caterburner?
I hope that our family feels pulled in by the Caterburner’s beauty and performance of light, drawing attention to the thoughts behind the concept. By internalizing these thoughts, we can live more mindfully with what we experience and even place negative experiences in a larger context, because after all: A transformation lingers on the horizon . . . and a burn can be much like a cleansing of the soul.

What’s your favorite principle and why?
Radical Self-Expression – we’re often oppressed by social constraints; we try to fit in to remain unnoticed. The playa is a place where you can reveal yourself in all the facets that make up who you are, from your birthday suit all the way to vibrant birds of paradise in the most iridescent of colors – and in the process, everyone is beautiful like never before.


What does The Hungry Caterburner mean to you and why were you inspired to be involved in its creation?
I was excited to be part of the team and work with them on the Caterburner. I just really enjoy building things. Plus, I think the theme is sweet. The idea behind it all. I’m just really happy to be doing this together with my friends and I look forward to be able to share this with everyone else!

What do you hope that our Burner family in Tankwa Town will get from The Hungry Caterburner?
The Caterburner is very multifaceted. Everyone will find exactly that which she or he is looking for. In other words, there might be people who only see the lights. The kids, maybe, who like the shape and form and who like looking at the LED lights. But then there will also likely be people who ask themselves why the Caterburner keeps moving around during the week. Why it’s eating its way through different artworks. There might be other people who take their reflections one step further, especially when our team appears near the end of the week as butterflies. Maybe when they see this metamorphosis, this transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly, they’ll be inspired. I just hope that everyone takes something away from it that’s just right for them.

What’s your favorite principle and why?
Participation – because we live in a society where we take so much for granted without realizing how much work and love actually goes into certain things. It’s a reminder that if we don’t do anything, then nothing will happen, you know? There is always someone behind the things we see and experience. When you contribute and participate yourself, then you can come to appreciate the work of others more.

Lollyman (Hendrik)

What does The Hungry Caterburner mean to you and why were you inspired to be involved in its creation?
After numerous international and regional burns, the need to give something back to the Burner Family simply became too big to simply go to a burn to “simply consume.” I wanted to give back more and express my experiences in the form of an art project. The love and passion with which many people and art projects touched me rose slowly but steadily. At first it was my wide and amazed eyes that couldn’t get enough of the richness of the playa. Then it was the many encounters and stories shared with me in countless conversations, which still to this day are like balsam for my ears.

The openness and the freedom on the playa give me the feeling of being able to float in a state of weightlessness, while the many affectionate embraces give me the feeling of being on a magical journey with friends.

The Hungry Caterburner is a collaborative project among close friends who have had similar experiences and who through this at project wish to share the story of their “arrival.” As a “hungry virgin” nearly overwhelmed by information overload, we inhaled all the many impressions and, in the end, left the playa, electrified by the encounters and the many different people and amazing workshops and artworks. Not long after that, I realized that this was only the beginning of a new journey my heart would go on.

That’s why the Caterburner, for me, is a very personal story: from the initial journey of being “bloody virgins” to being “a bit more experienced” as a burner. And this is just the beginning of a life journey. There’s so much to explore – art and people who want to touch my soul.

What do you hope that our Burner family in Tankwa Town will get from The Hungry Caterburner?
I’m convinced that we’re not alone in our “story of arrival.” Many burners have in their own ways surely experienced a similar trip – a trip that we’re still on. Whether with a leaping heart, smiling eyes or weak stomachs, our Caterburner invites each and every one of you to see it as a glowing anchor of (self-) reflection and emotional security in the whirling playa dust on your unique and individual journeys. Feel your transition . . .

At the same time, I hope we can show the Burner Family, how wonderful and fulfilling a relatively simply art projected shared with friends can be. By working through our stories together in the form of an art project, we grew much closer together and have felt more emotional connected than every – something which gives me a lot of strength in the Default World. That’s why I can only encourage you all to do the same.

What’s your favorite principle and why?
Decommodification – It gives us the time and space to be aware of the heart of our encounters and the messages of the workshops, art installations and simply everything that happens on the playa. Brands, money, blind consumption, throw-away society – all these are negative characteristics of our 21st century. The playa offers me a retreat where things don’t just revolve around fun and tuning out, but also the ability to reflect on my being and behaviors in the Default World – far away from the pressures of the streams of capital and social conformity. Others might get this from a hike in the mountains, from looking out to sea or even meditation. However strange it may seem from the outside, it gives me, aside from great joy, a primrose path for my inner self and a benchmark for my “here and now.”

For more info

If you’d like to find out more about the Hungry Caterburner and stay up-to-date on all its adventures, you can check out our Facebook page here.

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