Decompression | The New York Optimist

Tola Brennan Writing

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 (literally).

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.


First published in The New York Optimist

Tola BrennanDecompression | The New York Optimist