Burning Man 2014

Maybe We Didn't Start The Fire, But We're Keeping It Burning

First Man

With origins dating back to 1986, Burning Man simply began as a freely-attended spectacle, of which 20 people joined together in the burning of a (miniscule version compared to today’s model) wooden statue, shaped in the form of a man. Its eight-foot origins cower beneath what we are to expect in August—somewhere near the 100’ mark, celebrating the State of Nevada’s 150 year anniversary. Perhaps, the most intriguing aspect of the festival: is its purpose to experiment the inherent qualities of community art and self-expression. Unlike Woodstock, where the qualities of an art festival are noted in the name, Burning Man possesses simplicity without redundant representation.

Man In FirestormWe have all seen (and heard) the television episodes, literary allusions, and hippie jokes referring to Burning Man; but what is it exactly that attracts, and occupies, a weeks’ time of more than 60,000 people camping in the hot, Nevada Desert? Perhaps, it is the endless rays of sun that tan both the participants and the sand beneath them; or, the united culture of appreciation and showcase in the medium of art. Do not forget about the burning of a massive wooden effigy to commemorate the emergence of Labor Day. Burning Man is a time, and place, where the open-minded can gather in appreciation of one another’s artistic expression, without the boundaries of form or background. For one week, Black Rock Desert is home to thousands of art pieces from: creative modes of desert transportation, unique wooden (and other material) fabrications, and the very acts of communal radical-inclusion. Alongside these physical expressions of art, Burning Man also produces within oneself—immense self-reliance. To explain the creative energy to be felt by those who seek it, would be to equate some form of synesthesia to a sixth sense; but within the confines of a confine-‘less’ Burning Man, creative energy emanates from every grain of sand in Black Rock Desert.

Playa DoughMobile technology has altered the way many of us spend our hardly-earned paychecks. In years past, there were time delays from receiving money, to depositing money, and having that money available to spend. Today, within minutes: a picture can be taken, immediately received by the bank, and readily available to spend—eliminating many of our daily visits to the bank. Where many festivals provide wristbands with smartphone app integration, Burning Man focuses on the acts of community and gifting, disallowing the uses of conventional money (other than for charity; sanitation; or fuel; by select, non-commercialized vendors). Burning Man attendees are encouraged to trade, or simply gift, commodities to one another, stimulating an underground barter system that represents community and decommodification. These mentioned qualities are only a small representation of Burning Man’s Ten Principles of how to experience its magnificence. The complete list, generated by Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey, act as supportive ethos: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy.

CommunityNow, you may think, “Should have put down the acid, Larry, Radical Inclusion; Participation; and Communal Effort; are pretty much the same thing.” Yes, they are relatively similar; but each of those Principles represents a different perspective. ‘Radical Inclusion’ is intended for those whom are already immersed in the Burning Man Experience, looking beyond their immediate collections, and into the outside dimensions of nervous newcomers. ‘Participation’ refers to the newcomers who have not yet acclimated to the immense creative energy emanating from the desert grounds. Lastly, ‘Communal Effort’ is included to direct the perspective of the community as a whole. Meaning, those in attendance are encouraged to support any, and all forms of artistic expression; also assisting those in need of further understanding of the culture. While closely related, Harvey included the most important (yet, distinct) perspectives and ethos to guide those in search of centralized creativity.

Doom RaveFor one week, Burning Man transforms Black Rock Desert into an expansive, natural, metropolis. The “Playa,” as the desert expanse is named, lays ground to thousands of theme camps prepared by brave artists in attendance. Essentially, members can create their own sub-community, while forgoing every separation from the Burning Man Community as a whole. It is both independent, and dependent, of Black Rock Desert’s inspirational artistic expressions. Theme camps are a home within a home, offering distinct features that appeal to certain artists. One of the greatest features of the festival is the importance that is attributed to it. If taken lightly, Burning Man would lose significance and mastery; therefore, specific guidelines have been set forth to ensure the utmost significance in creating a communal village. In addition to theme camps constructed throughout the festival, Burning Man attributes a theme for the art/festival as a whole, differing in theme each year. Last year inspired works of ‘cargo cult,’ and this year—‘caravansary.’

 There are few words that can parallel the experience of Black Rock Desert’s Burning Man Festival. My suggestion: experience it for yourself! We are not the new ‘hippie generation,’ as many suggest; we are a generation who appreciate the past—utilizing that appreciation to shape and inspire our present, and future. This year, the Burning Man festivities will begin August 25, 2014, and the Man will burn 5 days later. We’ll see you there!

DMV