Sunday, September 10, 2017

Burning Man


The Burning Man gathering in the Nevada desert attracted major headlines recently for the wrong reasons when a 41 year old man broke through security and ran into the flames of the burning of the effigy that gives the event its name. He later died of his injuries. So far as I know, a reason has not yet been determined for his action.

One of the images that were widely shown of the man running into the flames

I was interested to know more of the Burning Man event so looked into it and found the following . . . 


The Event:
  • Burning Man is an annual gathering that takes place at Black Rock City, which is a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. 
  • The event is described as an experiment in community and art, with emphases on such items as "radical" inclusion; self-reliance and self-expression.  More of that later.
  • It was first held in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Francisco as a small function organised by Larry Harvey and a group of friends. Since then it has since been held annually from the last Sunday in August to the first Monday in September 
  • At Burning Man, the community explores various forms of artistic self-expression, created in celebration for the pleasure of all participants. Participation is a key precept for the community – selfless giving of one's unique talents for the enjoyment of all is encouraged and actively reinforced. Some of these displays of creativity can include experimental and interactive sculpture, building, performance, and art cars among other media, often inspired by the yearly theme, chosen by organisers.
  • The event takes its name from its culmination, the symbolic ritual burning of a large wooden effigy ("the Man") that traditionally occurs on the Saturday evening of the event.
2017 effigy
  • Burning Man is organised by the Burning Man Project, a non-profit organisation.
  • Attendance is capped at 70,000 people.
  • People who attend refer to themselves as “Burners”.
  • After a couple were run over in their tent in 1996, cars were banned from the event, except for “art" vehicles. It is basically a pedestrian/bicycle event – “two wheels good, four wheels bad”. (My comment, not theirs). These mutant vehicles, often motorised, are allowed as art subject to compliance with event requirements and government licensing. 

  • The "city" has a grid layout, a requirement of the event’s permits, so that emergency vehicles can be directed to an "address".
Aerial view, Burning Man 2015
  • Each event has a theme. Themes for the last three have been Carnival of Mirrors (2015), Da Vinci’s Workshop (2016) and Radical Ritual (2017).
  • The principles of Burning man are:
· Radical inclusion: anyone can be a participant in, and attendee at, Burning Man provided they look after their own needs and buy a ticket ($425 in 2017).

· Gifting: there is no cash economy at Burning Man, instead Burners are encouraged to give gifts unconditionally without pressures as to value or obligation to give a gift back.

· Decommodification: the decreasing of the influence of commodities and to limit the effect of commercialisation. Burners are encouraged to use gifting rather than cash and to give accor

· Radical self-reliance: Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources

· Rradical self-expression: Participants at the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert are encouraged to express themselves in a number of ways through various art forms and projects.

· Ccommunal effort: Burners are encouraged to work with and help fellow participants

· Civic responsibility: Attendees and organisers need to assume responsibility for public welfare and for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

· Leaving no trace: The event seeks to leave no trace of having been there and, where possible, to leave it better than found.

· Participation: Attendees are encouraged to participate in work and play, to take part rather than just observe.

· Immediacy: The event seeks to have people get in touch with their inner selves.
  • Dust storms are common:

  • Creative expression through the arts and interactive art are encouraged at Burning Man.
  • Traditionally the festival culminates with the burning of a large wooden sculpture of a man, “The Man”. This is followed by the burning of the festival Temple.
2017 effigy, which was doused in fuel and set alight.

2017 Temple

Burning of the Temple, 2017
  • Criticisms of the event include:
Negative effects on the environment: 
Although Burning Man's carbon footprint is primarily from transportation to the remote area., there is also criticism of the amounts of fuel used in art installations that are set alight and the over 200,000 plastic water bottles that end up as landfill.

Burning Man has attracted a number of billionaires and celebrities, who hve paid for more luxurious camps to be set up in recent years. Derisively nicknamed "plug-n-play" or "turnkey" camps, they in general consist of lavish RV's and luxury restroom trailers that are driven into the city and connected together to form de facto gated areas. These billionaires then fly in to the airport on private planes, are driven to their camps, served by hired help (nicknamed "sherpas"), and sleep in air-conditioned beds. Despite allowing the rich to participate in Burning Man per the "radical inclusion" principle, many traditional Burners have spoken out against their exclusive practices.

According to the racial makeup of Burning Man attendees in 2014, about 87 percent of them identified themselves as white, 6 percent as Hispanic/Latino, 6 percent as Asian, and 1 percent as black. When interviewed by The Guardian about these figures, organiser Harvey replied, "I don't think black folks like to camp as much as white folks ... We're not going to set racial quotas ... This has never been, imagined by us, as a utopian society.”



Some art installations at various Burning Man events . . . 

“Penny the Goose, Burning Man 2015

A closeup view of “Penny the Goose,” covered with over 120,000 pennies

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