Home by Laura Kimpton

Welcome Home!   

The greeting you are most likely to hear when arriving at Burning Man, a temporary man made city of 70,000 people in the middle of a deserted lunar landscape. To many on the outside, Burning Man is viewed as one huge hedonistic party in the middle of a dusty desert filled with beautiful people participating in an endless orgy of dance, drugs and sex. Although such debauchery does exist on the playa, Burning Man is much more than that.

Burning Man began in 1986 on Baker Beach near San Francisco when Larry Harvey and his friend built a wooden structure and took it to the beach to burn it. A crowd of about 20 people showed up. They did it again the following year and 80 people appeared. By 1990, the crowds grew too big and police shut down the event, forcing the group to find another location. They chose Black Rock City in the Nevada desert where by 1993 there were 1000 participants, doubling the next few years. Today over 70,000 people pilgrimage annually to the event.

The event takes place in the middle of nowhere, a dry lake bed 3 hrs northeast of Reno, Nevada, and accessible only by a single one lane road. 357 days a year it is a prehistoric flat lake bed on government managed land. By the time end of August, any water on the lake that was present from the winter's melting snows has fully evaporated and all that remains is miles of endless flat white  sand finer than talcum powder and too alkaline to sustain any visible life. In the daytime, temperatures reach near 100 and at nighttime they often drop near 40. High winds and dust storms are common. No visible life, or birds or insects or even a blade of grass can be found. Yet, during those other 8 days at the end of August,  an entire civilization pilgrimages to the "playa" to create an experimental society - completely removed from the norms of modern life.

Burning Man is not like many of the well known music or arts festival around the world where popular DJs and artists are booked and promoted by the organizers and most of the festival goers go to be entertained. Burning Man is a participatory event where everyone is an integral part of the overall experience. It is highly interactive. There are no spectators at Burning Man. There is no VIP. There is no space or area limited to certain people while off limits to others. No one has a status. There are no boundaries or limitations. No one is rich or poor or famous or better or worse. There is no such thing as "myspace / your space". It’s all EVERYONE’s space.

Burning Man is an experimental society where, for example,  there is no exchange of money. Goods are transferred through gifting. Attendees abide by the 10 Principles of Burning Man which include: Radical Inclusion; Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self Reliance, Radical Self Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation and Immediacy. Art is a major theme of the event as  a form of Radical Self Expression. It can be expressed by costumes, actions, gifting, music or big interactive art  on the playa. In the name of Immediacy, attendees are reminded to live in the present - nothing is forever. The ritual of burning many art pieces at the end of the event is a humble reminder of that Immediacy which culminates with the  burning of “The Man” on the last Saturday and the intimate last act Temple Burn on Sunday night.

At the end, some attendees leave Burning Man and check it off their bucket list. While many more are forever changed in how they view life, their place and contribution to society, the value of things - and start counting the 364 days remaining to the next annual pilgrimage. 

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In