New Burning Mans
After this 2004 year, the Burning Man organizers are beginning to focus their attention on regional events much more than in the past. Information about year round playa details can be found here from the Burning Man website. Regional events are mini-Burning Man events located all over the country. Andie Grace oversees these events to make sure they follow the basic 10 commandments of Burning Man. Right now there are 85 people running 65 regional programs all over the world.
Regionals are important for Burning Man because the playa can probably only hold about 50,000 people, which would mean a new place would have to be sought. Finding another place more desolate than Black Rock Desert seems a stretch, so the regional events are hoping to compensate. Initial concerns from participants are this process is “dilutive”.
“More the merrier” is the general attitude countering the dilutive concern. Regionals are an attempt to introduce the social aspects Larry Harvey is trying to get across with the event to new groups of people that cannot make it to the playa or cannot handle the playa. “Fuck them!”, is the initial counter to branching the event out from the playa. The organizers feel, however, it is more important to have ideas like the gift economy and loving your neighbor rather than simply living on the playa.
Serious cynicism believes the new regional promotion is, “I think it is a marketing line…a play for money…franchise the whole fucking thing.”
Larry’s drive for the event is different than that. He feels like the yahoos that come to the event with beer hats looking at girls and to see things burn, who are really not understanding of the initial premise behind the event, if they can come to the event and learn about the sociological aspects of the camp, the community aspect of the camp, then he has done something right. They go home and they start talking about it, stop being a yahoo and that makes things better in the world. It might stop someone from buying an Escalade with two TV screens in the backseat.
Conversations immediately head back to the money aspect, which I address in “The Woes of Creating Burning Man”.
Beyond money, the regional events are a new evolution of thought on how to promote the ideas that Larry desires to have spread in the world. What strikes me is how this branch out is very American in it’s development. Looking at the regional map, the dots on the landscape remind me of the proliferation of Walmarts and Home Depots. Ironic since Burning Man is so strictly against the corporations. But, the organizers seem to be learning from the corporate examples and taking what they need. Corporations like WalMart and Home Deport, no matter how much you disagree with them, they have phenomenal business expansion examples. Copying their example through voluntary expansion does, in theory, take the event and its philosophies to an audience that might not be able to experience the playa because of intimidation, travel distance or simply not knowing about the event.
I recently received a notice for the San Francisco decompression F(a)ire in the Jack Rabbit Speaks. Andie Grace outlined many guidelines for the event including noise hours, street conduct and neighborhood consideration. I will not be able to attend this event, but I would have to guess that some of these rules might be a deterrent from the normal social environment at Burning Man on the playa. For those that have not participated at the playa, their initial experience for the few hours will be significantly different from the playa.
Other regional events take the better course of a week in some locations. These events seem to have a better chance of mimicking the playa and seclusion. If the areas are far enough from the nearest town and the participants are there to pack in, pack out and to participate in the gift economy, it might be a successful event. I hope some of them have inclement weather to parallel dust and windstorms of the playa, though.
I am partial to the playa, and a part of me shares the sentiment of the few people I interviewed regarding this. I made a trek to a foreign place to an environment that demanded I participate in a community. My first few hours at the playa I was not a happy camper. My initial sentiments were very different from my feelings at the end of the week, but only because I got beyond thinking about dirt and wind and began to have a seriously different lifestyle from the norm. The urban tapestry was amazing, too. I wonder if the regional events will even try to mimic the urbanism of the playa, or if it will be more resembling of the earlier chaotic events when there were only 300 people.
Regionals have a potential to reach out a positive message to a much larger group than keeping the event centralized to the playa. Although the associated events will have to overcome the preconceptions of the event, the groups that can be affected by the message will hopefully allow new people to alter their lifestyles as Larry would hope.
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