For the New York burners, there is the decompression coming up: Link: Astral Slide. Its December 5th, 2004, so get a ticket before its too late.
"What is Burning Man?"
“What is Burning Man?” Without time to answer the first, the second and third arrive. “What do you do there” “Who goes there?” Traveling back from Black Rock City and telling people of my travels, I am barraged by these same questions. Honestly, there is no easy answer. In fact, the answer is as complex and hazy as the true origins of the event.
In 1986, Larry Harvey and 11 friends needed to get away from the everyday life of San Francisco. These individuals were not social outcasts or people even on the fringe of society. According to a camp-mate of mine named Jeff from San Francisco, the collective group were known as “intellectuals”. These intellectuals gathered on a beach in San Francisco to get a few things off their chests, namely Larry’s former relationship. Over the course of three days they forgot about the outside world and let their inner selves out. In the end, they gathered some driftwood and sculpted it as a figure, which they promptly burned. It was not a specific effigy to anything or anyone, as far as the tale goes, but an effigy of events and times of which they wanted to leave behind.
The 12 friends became 30, or more. The following year it is rumored to be 300. It was not because the event was a party beyond parties, or an orgy on the beach. The appeal was (and remains at the core) a time for the demons inside to be let out and then burned at the end, so as to have a clean slate for the following year. The expression of these demons has become to be known as “participating”. The cleansing has become the burning of the ever more elaborate figure known as “the Man”, the Temple, and now a Pagoda.
The evolution of the event to 35,000 or so for 2004 means a lot of souls are asking to be cleansed. The manifestation of this comes in every single shape and form. I can describe it like this: Think of something you would NEVER EVER do in your normal life. This includes your after hours. Think of the things that you only ever do in your dreams. Burning Man is the place where those dreams are realized and not criticized (except for a few yahoos on Saturday). Have you ever been naked for seven straight days?
Back in the day, the idea of doing something you would never normally do made the selection of the site ideal. Participants could walk out onto the edge of the playa and shoot a gun (because they had never had or wanted a gun (and this is now not allowed because you cannot have guns on the playa)) or jump out of a friend’s airplane without the fear of hitting something on the ground. The playa caused a default thought of “pack in, pack out” mentality that is strongly encouraged to this day. But it wasn’t because they had no services, but because the area was so beautiful that it was ridiculous to think of littering this place. Nowadays, it is a rule and demand by all to keep the streets clean. Rules are delivered in any and every form so every citizen of Black Rock City knows to “pack in and pack out”. The playa is still a beautiful place, but the collective social dynamic within the city no longer is able to retain a default attitude for cleanliness.
Burning Man can be anything you want it to be. If you want to sit and read a book for a week, you can. If you want to rave 24 hours a day, you can. The major underlying premise of the event, though, is how people appreciate what is said or done in the streets of the city. Congratulations are delivered to people for taking a voice, even if people do not agree with what is being said. This is not a normal city. As Larry Harvey proudly states, “People still look you in the eye here.” This acceptance stems from one of the most well know laws of the city: “There are no spectators at Burning Man.” (And as the tour guide for the Artery Bus emphasized, “Get you ass off the bus!”) As long as people are participating in the events, or creating their own, it is appreciated. Burning Man is a place that is temporarily created for us to cleans our demons and have a chance at starting over for the year with a clean slate. It’s also a chance for the other side of everyone to be the front side, even if it is only for a week. My best answer to all those questions is, “You’ll just have to go and experience it for yourself.”
More to come…
Burning Man Preparation
August 27, 2004
Burning Man Preparation
As I am preparing for the BM event, I am noticing and thinking about all of the waste that is being created by myself for this event. The amount of resources used for this event for one person for one week is phenomenal. 30 gallons of water, 30 pounds of food (non-perishable, which is not exactly the usual athletic nutrition I consume), camping supplies and materials that take up half the prep table I set up… all of these things for one person. This one person is someone that has been involved in conservation and reuse for respect of the environment, and I still am able to create a pile of cardboard and cellophane waste in my kitchen even before I depart. The myth of garbage disposal our society believes is becoming all too transparent as I prepare for this trip. I might be over packing a little, since I have had a bought of dehydration in the desert before and I do not want to have the same experience, but I am interested to see how the waste and cleanliness will be handled this week. I think the people I am staying with will be able to keep everything in check, but what about me… a first timer?
The community being established at BM is unique, for the community has a definition that is usually taken for granted in larger social contexts. The community that is about to descend upon the Black Rock Desert has a collective understanding of how to make this community run. It also knows how to make the community continue further, if it so chooses. These aspects are by no means an accident, but from rigorous, comprehensive informations given by the BM organizers. The necessity for listening to the desires of the organizer by 25,000 is through the harsh beauty of the desert. If people do not listen to how you are supposed to live, there is a very good chance you will not make it to the 7th day. The urgency does not exist in the regular domain of popular culture and society, allowing for anarchy and independent habits of living to survive. It also allows for habits of living that are not in the best interest of the popular masses to thrive and, as we see today in politics, dominate.
As I finish packing up my pickup with what the lists have told me to bring, I am anxious to see how others have adapted to these lists. But more so, I am interested to see how the adaptations promote or hinder livelihood in the desert. What we are all packing into this place for 7 days (or more) will be packed out as we have been told. The phenomenal amount of resources used for the event will be consumed, putting perspective upon how we live as a culture. Days will melt to hours, minutes and seconds, and this one person will have changed a little because of being put into a community that demands friendship, trust and common views just to survive.
Glowlab goes to Burning Man
Glowlab friend and collaborator J Gabriel Lloyd is off to Burning Man. He will be covering the festival for us and posting here on his experiences. Stay tuned...