This blog reviewed the 2010 Burning Man Festival.
September, 2010. Black Rock Desert | Metropolis outside of the box – People go to Burning Man for a lot of reasons. On the surface, a festive gathering of about 50,000 artistic souls in the remote desert seems like enough reason to go, but there is so much more. This was my second trip to Black Rock City (BRC) for the annual burn. The first trip was such a fiasco it’s amazing I had a desire to return. In 2002, I traveled solo bringing only 20 pounds of hamburger and a hundred windchimes to meet up with friends there. In the chaos of a spontaneous city, I was never able to find my group. The food and chimes were traded for water and buns. A memory, yes, but I was not prepared.
The 2010 burn was much different. After connecting with the Santa Cruz Fire Dancing Conclave in early summer, I was invited to join the camp and perform fire safety duties during their performances. Having a group to plan the journey and to camp with is the best way to make the burn work.
The event is described by many participants as an experiment in community, radical self-expression, and self-reliance. The theme for this year was Metropolis, the birth of cities. Knowing this, I expected to witness some amazing desert art, structures and mutant art cars. I was not let down. Black Rock City/Burning Man by definition is a temporary city created and populated by anyone who wants to come. Burning Man has grown dramatically since its inception by Larry Harvey, Jerry James and a group of six friends at a bonfire ritual at Baker Beach, San Francisco on the summer solstice in 1986. The growth of this unique gathering really shows the vibrancy of modern-day tribal culture in need of a way to break out of the button-down daily metropolis most of us inhabit.
Black Rock Desert is a large empty space with absolutely nothing on the playa area (no trees, no grass, no hills, nothing), a perfect canvas to create something beautiful. Upon arriving at BRC one is greeted by a long line of fellow burners queued up along a hot dusty gravel road. This is where the spirit of sharing within a gifting economy begins to sparkle. Cash is not king on the playa but rather the spirit of the shared experience brings out a desire to give what you can and ask for what you need. Burning Man is not a festival or concert, though both happen there. The idea behind burning the man is to ritualistically release the old and usher in the new. Though there are many things burned at the event, the Saturday night ignition of the massive man and the Sunday night temple burn are the highlights.
A city, even a temporary one, this big, needs some organization. Our camp, the Samba Stilt Circus, was at 4:30 and Baghdad. Instead of cash, event participants are encouraged to rely on a gift economy. Burners freely give gifts to one another unconditionally and trading goods or services is common. We offered fire dancing along with a high bar for BRC people to find refreshment. Next to us was a group from Sonoma with the Good Times (not affiliated with the GOOD TIMES weekly newspaper) Geodesic Dome offering live music and 30 types of vodka, including the famous (notorious to some) garlic vodka used to lure in passersby. Behind us was the Buddha camp with its meditation tent and food kitchen serving bacon cocktails. This list of camps goes on forever. Some of my favorites were Spankey’s Wine Bar, the Contra Dancing camp, Spin Cycle hooping area and Mistastic misting area where one could relax on beanbags under refreshing misters.
Did I mention the dust? No account of Burning Man would be complete without remembering the talcum-powder like sand/dust that gets everywhere, and yes I mean everywhere. Feeling the warm dust on your face seemed to help one bond with the earth and each other in the shared experience. Some days it just gathered at your feet as a reminder that you were in the desert. Some days it blew around in white-out fury nearly stopping all activity where many retreated to Center Camp for some coffee, performances and conversation.
One interesting thing I noticed while on the playa was the absence of trash cans. None. No dumpsters. Nothing beyond the plentiful porta-potties. I’d heard no explanation for this but assume it is the organizers’ way of making a Leave No Trace green consciousness statement. It does force one to consider their trash in a new way.
When people were active they rode around on bicycles, in dramatic art-cars (the best way to travel, 5 MPH max), and everything in between. We moved from camp to camp stopping to chat, party and perform for each other. Nearly everybody wore a playa outfit of some sort. Elaborate body painting, flowing robes, bare breasts and more were the norm. Burning Man is a place to go to be free, be renewed, to release the past and create the future.
To learn more on the Burning Man story visit the official website burningman.com and especially the What Is Burning Man and the First Years sections. Google or YouTube Burning Man for a feast of words and images that will delight your senses and ignite a desire to come play with us in the desert.
Article by Jeffrey Hotchkiss, Policy Pillars secrets of attraction, health, happiness and success & JeffsList.net funny stuff