When our American pals decided to do something, they do it big, and the annual Burning Man festival is a good example.
Held waaaaay out in the Black Rock Desert northwest of Nevada in the US, a whole bunch of arty, environmental, and often plain weirdy types get together to celebrate…something. It’s not exactly clear what it is that makes everyone so happy when they get there, but it leads to a lot of crazy incineration of stuff and a fair bit of nudity.
And in a strange way we can see the appeal in that.
There’s a lot of crazy art and some really amazing sculptures and humungous structures put together. Remember, there’s no electricity or running water out there, and there seems to be a shortage of soap and deodorant as well. Every single item for every artwork and building has to be carried in and carried out again. A big mission statement for the festival is ‘leave no trace’.
In any case, the whole festival, with its 70,000 revellers, finishes up with a yooj bonfire where an effigy – like a statue – of a bloke is burned and everyone dashes about like lunatics going berserk with freedom.
Then everyone picks up, packs up, and goes back to their desks, filled with the beaut spirit of oneness.
It’s quite a turnout.
Burning Man started off on a beach in San Francisco in 1986. A few mates got together, had a bit of a bonfire, and burnt a wooden bloke-like thing they’d made.
Apparently this made such a big impact on their lives they decided do it every year, and somewhere along the way – San Francisco was a hippy town and the 1980s was a time where everyone thought it was still the 1970s, so the history of the era is a bit vague – it was all moved out into the desert, and squillions of would-be druids, mimes, poets, sculptors and artists turn up every year between the last Sunday in August through to the first Monday in September and do the things we’ve pretty much already described.
We must have too much time on our hands, because we were struck with what a huge event the Burning Man is. We thought we’d have a look at how all the body-painted flat- Earthers handled this wonderful, community-based gattering.
Here’s what we found:
‘Burning Man is organised by the Burning Man Project, a non-profit organization that, in 2014, succeeded a for-profit, limited-liability company (Black Rock City, LLC) that was formed in 1997 to represent the
event’s organisers, and is now considered a subsidiary of the non-profit organization. In 2010, over 50,000 people attended Burning Man. Attendance in 2011 was capped at 50,000 participants and the event sold out on July 24; the attendance rose to 70,000 in 2015. The Burning Man Project endorses several smaller regional events, inspired by the Burning Man principles both in the United States and internationally.’
It’s big. It’s bigger than big. It’s e-fricken-normous.
The Aussie Connection
We don’t know of any Burning Man festivals in Australia, but in 2016 WTW’s editor was hard at work, as always, blasting through the Wide Brown Land on someone else’s brand new motorcycle, putting in the hard yards and demanding reimbursement for every cup of coffee and lamington, when he stumbled on a festival called Afterburn.
It was just across from Lake Eyre, and it had a very Burning Man feel about it. There were a few bits and pieces of art on display, and a very healthy young lady was wandering around with only minimal protection from the sun’s harmful rays. A bit of chanting and uncoordinated stomping that might’ve been dancing was going on in the background.
Anyway, if Marek can sell his pics, the editor figures he can too, so if you’d like a copy of any of these showstoppers, send a carton and he’ll SMS them to you.
Art Showing Art
The latest Burning Man all looked a bit Mad Max, and with so much art on display on such a grand scale, it’s no surprise someone trekked out to Black Rock City, possibly from Nevada, to capture the whole thing on pixels.
Czech photographer Marek Musil, 44, is the bloke responsible for these images, and he’s done well. He must’ve had one of the new iPhones or Samsungs. The cameras on those phones are belters.
“A few years ago I was living in New York and my flatmate was a regular visitor to Burning Man,” said Marek, who was a rock musician before taking up photography, which explains a lot.
“Since then I had a dream to see this crazy world for myself. After I came back from my first Burning Man in 2016, I found out that the Burners’ world is not only in the Nevada desert. The planet is full of Burners and there are festivals everywhere.
“The biggest are in South Africa and in Israel. So I thought three different continents, three different kinds of burners but the same philosophy everywhere – that would be the basis for my Burning Man Collection.”
So Marek’s not beyond making a few dollars from his artistic colleagues.
Go Marek, we say!