Each year thousands of artists and onlookers come together and participate in an unparalleled creative community.
Burning Man: an explosion of creative rebellion in the desert /
Black Rock City, a fictional or improvised city or one that is dismantled by fire, is located in the Nevada desert (USA) during seven days a year, in the footprint of an extinct lake, is the stage where for over 13 years now, Labour Day is awaited by what the event’s organisers call an “experimental community of self-expression and self-sufficiency”. This is of the utmost importance: they define themselves as a community. So, what does this community actually consist of?
The foundations of this idea can be traced back to San Francisco in 1986, where an idea, similar to the one we now know, emerged. Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man, conceptualised it as a Dadaist festival, where artists could meet to show their work, in a determined period of time and space, without the usual practices of pre-established social reality —without a financial exchange, for example. It is an artistic fair, itinerant in time (each year) and in space (because, who can be sure they set foot in the same desert twice?).
The idea of “leave no trace”, is central to the festival’s ideological context, since the city is installed and its eccentric buildings are ephemeral places where people write and draw their desires, their gratitude or their thoughts; by later burning these constructions, everything remains as if nothing had happened in the first place. People draw and erase a world that exists only while it is inhabited, as a world of dreams. There is an idea of cleanliness, in the ritualistic sense, in relation to the respect held for the place that presents them this opportunity. For seven days a community is set up where the surroundings appear to be taken from a Dali painting, or from a shared lucid dream. A utopia where we can influence reality from the logic of a dream is effectively achieved in Burning Man.
Art cars, bionic dance, earth harps, sonorous buildings, allegorical cars, and many, many people. Last year, 53 thousand people assisted the ritual. The levels of the artistic displays are extraordinary, and many of them attend as scholarship recipients on behalf of the organisers; other artists, attend of course, because they want to, or in exchange for an exhibition space to show their work. A community of artists, gathered to show their work in the desert, that is what it is all about. It is also, a manner of questioning the use of space, testing other communication practices, generating other types of interaction in a conscious relation to the medium. Evidently, nobody litters the place, and whatever people take is shared spontaneously, since the nearest gas station is 40 kilometres away.
Lastly, the event is a phenomenological reduction of reality: during seven days, the quotidian is suspended, and a utopia of well organised artists is entered. A strange thing. Some call it Magic.
The atmosphere that is experienced there is that of a carnival, of a ritual, of a community. People take the necessary provisions for the experience; the attendees are able to enter another interactive model. On Saturday, the last day of the festival, Labour Day, they burn an enormous sculpture of a Man, where all the written or drawn records made by the assisting crowds are kept. Tears are shed. They enjoy their own practices and rituals. They leave. The desert remains unharmed. Molly Stevenson, a participant and chronicler in the last edition of Burning Man, says: “Your mind is your own drug. Bring enough food, water and shelter, because the new planet is tough, and you will not find anything to buy. You are here to celebrate: on Saturday we will burn the Man”.Tagged: incredible destinations, trips and travelers, Fantasy Lands, Burning Man, deserts