Friday, January 29, 2010

Burning Man

The best way I can describe Burning Man is that it’s like a combination between Las Vegas and Woodstock. And the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” applies directly to this situation as well. What happens at Burning Man is mainly up to those who attend, though the event has ten core principles everyone must follow:

1. Inclusion- Anyone who can afford a ticket can come.
2. Gifting- Rather than using any currency, participants are encouraged to partake in a gift economy or sort of potlatch.
3. Decommodification- No money transactions are allowed except for a few vendors, purchasing fuel, or donating to the select charities.
4. Self-reliance- With the event’s remote surroundings, attendees are responsible for their own subsistence.
5. Self-expression- This is accomplished through art and various projects. Clothing is optional and public nudity is common.
6. Communal effort
7. Civic responsibility- Everyone is part of a civil society in which laws are obeyed.
8. “Leave no Trace”- Attendants strive to leave the area in better condition than when they left it.
9. Participation
10. Immediacy- Participants are encouraged to be active in the festivities and explore those around them as well as their inner selves.

Held in the Black Rock Desert, a dried out lake bed, the proceedings start on the Monday before and end on the American Labor Day. While in 2008 it was estimated that 49,600 people attended, this craze-fest originally began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice in 1986. Creators Larry Harvey, Jerry James, and a few friends met on Baker Beach in San Francisco to burn a 9 foot tall wooden man and smaller wooden dog.

Black Rock City is the temporary area built for the festival. After the event is closed, about 90% will be destroyed where it lies. Interestingly enough, most of the city’s layout and infrastructure is created by the Public Works Department. The developed portion of the city is arranged in a series of concentric streets in an arc composing two-thirds of 1.5 mile diameter circle. In the center stands the tall man waiting to be burned on the last night.

If you would like to see a list of events sponsored by the Burning Man Regional Network in your area, click here.

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