The Burning Man festival began as bonfire ritual on the summer solstice of 1986 and now attracts almost 70,000 people. The festival is held annually in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, around 100 miles north-northeast of Reno.

burning man

History of The Burning Man Festival

On June 22, 1986, Larry Harvey and Jerry James organised a small gathering on Baker Beach in San Francisco along with the first “Man,” which they built themselves.

For four years the festival would be held on Baker Beach before the park police would intercede to prevent the burning of the man.

On this day in 1990, the event would change forever -moving locations, changing its date and adopting not only a new beginning but a new meaning to the celebration.

Fast forward a few decades and the Burning Man festival continues to be held annually, spanning from the last Sunday in August to the first Monday in September (Labor Day) in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

Background of The Burning Man Festival

Burning Man isn’t your usual festival. It’s a vibrant participatory metropolis generated by its citizens.

Each year, tens of thousands of people gather in the Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a temporary and flourishing city-scape dedicated to community, art, self-reliance, self-expression and self-discovery.

Burning Man is a practice in community – where “Burners” create art, exchange ideas, practice inclusiveness and participate in the longtime tradition of the burning of the Man, a symbol whose meaning is as varied as the attendees themselves.

Every year, Burning Man attendees will find the community has decided on a different theme. From here, you’ll see art, attire, gifts and of course, the Man, follow suit. The whole Burning Man festival is designed and celebrated around the chosen theme of that year.

Burners are not simply “attendees,” but active participants. Those who go to “The Burn” create the city, the interaction, the phenomenal art installations, the performance and, ultimately, the entire experience and feeling of the weeks leading up to the festival, the week of the festival itself and the weeks following it.

Participation is a gift given to the larger community for everyone’s benefit. This includes ensuring that burners know and understand the “pack it in, pack it out” or “leave no trace” mentality.

What is Burning Man all about?

Burning Man is a cultural movement based on a gift economy that promotes 10 major principles:

  • “Radical” inclusion
  • Self-reliance
  • Self-expression
  • Community cooperation
  • Civic responsibility
  • Gifting
  • Decommodification
  • Participation
  • Immediacy
  • Leaving no trace

The Burning Man Organisation’s co-founder Larry Harvey wrote the ten principles in 2004 as guidelines for the newly-formed Regional Network. These principles are by no means rules, but a reflection of The Burn and the community’s culture and spirit that has organically developed since the festival’s inception.

With these principles in mind, through art grants, mentorships, art management programs and more, Burning Man Arts supports the philosophies of the festival by encouraging artists to change the notion of art from a commodified or ‘packaged’ object to an interactive, participatory, shared experience of creative expression.

Following this idea, art cars quickly became a favourite on the playa. Art is often used as a form of currency on the playa in addition to other goods-a staple of the gift-giving culture. The more eccentric the gift, the better.

From mutant vehicles to art cars coordinated with theme camps, the sky’s the limit. If you can dream it, there will be someone to help you craft it and get it to Black Rock City. It’s not just art cars that you should keep your eye out for; some of the most exquisite and larger-than-life sculptures are made in honour of the burn.

Two former Burning Man pieces, the Space Whale and BELIEVE, live in the heart of the city of Reno, located downtown at the corner of First and South Virginia St.

The intention of the Burning Man festival is to connect everyone to his or her creative powers. It calls for patrons to participate in the community in any way they can and learn more about how to make a positive change in the world through true and honest interaction both on the playa and in the outside world.

Don’t worry, you’ll soon refer to the playa as “home” like so many others do after they leave.

Burning Man offers two different art grants: grants for art from around the world and grants for art destined for Black Rock City. Global Art Grants support interactive, participatory art experiences around the world.

Black Rock City Honoraria helps artists create for the annual Burning Man event, and the Black Rock City Template Grant supports artists selected to build the Temple at the annual Burning Man event, which provides a quiet spot on the playa for remembrance and introspection.

How to Survive Burning Man

Burners new and seasoned must follow the fundamental Ten Principles to utilize the true transformational potential of Burning Man. The Ten Principles are the foundational ethos in a community that values creativity, inclusion, and liberty. With Burning Man fast approaching, here’s our comprehensive survival guide to this year’s Carnival of Mirrors.

Surviving the Burn

First and foremost, the essential way to survive Burning Man is through the self. Come with good vibes and a clear head, and be ready for anything physically, mentally, psychologically, and psychically extraordinary! In addition, being prepared and organised is of the utmost importance. Burning Man does not allow the use of monetary exchange for goods, other than for plain coffee at Center Camp and ice which is distributed at Arctica in Center Camp at 3 and 9 o’ clock.

What to pack

• WATER – DO NOT skimp on the essence of life! At least 1.5 gallons per person per day is recommended. It’s a hot windy desert and this is one you should bring in abundance.

• FOOD – You will be spending up to a week on the desolate Playa. Here are a few food recommendations: Portable and easy to pack snacks like granola, nuts, dried fruit, chips, crackers, cookies, jerky, hard cheese, canned food, instant ramen, tortillas, bread, nut butters, coconut oil.

• Fresh produce with skins like avocados, apples, citrus, pineapples, melons, pomegranates, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc. that you can store in the cooler for the first few days.

• Bringing a cooler is recommended. Prepare and package meals beforehand and store in cooler. Pack the ice in large zip-lock bags so you can use the melted water for drinking/washing later on.

Pack like you’re going camping for a week. Tent/shade structure, stakes, sleeping bags, portable stove, eating utensils, paper towels, TP, tools, the whole nine yards. Here are a few miscellaneous items that might also be of use:

• LIGHTS – Decorative, utility, all kinds of lights. Bring them!

• Bicycles, preferably with fat tires (beach cruisers or mountain bikes). Playa is huge and the dirt is loose and uneven. A bike lock and some basic tools are important for sustaining your ride too.

• Toiletries, cosmetics, sunblock, lotion/oil, baby wipes. You’ll be covered in playa dust and will not be able to shower for the time unless you get lucky and find a portable shower somewhere.

What to wear

• Standard accessories on the Playa include goggles and a dust mask or face bandana. Be prepared for (un)expected dust and sand storms.

• Your wardrobe is limitless in creativity! Prepare for high desert temperatures, as hot as 100 F and as cold as 40 F. The Playa can be windy and also experiences surprise rain/floods.

• Good boots are a must – other footwear wear at your own discretion.

• Avoid things like glitter, feathers, sequins, and other loose accessories that can fall off easily and get lost on the Playa (called MOOP aka Matter out of Place).

Tips for First-Timers

• Aside from being prepared, enjoy the moment! Burning Man is an absolutely life-changing experience whether you want it to be or not.

• Major art pieces burn close to the end of the week, the Man burns on Saturday, the Temple burns on Sunday.

• Know your limits. It’s a festival of physical and psychological endurance.

• Ride on at least one art car and watch at least one art or sculpture burn. Make friends! Find a spirit guide! The sky is the limit.

• My first year, I did not keep to a schedule. However, if your crew wants to do certain activities (find a music art car, go to a discussion/activity/gathering/etc.), open communication is key.

• And most importantly… get enough rest and sleep! It can be hard, but there are plenty of rest areas, and if you ask nicely you can probably hang out or crash at other camps.

(Article source: Various) 

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