Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Burning Man Festival

Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.

Burning Man is a week-long annual event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, in the United States. The event begins on the last Monday in August, and ends on the first Monday in September, which coincides with the American Labor Day holiday.

One of the roots of the annual event now known as Burning Man began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice in 1986 when Larry Harvey, Jerry James, and a few friends met on Baker Beach in San Francisco and burned a 9-foot (2.7-meter) wooden man as well as a smaller wooden dog. Harvey has described his inspiration for burning these effigies as a spontaneous act of "radical self-expression". The event did have earlier roots, though. Sculptor Mary Grauberger, a friend of Harvey's girlfriend Janet Lohr, held solstice bonfire gatherings on Baker Beach for several years prior to 1986, some of which Harvey attended. When Grauberger stopped organizing it, Harvey "picked up the torch and ran with it," so to speak. He and Jerry James built an 8-foot (2.4-meter) wooden effigy for 1986, which was much smaller and more crudely made than the neon-lit figure featured in the current ritual. In 1987, the effigy grew to almost 15 feet (4.6 meters) tall, and by 1988, it had grown to around 40 feet (12 meters). Burning Man attendees informally called it "The Man," and this name was given to each successive effigy, every year since Burning Man began. Harvey states that he did not see the movie The Wicker Man until many years later, so it played no part in his inspiration. A wicker man was a large human-shaped wicker statue allegedly used in Celtic paganism for human sacrifice by burning it in effigy. Accordingly, rather than allow the name "Wicker Man" to become the name of the ritual, he started using the name "Burning Man".{Via}

However, what was once a Bohemian gathering, and once thought of as a non conformist  bastion for free expression has now become one of modern society’s most hedonistic adventures and a highly priced event costing upwards of $300 for an entry ticket which keeps escalating annually, thereby getting into legal disputes with the local authorities.

Last year more than 60,000 people from all over the world gathered at the sold-out festival, which celebrated its 26th year, to spend a week in the remote desert cut off from much of the outside world to experience art, music and the unique community that develops. Read more:

A first timer’s guide to Burning Man.

{Above image ViaMore images}

Bonus: The very first Google doodle was for the Burning man festival, August 30 1998.