What is Burning Man?
“Once a year, tens of thousands of people gather together to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever. While it’s true that Burning Man is not for the faint of heart, with some research, preparation, and planning, an experience — and opportunity — beyond your wildest dreams awaits you. In Black Rock City, you’re guaranteed not to be the weirdest kid in the classroom. And you’ll become a part of the growing community of Burners who are active year-round, around the world, ensuring that the fire of Burning Man culture never goes out.”
|City||Black Rock City: temporary city specifically created for Burning Man|
|Event duration||Last Monday of August to the first Monday of September (eg. 8/27-9/7/15)|
|US Holidays||Labor Day Weekend|
|Population||Black Rock City, 2014: 66,000
United States: 317 Million
|Currency||$ US dollar
Ticket price: $390-$800 (2015)
|Safety||Local and State Law Enforcement
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Black Rock City (BRC) Rangers
Volunteer Medical, Fire, and Mental Health Professionals
|Type of Culture||A unique and distinctive culture with a shared philosophy based on the 10 Principals permeates every aspect of Burning Man culture.|
|Special Customs||Dress Code: No feathers
See: 10 Principles
8/23: Day One
Thrift shopping, assembling costumes
8/23: Day Two
Arrive in long line of cars waiting for entry
Arrive at Greeters Station
Reconnect with campmates, help set up camp
Howl at setting sun
8/24-8/28: Day Three-Seven
AM: Watch sunrise
Attend classes: naked yoga, BDSM, polyamory
Red Dress Run (8/27)
Visit Deep Playa
Art project participation
Food distribution participation
Human carcass wash
Sneak into Camp One
White Party (8/26)
Sound camps: Robot Heart, Slut Garden, Camp Charlie
Art Car hopping
Picking up MOOP
8/29: Day Eight
8/29: Day Nine
8/31: Day Ten
Pack up, clean up, Leave No Trace
Arrive in long line of cars waiting for entry: They say the Burn begins when you leave home and start heading toward Black Rock City. When you arrive in the guaranteed long line at the gate, Burners are encouraged to make the most of their wait, and get out of their vehicles to spend time with their community.
Greeters Station: At the gate, all are welcomed with open arms. Newcomers are asked to exit their vehicle, lie on the ground, and make a dust angel.
Howl at setting sun: Every sunset, the Burners howl at the sky to welcome the night.
Red Dress Run: On Thursday, a large group meets at the base of the man, all wearing red dresses, and runs together through the playa.
The Man: The Man is located in the center of the Playa. He is considered to be the focal point that brings the community together. He is burned on the last Saturday of the event, after which the Burners join in massive celebration.
The Temple: The temple is near the Man, but fosters a quieter energy. Burners visit the Temple all week long to write messages, leave photos and letters, and connect with their emotions. The Temple is burned on the last Sunday of the event, and leaves the Burners feeling cleansed of the memories they want to let go.
Playa: The affectionate term for Black Rock City.
Deep Playa: The quieter, more sparse desert area with many large art installations.
Art project participation: Many art installations require audience participation to fully experience the artist’s message. Whether that be climbing inside a giant mirrored box to “time travel,” navigating through a maze and whispering your deepest fears into a tape recorder, or getting tied up and spun around in front of a cheering audience… The possibilities are endless, depending on what installations are brought this year.
Food distribution participation: Many camps like to hand out food and drink to passersby. In the desert sun, a snow cone or refreshing signature mimosa can really hit the spot.
Human carcass wash: A few camps welcome weary travelers to strip down in a big group and help wash each other. Personal boundaries can be made clear and will be honored.
Lamplighters: This camp welcomes Burners to help light the city. The volunteers arrive in the afternoon, receive roles and instructions, and don traditional robes. The volunteers split into three groups and walk the paths to the man, putting up lanterns that will help lost Burners get home in the dark.
MOOP (Matter Out Of Place): This phrase is used to describe any waste. Burners are encouraged to carry a MOOP bag with them at all times to pick up any garbage they come across on their travels.
White Party: The White Party takes place on the Wednesday of the event. Attendees are encouraged to wear white while they party all night.
Sound camps (Robot Heart, Slut Garden, Camp Charlie): These camps give back to the community by bringing top of the line audio/visual equipment, blasting tunes all day and night.
Thunderdome: This camp constructs a huge metal dome for Burners to fight each other.
Art Cars: Some camps transform regular vehicles into giant parties on wheels. Burners can jump on and off art cars as they pass by, but they usually can’t decide where the art cars go. They can be as small as a golf cart made to look like a dragonfly that shoots fire, or as large as a 50-person yacht.
Gifts: Gifting is encouraged and appreciated. Many Burners handcraft personalized gifts- like bracelets and necklaces- whereas many Burners offer useful gifts- like chapstick or homemade salves for dry, desert-worn skin. Participation is also considered to be a gift.
Culture: The 10 Principles
Radical Inclusion: “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.” All are welcome.
Gifting: “Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.” Instead of cash, participants at the Burning Man are encouraged to participate in a gift economy.
Decommodification: “In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.” No brands or advertisements are displayed. Cash can be used for a select few charity, fuel, and sanitation vendors.
Radical Self-Reliance: “Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.” Participants are expected to be responsible for their own basic needs.
Radical Self-Expression: “Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.” Participants are encouraged to express themselves in a number of ways, through various art forms and projects. The event is clothing-optional.
Communal Effort: “Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.” Participants are encouraged to work with and help fellow participants.
Civic Responsibility: “We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.”
Leave No Trace: “Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and aim to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.”
Participation: “Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.” People are encouraged to take part in activities, and participation is considered to be a great gift.
Immediacy: “Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”
1986 to 1989: One of the roots of the annual event now known as Burning Man began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice in 1986. 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. 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.
1990 to 1996: In 1990 a separate event was planned by Kevin Evans and John Law on the remote and largely unknown dry lake known as Black Rock Desert in Nevada. It was announced as Zone Trip #4, A Bad Day at Black Rock. Meanwhile, the Baker Beach burn was interrupted by the park police for not having a permit. After striking a deal to raise the Man but not to burn it, event organizers disassembled the effigy and returned it to the vacant lot where it had been built. The effigy was reconstructed, led by Dan Miller, Harvey’s then-housemate of many years, just in time to take it to Zone Trip #4.
Michael Mikel realized that a group unfamiliar with the environment of the dry lake would be helped by knowledgeable persons to ensure they did not get lost in the deep dry lake and risk dehydration and death. He took the name Danger Ranger and created the Black Rock Rangers. Thus the seed of Black Rock City was germinated, as a fellowship, organized by Law and Mikel, based on Evans’ idea, along with Harvey and James’ symbolic man.
In its first years, the community grew by word of mouth alone and all were considered participants by virtue of surviving in the desolate surreal trackless plain of the Black Rock Desert. There were no paid or scheduled performers or artists, no separation between art-space and living-space, no rules other than “Don’t interfere with anyone else’s immediate experience” and “no guns in central camp.”
1997 to present: 1997 marked another major pivotal year for the event. By 1996, the event had grown to 8,000 attendees and unrestricted driving on the open playa was becoming a major safety hazard. To implement a ban on driving and re-create the event as a pedestrian/bicycle/art-car-only event, it was decided to move to private gated property. Fly Ranch, with the adjoining Hualapai mini dry lake-bed, just East of the Black Rock desert, was chosen. To comply with new requirements and to manage the increased liability load, the organizers formed Black Rock City, LLC. Will Roger Peterson and Flynn Mauthe created the Department of Public Works (DPW) to build the “city” grid layout designed by Rod Garrett, an architect.
With the success of the driving ban, having no vehicular incidents, 1998 saw a return to the Black Rock desert, along with a temporary perimeter fence. The event has remained there since.