Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Burning Man: A Beating Heart in the Middle of the American Desert

Sculpture at Burning Man

Aerial View of Burning Man

Near the end of every summer and not too far from the city of Reno in the middle of the Nevada desert, around 60000 people find themselves together, sharing arts, freedom, love, happiness and creativity. This is what happens during the Burning Man festival; transforming the desert into an oasis for the most eclectic and eccentric group of people on the planet. 

Although tickets for Burning Man can go up to $400, they are usually sold out within hours or sometimes even minutes. But when it all started in San Francisco in 1986, it was a simple gathering of a small group of friends who wanted to enjoy their free time, for free. It was only after four years that the event had to be moved to Black Rock Desert in the state of Nevada, turning the place into a blank canvas filled with all kinds of incredible art, eccentric and wonderful artists to watch and events to attend. 

The only rule that the attendees of Burning Man agree on is the “gifting” rule. As they find themselves in the desert with little or no bags, they tend to exchange gifts to make their stay as comfortable and as enjoyable as possible. If you are one of the attendees of this event and you are wandering through the desert, someone might just come to you and offer you clothes, food, drinks, jewellery, or even read poems to you. Thanks to the sharing culture and the gifting-economy this event brings, the Burning Man festival is the first of its kind in the entire world. 

Tickets for this unique event might be expensive, however, that’s the only expense attendees need to worry about. Once they are there, it’s all about sharing and nothing is for sale. The festival has no codes, no norms, no conformity. It is all about being happy and free, along with giant art installations, art cars, music bands, weird and funny costumes and of course, the burning immense sculptures and wooden statues. Burning Man is not like any other festival, it is an opportunity for the mind to be freed, for borders to be crossed and for love, joy and creativity to be cultivated. It is a celebration of non-conformity and difference, of art and beauty and most of all, it's a celebration of freedom.

With thousands of visitors from all over the world each year, Burning Man is one of the biggest entertainment events in the United States and the world. Through time, the festival has embraced interests and themes that go beyond its artistic vision. It has been a major promoter of women's rights, LGBT rights, equality, modesty, social integration, sharing, and above all, coexistence. During the festival, visitors find themselves surrounded by the unknown, sometimes in challenging conditions, and in order to deal with that, they have to communicate, break barriers and stereotypes, build trust, share, and accept others as well as embrace their own identities.

The name “Burning Man” comes from the tradition of burning a huge structure that takes a different form every year, adding a more surreal atmosphere to the event. The burning happens during the last day of the festival while people gather to watch the ceremonial burn as fireworks and flame throwers surround them, making the spectacle a breathtaking and mesmerising finale for an immense and unforgettable event in the Nevada desert. 

Burning Man is described as an experiment in art, community, radical inclusion, civic responsibility, radical self-reliance, participation, decommodification, self-expression, and radical self-reliance. In April 2011, the founder Larry Harvey announced that the company organizing the annual event, Black Rock City LLC, begun a three-year process to transfer the ownership of the event over to a new non-profit organization called the "Burning Man Project", and in March 2014 the official Burning Man website and Facebook Page announced the completion of the non-profit transition, making this event extra special and much more remarkable.