Written by: Emma Sargeant
For eight days of the year, the Nevada desert builds a city of art and creative expression called the Burning Man at Black Rock City. The event invites people to share their artistic talents with others, bringing art, gifts, costumes, to a desert to celebrate the freedom of expression. The aim is to build an experimental community which allows radical self-expression and reliance. Burning Man originated in San Francisco on Baker Beach in the mid-1980s where a few friends partied on the beach and burned an effigy. Coincidentally, there were art-parties being held on Baker Beach around the same time and the friendly gatherings collaborated and the sculpture of the Burning Man became a theme. The party eventually attracted more and moved to the desert in Nevada to prevent fire hazards in the small space on Baker Beach, and was later organized by Kevin Evans who had aimed for the ritual to maintain a dadaist identity. He had also intended to promote more art, for the temporary sculpture to be burned and situationist performance art. By 1997, the knowledge of Burning Man spread across the globe and thousands began to travel to join the community. More rules were established to ensure safe experiences for all and prices were enforced to provide proper utilities for the health and safety of participants. The origins of the event had required gifts for participants to trade, to resemble a potlatch of creativity. Eventually finances were required and tickets can now cost $300. However, all participants are responsible for themselves, they must bring their own water and be prepared for the harsh climate of the desert. All that is provided are portable toilets. Members of the community collaborate to support each other in the environment as well as to encourage artistic freedom. Often, participants achieve liberality by sharing themselves nude. Art is the main focus of Burning Man. Participants bring fine art, music and dance to share with each other in the community. Every year there is a theme encompassing what relates to all. In the past, themes have been Hope and Fear: the Future; The Green Man; Fertility, and this year it will be the American Dream. The current orgnanizing group, called the LLC, grant some artists financial aid so they can accomplish their vision as art is viewed as a gift, sharing personal feelings with others in a visual form. Gifting is extremely promoted. Clothing is optional, but this is more often expressed not as simple nudity, but rather as creative and uninhibited body decoration and costuming. Trappings of the outside world are optional. Many take on new identities. Some look as they always did but live differently. The bicycle and foot are the main modes of transportation. To drive, cars must be turned forever into works of art. Taboos are different and turned upside-down. Burning Man will be living creatively and appreciating creativity August 25 until September 1 in Nevada. For tickets and more information, visit: www.burningman.com.