At the end of August, one of America’s most desolate landscapes, Black Rock Desert in Nevada, turns momentarily into the wildest, most outrageous place you can think of. The following Monday, only ashes are left of a transient town of 30,000 human souls that, as they leave, yearn to come back next year to celebrate yet another Burning Man Festival. The event has taken on a mystical sense for people who attend. The immediacy and evanescence provoke an overwhelming aesthetic fascination with the event, but the temporary citizens also live in accordance with the organizers’ principle for using the land: “Leave no trace”.
The harsh desert climate adds to the challenge and adventure experienced by the participants. Artists and sculptors create an infinity of ephemeral works. Computer and communication specialists, dancers and musicians, robot engineers and new-agers mingle with the most indescribable individuals. Burning Man is certainly one gigantic party, but it is also a carefully crafted ongoing social experiment to develop a distinctly new vision of civic life and art as a means for communal living. The whole city is arranged around a huge fetish in its centre and the event culminates in the burning of this figure symbolising the “burning” of the past and a commitment to renewal.
Burning Man encourages radical self-expression. In this experimental city, no money passes hands and there is no place for advertisements nor logos. Intrinsic to the festival is the concept of an economy based on gift-giving and bartering. Due to the extremes of surrounding nature, people tend to gather in groups for their mere survival—they do it gladly, joyously, enthralled with the experience.