Burning Man: A culture of possibility

September 3, 2015 by Tessa Bousfield

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Goggles and face mask… check. Seven costumes; one for each day… check. Furniture, food, water and an open mind… check.

Chances are you know someone who’s in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada right now enjoying Burning Man; maybe it’s even your boss…

EST. 1986

Burning Man is a week-long annual event that began in San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986 and migrated to Nevada. What began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice with Larry Harvey, Jerry James, a few friends and a 9-foot wooden man, is now a massive event celebrating alternative living, drawing 65,000 people (the size of downtown San Francisco), and featuring a much taller, wooden man at 40 feet.

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The event is described as an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance. An entire city is built and adorned with unique structures, a cinema, temple and it’s own airport. It’s so big there are names for every horizontal street, and the vertical streets are numbered to match a clock to avoid people getting lost.

And it’s all packed up (or burned) at the end, leaving no trace behind.

CITY PLANNING

The layout of Burning Man has evolved from a full circle, to a key hole and now to a semi circle in order to view “The Man” being burned in the center against the desert landscape on the Saturday evening. You can no longer drive your vehicle around as it was starting to cause some concerns, but people get around by bike, scooter or by bus (Yes, there’s an entire bus service).

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Although you need to bring everything with you to survive life in the desert for a week, you won’t need to whip out your wallet (except for the highly priced tickets before you go). The reason? There is absolutely no cash exchanged at this event. Instead, festival goers have to barter for items and it gets more creative after each day.

CARNIVAL OF MIRRORS

This year’s event has a theme of “Carnival of Mirrors”, causing many campsites to be reflective with the desert sun. There’s also a large wooden tunnel (which will be torched at the end), a temple called “Totems of Confessions” where you write down your sins and place on the walls, mobile and interactive installations, playgrounds for adults, live music, flaming skee-ball and SO much more.

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On the down side, being in the middle of the desert also brings sand storms. Remember the wind storm we just had in Vancouver? Well it travelled to Nevada last Wednesday too. Festival goers experienced white out conditions and it caused tents to be torn down and a few eyes and lungs pierced. It didn’t take long for people to dust themselves off and continue rebuilding, however. And don’t worry, all the debris that got blown away was caught by the 4-foot high barrier known as the “trash fence”. This kind of thing happens often.

#BURNINGMAN2015

Most prepare to be “off the grid” with no reception and plan months ahead for it, but things have changed a little in the year 2015.

You’ll notice pictures showing up on social media while the event is happening this year. This is due to portable WiFi on the packing list, with entire companies working right from the event. This is allowing more and more startup companies to attend as they won’t have to worry about their company folding after a week in the desert. There’s even a live feed for all of us to watch in amazement right here.

However, many “burners” will argue the outside world should be left behind to fully experience Burning Man…

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WHEN THE DUST SETTLES

If you haven’t been to Burning Man and know someone who’s dancing in the desert right now, get the inside scoop from them to really paint the picture (just give them a few days to recuperate first). You may want to start planning a trip next year to become a burner yourself, or you may want to warn everyone you know to stay away. It could go either way.

Click here to view the trailer of Spark: A Burning Man Story.

 


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