Burning Man - a short explanation
Burning Man happens annually on and before Labor Day weekend,
typically in Nevada's Black Rock Dessert. About 15.000 people (in
1998; our numbers increase greatly every year) gather for several
days to express their artistic creativity, to loose their inhibitions
and behave as weirdly as they feel like, to be friends with all of the
other participants, and to play and party day and night. There are
hundreds of theme camps, some of which must have taken a year to prepare.
At most of them you can participate in some activity (creeping through
a giant spiral ammonite whose corridor becomes narrower and narrower,
receiving a relaxing massage, jumping a trampoline, having your body
painted, getting henna tattoos that stay for three weeks, getting
flogged with soothing soft foam rubber bars, doing various games,
etc. etc.). There are impressive works of art, like a scale model of
the solar system that stretches for kilometers, statutes of all kinds,
and structures and vehicles that defy description. Performances of
all kinds are going on, including an opera with a cast of hundreds and
a decor involving a life-size castle. Living rooms are driving through
the streets of the temporary city/campground, a tank-sized flamethrower
causes impressive ignitions, 20 meter long balloons float in the sky,
people are walking around and dancing naked, or in the most outrageous
costumes, and music of various kinds is generated at many sources
during the nights.
There is no division between organizers and spectators; everybody
participates one way or another. No money is charged at any
attractions - the participants enjoy sharing their creativity and
goods with others. In fact everybody is welcome everywhere; you can
walk into almost anybodies private camp, and be welcomed
heartily. People share their food and supplies with their neighbors,
and are really nice to everybody else. The atmosphere is exceedingly
peaceful; there are no fights and not much theft. All of this happens
in the middle of nowhere, in a flat alkali dessert, on which not even
a single strand of grass would grow. Everyone has to bring food,
water, and shade for the entire time with them, and prepare seriously
for surviving in the harsh climate of the dessert.
In the end, everything that has had its use is burned - fires
everywhere, a pyromaniac's dream coming true.
The climax of the event is the
burning of the Man, a giant wooden structure filled with fireworks
that has guarded the event.
A pretty good description of one hour of burning man can be found at
More information (and links to thousands of
pictures by me and many others) can be found on the
"official" burning man site and
in the Burning Man Archive.