Another year with the “Burning Man” has just come to an end.
Its story started from a bonfire ritual in the summer solstice of 1986. Although it was just a bonfire, it had something really special about it. It was created by burning up a wooden effigy of a man 9 ft tall and also a small wooden dog. Although this may sound evil, it doesn’t have anything even “close to evil” associated with it. Infact, founder Larry Harvey describes it as “a spontaneous act of radical self-expression.” The 1986 group called it “The Man” which lead to the festival’s name as ‘The Burning Man’. This man has evolved year after year along with the festival.
Burning Man takes place in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. “Participants join in the effort to co-create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to art and community.Burning Man isn’t your usual festival. It’s a city wherein almost everything that happens is created entirely by its citizens, who are active participants in the experience.”
The festival doesn’t emphasize a specific goal but revolves around a set of principles, i.e. radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy that are meant to evoke a cultural ethos. These principles were originally stated by Larry Harvey.
The burning of the man is also accompanied by the burning of a temple. The temple which was burnt this year, “The Temple of Promise”, was designed by Dreamers Guild. It had a welcoming curvaceous pathway of arches, 97 feet high at the entrance. This path leads to the temple’s heart, the “altar”, made up of a grove of three sculpted trees. They were initially bare and the participants could write messages on clothes and hang them on the trees. As the end came near, they were full of messages and pictures by the “Burners” i.e. participants of the festival, and the trees eventually came to resemble the weeping willow.
Originally made for the Burning Man Event in the year 2000, the “Dragon Smelter” still stands on the festival grounds captivating the attention of many. It promotes recycling, as it is itself made up of 60% recycled materials. Participants design casting molds that are used for smelting used up aluminum cans, transforming them into magnificent pieces of art.
“The FaIRE hockey” a fun combination of fire, air hockey and music is altogether a new experience. The game is played akin to the original game, the only difference is that the center ice on the table is on fire. So there isn’t any chance of mishandling and cheating when the game is on!
“Brainchild” is an interactive installation, whose form is a play of biological patterns and shapes. The participants need to complete the circuit by acting as neuro transmitters themselves eventually leading to the activation of synapses for the piece to come to life. The movements of the participants is detected by proximity awareness sensors linked with the lighting fixtures, which respond accordingly, creating an atmosphere of enjoyment and interaction.
To add a little more to the already brimming art basket of this festival, the “Arbour” celebrates dendritic geometry of sacred classical architecture in the form of parametric vaults, “Becoming Human” is a 30 ft robot trying to explain the importance of nature and value of slowing down in life, “Black Rock Observatory” links the field of art and science by showing the universe as truth and truth as beautiful and hence the ultimate art form. These are but a few pieces in the large repository of installations.
This festival increases community participation and interaction just like any other festival, but its inherent philosophies like “leave no trace”, make it unique. The “Burners” promise to leave the place cleaner then it was found on arrival.
By: Kushal Jain