I’m bumping this article from last year, since Burning Man starts next weekend. Tammy’s screener/AP Nikki is a regular “Burner”, so she’ll be there. (Hey, Nikki, will you be able to call in and report from the scene?)
As a public service, and to save Nikki the trouble of endless repetition, let’s get these top three questions out of the way:
- Q: Do people get naked at Burning Man?
A: Yes, some do.
- Q: Does Nikki get naked?
A: Not in public.
- Q: Will you post naked pictures?
There are countless videos and pictures from previous Burning Man festivals to be found online. Here is a good sample of a YouTube video with various Burning Man clips.
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Maynard points out a fascinating and insanely escapist event
Every year, the week leading up to Labor Day is the occasion of the oddball Burning Man festival in the remote Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada. Here, for the week, something like 35,000 people will set up shop for total immersion into in an experiment in controlled anarchy. It’s a temporary community of participatory art and/or psychodrama on a grand scale.
Burning Man started as a personal cathartic exercise in 1986, when a few friends built and burned an 8-foot tall wooden statue at Baker Beach in San Francisco. They liked it so much that they came back to do it again the following year, and it became an annual event. The size of both the crowd and the statue grew, resulting in relocation to rural Nevada in 1990.
The construction and incineration of the Man is the central theme of the week, but it’s really not about him at all. The event is an exercise in imagination run wild, with the expectation that every attendee is a participant rather than an observer. There are almost no commercial transactions, and even bartering is discouraged; it’s more like a huge pot luck picnic in which everyone brings something to the table. There is enough law enforcement to assure that a few basic rules are followed, but beyond that, pretty much anything goes. There are sights, sounds, food, drink, and just about any experience that can be made available. Then the week ends, the Man burns, and everyone cleans up and goes home.
No, I’ve never been there myself. I find the notion intimidating, going to a place where there is nowhere to hide. But it sounds completely fascinating as a brief, experimental escape from the framework that dominates our lives. Broadly speaking, I believe we require that our social structures be somewhat rigid, lest we descend into savagery (as in Lord of the Flies). But those who understand the necessity of rules in a civilized society can probably survive a week of this madness. Do we have any burners (as the attendees are called) in the audience? Anyone planning on going next week?
Burning Man has been the subject of a number of documentaries, such as Burning Man: The Burning Sensation and Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock and others. Visit their official web site or check out the Wikipedia entry for more information.