If you find yourself discussing deep philosophical matters with a totally naked professor from London School of Economics -either you are tripping balls on acid in your living room, or- you might as well be at the Burning Man.
This festival during the past 30 years gained a reputation for being, well….quite trippy.
As almost every solid festival tradition, Burning Man has its starting point as a spontaneous act of expression. Within the countercultural movement of ´be sure to wear some flowers in your head´ – two friends from San Francisco, Larry Harvey and Jerry James stepped up their hippy game back in 1986 and randomly decided to burn a three-meter tall statue of a man on the beach as an act of summer solstice celebration. Somewhat 30 people gathered to watch.
Following the next years the amount of people dancing around the burning-man fire on summer solstice day was increasing steadily. The event has hit the right spot: combining the elements of some ancient magic with the sophistication of absurdity and (self) destruction, it somehow turned into a massive gathering with over 70.000 ´burners´ attending the festival yearly.
Over the first years of existence the event has mutated into an 8-day long event hidden in the middle of the backing-hot sultry Black Rock desert in Nevada. The festival starts on the last Monday of August at 00.01 and ends on the first Monday of September (Labor Day), with the culmination of the burning apogee falling on the sunset on Saturday. Full psychedelic experience can be ensured by the endless avant-garde art installations, dressed up or completely undressed crowd convulsing hardly on some trap music, full feeling of remote and complete isolation from the external world enhanced by, to say the least, severe weather conditions.
Burning Man has its starting point as a spontaneous act of expression
In the middle of the desert, with the scorching sunshine, dehydrated from various consumed substances and dancing, those ´burner´ folks will not be able to buy water anywhere around. At least not with the money. The festival promotes ´gift economy´ and as an antithesis to the consumerism, denies money in any form. Following the barter system, anything can be exchanged: a bottle of water to a lap-dance, cigarettes to hugs, banana to the pill of e. Gifts are unconditional and do not hold a material value, more of an emotional/essential one. DIY culture flows around promoting self-sufficiency, radical self-reliance and aiming to make people forget the outside world with the materialistic ever existed.
Controversially, the price you have to pay to get to the place where no value is attached to money is quite up there. But let’s leave the never-ending discussions of commercialisation: surviving in the desert to some trippy music with a bunch of unforgettable weirdos is not an experience that can be put into economic terms. Whether or not Burning Man went mainstream and commercial way, we are safe to say that it has set the trend for many other booming festivals around the world.
The now widespread spirit of Burning Man culture is defined by ten major principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodificatios, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, immediacy.
Those Ten Commandments form somewhat a perfectly utopian society of weirdos, hippies and stoners perfectly co-existing in one lovely desert.
Photos by: Alvin Nguyen
By Mariya Moisseyeva