Anyway, it also came out that during the course of many of these conversations, that most of these folks all went to Burning Man every year. That's all it took. I decided, okay, this is clearly something I need to check out. Xingoloti was only a couple months after Burning Man, so I had to wait until the next year, but in August 2006 I went to my first burn - as it happens some of my friends from San Diego went also, although we sorta got separated and I ended up camping off by myself. That's a story in itself, but it all worked out anyway, and I had an amazing time. I was pretty blown away. I went back again in 2007 and as of this writing I'm preparing for 2008.
So, what is this thing? For nine days at the end of summer, close to 50,000 people converge on a godforsaken dry lake bed in the middle of the Nevada desert, and throw a gigantic potlock. Oh, and there are occasional 70 mph dust storms, creating total whiteout conditions, and the dust is a mildly caustic alkai which sort of eats your skin. It's just the craziest, most eccentric thing. You'll see people wearing goggles and a gasmask... and nothing else. Or a group of ten people in tuxes, cocktail dresses, and particulate respitators. (Did I mention the dust?) People create amazing art (more on that in just a second), or ride around on gigantic flaming birthday cakes, or dress weird, or dance all night, or do all of the above, maybe all at once. The energy level is like nothing I've ever experienced.
E Burningman = (E Las Vegas + E Manhattan) * 1,000,000
It's just insane.
So, art. It is ostensibly an art festival, and people do create some pretty amazing art out there. If you'll allow me a paragragh to get pretentious, here's what I have to say about the art. Art always exists in a context, whether it's in a gallery, or a museum, or on the street, but wherever you encounter art, it never is really separate from its context, and that shapes how you experience the art. If you go to the Uffizi it's really not possible to separate the art from the palace in which the art is displayed. At Burning Man, the art all exists on the playa, a gigantic, desolate, prehistoric dry lake bed. It is a giant empty canvas. And you're riding across this empty canvas on a bicycle, maybe at 4 in the afternoon, or maybe at 4 in the morning. But there you are in the midst of all this nothingness and you stumble upon art. And some of it is crap, and some of it doesn't seen to make sense, but a few pieces will be absolutely mindblowing. And this all takes places in an "art context" unlike any on earth. It's just the damnedest thing. It's also very hard to explain to people. There's a quote that goes: "For those who have never been, no explanation is possible. For those who return, no explanation is necessary."
Not all of the art is startionay, by the way. Some of it takes the form of large kinetic sculptures otherwise known as mutant vehicles. I am planning on building a mutant vehicle for 2008, and you can read about it here.
Copyright © 2008 David Chesavage. All Rights Reserved.