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Jameson Bell
Jameson Bell

Burning Man VERIFIED

Burning Man is an event focused on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance held annually in the western United States.[1][2] The name of the event comes from its culminating ceremony: the symbolic burning of a large wooden effigy, referred to as the Man, that occurs on the penultimate night of Burning Man, which is the Saturday evening before Labor Day.[3] The event has been located since 1991 at Black Rock City in northwestern Nevada, a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert about 100 miles (160 km) north-northeast of Reno. As outlined by Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004, the event is guided by ten principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.[4]

Burning Man

Burning Man began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice. Sculptor Mary Grauberger, a friend of Larry Harvey's girlfriend, Janet Lohr, held solstice bonfire gatherings on Baker Beach for several years prior to 1986, some of which Harvey attended. When Grauberger stopped organizing it, Harvey "picked up the torch", with Grauberger's permission, and ran with it.[18] He and Jerry James built the first wooden effigy on the afternoon of June 21, 1986, cobbled together using scrap wood, to be torched later that evening. On June 22, 1986, Larry Harvey, Jerry James, and a few friends met on Baker Beach in San Francisco[19][20] and burned an 8 feet (2.4 m) tall wooden man as well as a smaller wooden dog. Harvey later described his inspiration for burning these effigies as a spontaneous act of "radical self-expression".[18] In 1987, the Man grew to 15 feet (4.6 m) tall, and by 1988, it had grown to 30 feet (9.1 m).[21][22]

By 1988, Larry Harvey formally named the summer solstice ritual "Burning Man", by titling flyers for the happening as such; to ward off references such as "wicker man", referring to the practice of burning live sacrifices in wicker cages. Harvey has stated that he had not seen the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man until many years after and that it did not inspire the action.[21][23]

The unofficial event was larger than 2020 with an estimated 20,000 attending. It was loosely coordinated by a variety of groups including Black Rock Plan B and Rogue Burn. The Bureau of Land Management implemented restrictions including no structures other than shade structures and no fires other than campfires. There was a massive illuminated drone display outlining the Man instead of the burning of a Man effigy.[7]

While fire is a primary component of many art exhibits and events, materials must be burned on a burn platform.[36] From 1990 through 1999, burning was allowed to take place directly on the surface of the playa, but this left burn scars (fired pinkish clay-like playa surface). When it was finally determined that they did not dissipate with the annual winter rains and flooding, in 2000, the organization declared that fires had to be elevated from the playa surface for its protection. When it was discovered by two of the founders of the Friends of Black Rock / High Rock (Garth Elliott and Sue Weeks) and BLM Winnemucca district director Terry Reid that burn scars from prior sites (numbering 250) still remained, they were finally eradicated in 2000 by the DPW clean up crew headed by Dan Miller.

Burning Man 2006 generated an estimated 27,000 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This figure includes emissions from participant and staff travel to and from Black Rock City, as well as on-Playa power generation, art cars, fire art and, of course, burning the man. Dividing 27,000 tons by 40,000 people yields an estimated 0.7 tons per Burning Man participant.

Though Larry was the first to burn a structure of a man, he wasn't necessarily the first to start this effigy burning tradition at Baker Beach. Several years before burning a man was even a twinkle in Larry's eye, Mary Grauberger, a friend of Larry's girlfriend, held annual bonfires at the beach where she'd assemble driftwood statues to burn in honor of Summer Solstice.

Larry Harvey was a member of the Cacophony Society, and in 1988 he invited Michael to attend his first effigy burning at the as yet-unnamed event at Baker Beach. The following year Larry asked Michael to help publicize the solstice gathering through the Cacophony Society's mailing list, and thus the event became the newly minted "Burning Man" in their newsletter. Attendance shot up to 300.

"San Francisco was ripe for something like Burning Man," Michael shared. The following year attendance grew to 350 before local law enforcement shut down the burning of "the Man" due to the group's lack of a fire permit.

Metaverse Arts is a community of builders and makers based in Las Vegas and Toronto. The art car project is led by husband and wife designers Marie Poliak & Kevin Bracken. The collective has built two previous cars: The Prodigal Swan, now permanently installed in downtown Las Vegas, and the Heavy Meta dragon in Toronto. Their newest piece, Metaphoenix, features seven massive torches that become vertical flame jets, in addition to 10-foot constantly-burning flame knives on each wing. Metaverse Arts also produces five annual fundraising events for its art and teaches the skills of metalwork and flame effects to an ever-growing community of builders, makers, and electronic music enthusiasts.

Long-time burners Kevin Bracken and Marie Poliak tell me, "To us, the past two years have been like a smoky nightmare filled with the burning down of many things we hold dear. We were all trapped in the purposelessness that followed pandemic restrictions pausing nightlife, entertainment, and the arts. The Metaphoenix represents a rebirth following the fires that took many of our livelihoods and cultural institutions, and waking up to create a new world of our dreams, where the arts come back stronger than ever." 041b061a72


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