Burning Man and Art in the Desert. The Authors Collection.
August 7, 2014
IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, Burning Man is a big deal.
This is the self described “annual art event and temporary community based on radical self expression and self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert.” It’s coming up in a couple of weeks.
I have friends who spend the entire year working on gigantic metal sculptures in warehouses that they then cart out to the Burning Man site in Nevada. They go a couple of days before the event actually starts for the final assembly and installation.
Some other folks I know devote themselves to hobbies like fire twirling that seem mainly devoted to showing off their skills at Burning Man and which will be their contribution over the week of the event.
Everyone is expected to contribute somehow. You can join in a group art project. You can serve coffee in the morning. I know one girl whose contribution at a recent Burning Man was serving as a naked sushi table.
Depending upon your tastes and where you are in life, I gather the experience can be like a larger than life art show grafted onto a seven-day party laced with plentiful supplies of drugs, alcohol, sex, costumes and spectacular weirdness.
I’m finally going to Burning Man after hearing about it for twenty years and seeing people leave for the week and return, usually sunburned and both exhausted and exhilarated. I’m slowly getting sucked into the preparation for this event although a couple of friends are doing the heavy planning.
With the event only a couple of weeks away, the local Craigslist site is filled with Burning Man supplies.
Of course, there are tickets (starting at $380) and RV rentals. Then there are the bikes – usually less than $80, in questionable condition but with a decent chance of lasting the week. They are cheap enough that you won’t mind much if they get lost or left behind.
Costumes are a big deal. I see a furry kitty skirt, handmade gold and turquoise jumpers, a zebra dress and a grizzly bear coat. Furriness, sexy lamé shorts and anything that ever appeared in a Mad Max movie seem to be pretty popular.
One of the organizers of my group sent out an email asking how many strands of LED lights we wanted and what colors. They plug into a small battery pack so you can wander the desert at night with plenty of glow.
There is one day where everyone wears white so that has to be factored into the costume hunt. There is Mexican night and Asian night. Multiply 20,000 people times a half dozen Margaritas and glasses of sake each and you start to have an idea of the amounts of alcohol that will be arriving.
Theme camps are the heart of the Burning Man community and spirit. There are hundreds devoted to such themes as cats, bacon, gin, absinthe, pickles, Russian sauna, roller disco, bok choy, henna, sake, lemons, spanking, sugar, dance poles and martinis. And that’s omitting the ones devoted to some flavor of sexual experience.
I’ve been warned that the one way to feel left out of the Burning Man scene is if you don’t commit to a fairly serious costuming effort. Of course, you can always go the ‘no clothes’ route which is widely respected and, depending upon your physique, appreciated. I joked that I was just going to take a scissors and go through my closet. I also offered to go on a head gear hunt. I thought maybe an old hockey mask or an ancient football helmet like the one Jack Nicholson wore in Easy Rider might have a place.
I don’t know. The grizzly coat is looking better and better.
Please click the book cover image to read more about Robert B. Lowe’s novel, Megan’s Cure.