Benjamin2009-09-16
The Burning Man Ats Festival
Note: This is the first part of six \'blog entries about the Arts Festival, to be followed by god knows how many entries about Black Rock City. This is a (rather long winded) collection of my memories of Burning Man. Some of my facts are probably off, and others have been changed to make telling the stories easier--no one actually referred to it as \"2 o\'clock Street\" or \"Adapt Avenue\", but I figured that everything was confusing enough already. I tired to take as few photos as possible while there, so I\'m relying on the photographs of others. Please let me know if you object, although only my friends and family will be looking at this page, regardless. Oh, in addition, if you want a PDF of this for some reason (e.g., to mail to my father, but I\'ve already done that) it is here. At any rate:

Two things are come into existence every year in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The first is the Burning Man Arts Festival, a place for thousands of artists to create their art (mostly sculptural, often highly interactive) in an area that is damn near free from constraint. There\'s no ceiling, no mountains, and not even a hill for miles, so if you want to build a thirty-foot-tall tree, there\'s nothing to stop you. And it\'s the middle of the desert, so if you want that tree to spit fire ten feet into the air, well, there\'s no reason not to do that as well. Each year some of the most creative artists gather to build whatever they\'d like.

The second entity to spring into existence each year is Black Rock City, the tenth largest city in Nevada (population 43,000 people, this year). It is entirely comprised of people who are there to participate in the Arts Festival and so after a single week it vanishes again, not unlike Brigadoon. And just like Brigadoon there is no way to tell that it was ever there--the citizens are committed to a philosophy called \"leave no trace\". It\'s a full fledged city, with streets (laid out in a vast circle, and numbered like a clock), avenues (labeled alphabetically, running from Adapt through Lineage, ringing the center) and sanitation (lord-knows how many port-a-potties, and a string of sewage trucks constantly emptying them).

The art festival was truly amazing, but it was the City itself that got me to most excited. Standing at the intersection of Radical Self-Sufficiency and Intentional Community, it was an utterly different form of society. The cultural norms included responsibility, respect, hospitality, and absolute generosity. There was little room for shame, misanthropy, or ideological supremacy. I plan to discuss this all as soon as I can, for like I say it was these experiences that I found the most life changing. However, I\'ll start with the art.

The art is the lifeblood of the City, and it flows throughout every nook and cranny from the grandest 200-person Camp up front out to the smallest single-person trailer down on Lineage Avenue. However, the largest works of art are located in the circle three-quarters of a mile across in the center. The is a circle of completely flat, harshly baked desert, ringed on three sides by the City. On the fourth quadrant, from 10 o\'clock Street around to 2 o\'clock, it is allowed to stretch far back to the empty desert. So what did I see?
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