Spoiler alert: no sex, drugs and rock & roll, well, maybe just some rock & roll…
What makes people spend two weeks in an environment hostile to human survival, performing physical work during the night or working in temperatures above 40° Celsius/100° Fahrenheit, sitting out dust storms that don’t allow you to see 1 m/3 feet away from you? This blog contains my answer to this question, and I hope to give you a perspective on Burning Man that is different than its reputation.
Imagine a desert landscape during the sunset.
You arrive in a pick-up truck and drive to a large tent shaped like a large bungalow – open to one side to an open desert plane, the back to the beginnings of a desert city in the making. A woman with colored braids welcomes you and you enter into a golf cart and drive out into the open desert. You’re looking for a furlable – a CD with an art project name on it and a pink fluffy thing sticking out from the desert floor. The beauty of the empty desert in the sunset is striking. There is a happy anticipation to see where we will spend most of the next ten days. There is a happy anticipation seeing other artworks that are already in the making.
The build starts with the survey crew.
Our job was to measure and mark where the seven chakra temples by artist Spencer Kane will be. My shifts were from 6:30 am to 11:30 am. At 11:30 the heat is nearly unbearable already. The heat gets to you in different ways – like wanting to just drop into bed even though the camp next to you is blasting electronic dance music at full volume. You need to be extra careful to stay hydrated – and not to get super grumpy. Self-care takes an importance that’s even higher than in the default world.
For self-care, my favorite hangout once the Burn event started was The Lavender Lounge – a place that felt like Shangri-La, with mattresses and cushions and flowing fabrics covering the large area – with the option to get clean in a steam bath 😊. The crew at the Lavender Lounge gifted refreshing moist spritzes from a vaporizer and herb teas for everyone who came. Being in the shade here felt like paradise in the mid-day heat!
In the evenings it was back to the build.
The materials for our project had to come from Tucson to Black Rock City in a convoy. Many issues delayed the convoy and it finally arrived 5 days late – on the first day of the event instead of 5 days before. The wait was super frustrating – but also nothing that could be done than do all the surveying and measuring and getting the art site ready. So our build continued way into the week.
There is the satisfaction of seeing things come alive in the desert and then sitting next to them and just being and relaxing that is one of my favorite states of being that I know.
And after one week everything was gone again.
It’s a strange feeling – something that made me feel the impermanence of things so much stronger – and also the beauty in this rhythm of becoming being and transforming. Maybe it’s this analogy to our human existence that already makes me think of coming back...
If you have an art project you would want to build or want to know more about the ten principles of burning man, please read here: www.burningman.org