Simone Ubladi rethinks the rituals of Burning Man @ Meanjin.
Burning Man is a raver Vegas, a sea of fireballs, glow sticks and laser beams spewed across a blistered prehistoric lake bed in Nevada. It is a week-long arts festival which has run for some 25 years, culminating each year in the burning of a hundred foot high neon effigy. It is a city, Black Rock City, built from the ground up by 60,000 active participants and disappeared just one week later, scorched or carted away with no trace left behind.
It is also a philosophy of being, a strange hybrid of hedonism and humanitarianism, environmentalism and anarchy, extrapolated into the 365 day grind of the ‘real world’ through newfound sexual liberation or ongoing creative community, through charitable work or a vague but passionate intention to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. People don’t just go to Burning Man, they convert.I was a determined non-believer when I hit Black Rock City, an intrepid cultural tourist with an armour of quiet cynicism, strictly interested in seeing large-scale sculpture in the middle of the desert. That’s what a cursory Google image search for Burning Man reveals: monumental artworks under a blinding sun. But scratch the surface of the interweb and the earnest heart of the festival explodes, the hippy underpinnings of the event reveal themselves and the likelihood of widespread public nudity becomes apparent. If, like me, you are not a hippy and generally dislike seeing the penises of middle-aged men, this is problematic.