The Technopod Adventure at Burning Man
Yes… I am now officially a “Burner!” I participated in the last Burning Man festival from Aug 29th – Sept. 6th – basically without internet or phone service the whole time so I was unable to post anything until now. I’m back to report on this year’s “Burn” and all I can say is that there is no way to adequately express the scope of the Burning Man experience. I will attempt to convey a small percentage of my personal experience through photos and words in the following… (see a more complete set of images here)
There is literally nothing I could say that could prepare the Virgin Burner for this glorious, crazy, creative experiment in radical self reliance – leave no trace desert living and individual/group creative expression, oh and there’s lots of naked people running around! However, the first thing you encounter once you turn on to the entry road is dust, lots of dust, lovingly referred to as Playa dust!
The site for Burning Man is an incredibly arid dry lake bed of caked dirt, dust storms and nothing else for miles and miles. This year 50,000 people converged on the “Playa” to celebrate the multifarious awesomeness of human creativity. This years theme was “Rites of Passage” and I felt like participation in this event was a rite of passage for me to develop even greater personal freedom for the next phase of my life. The first adventure for me was the 5 hour wait in line to get in! An incredible number of people, in vehicles of all types were basically in a 8 lane stop and go line for 5 hours until passing the entry gates. People got out of their cars and chatted with their neighbors or walked up and down the line. Many veteran “Burners” were already creating the proper ambiance by wearing costumes and/or performing for the line.
After being in line most of the day, I managed to find the group I was camping with—Camp Nomadia is a group of full time RVers who come together for Burning Man—while I am not living a life completely on the road I was welcomed into the group by Ben Wilmore and the Technopod was right at home. The Group gave a workshop on nomadic living which drew a small crowd of people who were interested in pursuing the mobile lifestyle. To accommodate the group we built a communal shade structure, an absolute necessity in the 100+ degree heat!
Once the camp was set up and sorted, the sun went down—that’s when I realized that I was not in Kansas any more—Burning Man really comes alive at night! Everything and everyone is lit up! There is an amazing array of creative lightwork on display. Bicycles everywhere are festooned with L-wire and all manner of blinking lights. And then there are the “Art Cars,” Officially referred to as “Mutant Vehicles,” these creative constructions ferry people around and are basically the only motorized things allowed to drive around on the playa.
There are numerous themed camps whose only goal is to supply the populace with all manner of entertainment, food and beverage for free! This brings up an important principal of Burning Man—”Gifting” is a major way of participating in the cumulative experience—everyone brings something to “gift” however small or large. Many of the theme camps are based around this idea and provide various services or products for free! You can always find free alcohol, free food, free sunscreen, massage, yoga classes; just about anything that you could find in a normal city (at a size of 50,000, Black Rock City, the name for the temporary Burning Man city, is bigger than a lot of small towns in the US) for free!!!
The Playa is the open area of Burning Man beyond the established camping environment. This 5 square mile area is the staging ground for the major art projects of the “Man” and “Temple” as well as the numerous art installations; these are built mostly before people arrive and are dotted throughout the surreal landscape.
The most majestic art installation was the “Temple.” This huge structure towered above everything and was a focus for the spiritual essence of the Burning Man experience. People wrote on, pasted photos or attached papers on the walls of the Temple to express wishes, memorials, apologies, regrets and other personal messages. The Temple was set on fire and burned to the ground on the last day of Burning Man, releasing the heartfelt messages into the spirit world to activate their intent. For many participants, this was the high point of Burning Man.
I’ve assembled a gallery of images from Burning Man 2011 on my Flickr site here – stay tuned for the next blog post where I talk about practical tips to get the most out of your Burning Man photography. Finally, be sure and check out my 46 minute multimedia movie with narration on YouTube.