Burning Man is an event focused on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance held annually in the western United States. The event derives its name from its culmination: the symbolic burning of a large wooden effigy; referred to as the Man, that occurs on the penultimate night of Burning Man; which is the Saturday evening before Labor Day. The event has been located since 1991 at Black Rock City in northwestern Nevada; a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert about 100 miles (160 km) north-northeast of Reno.
Burning Man History
As outlined by Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004, the event is guided by ten principles; radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.
The event originated on June 22, 1986, on Baker Beach in San Francisco as a small function organized by Larry Harvey and Jerry James, the builders of the first Man. It has since been held annually, spanning the nine days leading up to and including Labor Day. Over the event’s history, attendance has steadily increased. In 2019, 78,850 people participated in the event.
Burning Man Celebrations
NPR said about Burning Man, “Once considered an underground gathering for bohemians and free spirits of all stripes; BurningMan has since evolved into a destination for social media influencers, celebrities and the Silicon Valley elite.”At BurningMan, the participants design and build all the art, activities, and events. Artwork at BurningMan includes experimental and interactive sculptures, buildings, performances and art cars, among other media. These contributions are inspired by a theme that is chosen annually by the BurningMan Project.
An anonymous attendee once elaborated that “Burning Man is about ‘why not’ overwhelming ‘why'”. Participation is a key precept for the community; so there is much controversy in the community over the problem of non-participatory influencers and elite at the event.
Black Rock City LLC
Burning Man organized by the BurningMan Project, a non-profit organization that, in 2013; succeeded Black Rock City LLC, a for-profit limited liability company. Black Rock City LLC formed in 1999 to represent the event’s organizers, and now considered a subsidiary of the non-profit organization. The Burning Man Project endorses multiple smaller regional events guided by the Burning Man principles, both in the United States and internationally.
The organization provides the essential infrastructure of Black Rock City and works year-round to bring Burning Man culture to the world through programs such as Burners Without Borders,Black Rock Solar,and Global Arts Grants.
Burning Man began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice. Sculptor Mary Grauberger, a friend of Larry Harvey’s girlfriend, Janet Lohr, held solstice bonfire gatherings on Baker Beach for several years prior to 1986, some of which Harvey attended.
When Grauberger stopped organizing it, Harvey “picked up the torch”, with Grauberger’s pemission, and ran with it. He and Jerry James built the first wooden effigy on the afternoon of June 21, 1986, cobbled together using scrap wood, to torched later that evening. On June 22, 1986 Larry Harvey, Jerry James, and a few friends met on Baker Beach in San Francisco and burned an 8 feet (2.4 m) tall wooden man as well as a smaller wooden dog. Harvey later described his inspiration for burning these effigies as a spontaneous act of “radical self-expression”.]In 1987, the Man grew to 15 feet (4.6 m) tall, and by 1988, it had grown to 30 feet (9.1 m).
By 1988, Larry Harvey formally named the summer solstice ritual “Burning Man”, by titling flyers for the happening as such; to ward off references such as “wicker man”, referring to the practice of burning live sacrifices in wicker cages. Harvey has stated that he had not seen the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man until many years after and that it did not inspire the action.A grid street structure.
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