Our technical director, Gaetan, will be sharing his experience going to this year’s Burning Man in a multi-part series. Check out his introduction post on how he ended up attending his very first Burning Man.
Gaeton, hanging up our new Painted Bride sign
“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water mark — that place where the wave finally broke, and rolled back…”
-Hunter S. Tompson
This is not the story of how yet another promising movement in America’s history broke and watered itself down, nor the story of a missed opportunity. Quite the opposite in fact. This is a tale about how a movement born in the same city that inspired Hunter S Thompson not only rolled back, but in that process created a new series of Oceans and Rivers all over the world that is feeding a creative movement quite often right past the eye of popular media.
For me this journey started over 4 years ago. I was a hyper active production engineer with a string of successes behind him. Numerous award-winning clients and a career solidly grounded in Concert Production. I traveled extensively for work as I had done as a child with my family. For many people this was the frame work for an amazing life… but something was missing. Like many people in the music industry I saw the levee break. With the advent of downloadable digital media and the rise of independent promotional vehicles a new chapter was occurring in music. The Major 5 record labels (Or 3 by this time) were scrambling to make up for the increasing profit losses they were absorbing due the declining sales of music media. As a concert engineer I saw this clearly marked by the decreasing amount of concert tours (The Gas crisis had much to do with this as well) and the few that remained were “Safe Bets”. From repackaged artists that most of the public was already familiar with to extremely formulated pop productions that attempted to cash in on the last healthy limb of the industry – licensing.
I was lost in this world. The arts seemed to have lost their magic.
I lost my mother in 2008 right after my 30th birthday. My biggest supporter and ever optimist and had quickly fallen into a deep depression. My friends had grown very concerned about me and my increasing apathy and in spring 2009 guitar player Richard Mandel informed me he was taking me to a festival called Burning Man. With nearly 15 years of concert production in my bag the last thing I wanted to do was go to another festival…Especially for holiday. He insisted and before you knew it I was on my way.
As I ventured to this destination I quickly became emerged in the plethora of reading materials about the event and found myself surrounded by others going as we prepared together. The closer my journey came the more I realized the magnitude of will that was required to survive a week in the dessert. Bringing 40,000+ people into a barren landscape and leaving it in perfect shape. I couldn’t remember an event that didn’t leave a complete and total disaster. Watching people throw trash right onto the ground, out of vehicles, everywhere but where it belonged.
That was the first time I ever heard of the term “MOOP”-Matter Out Of Place. A simple concept that clearly outlined that an object was not in its place and to assist it with that. In other words pick things up and put them where they belong… Genius! This “Moop”
So what exactly is Burning Man?
By now many of you have heard about this legendary festival of arts and creativity in the dessert hosting over 60,000 participants but where did it come from?.
Burning man was started by founder Larry Harvey in 1986. It was held on Baker beach in San Francisco…There were 20 attendees.
Harvey had thrown the small event together for a friend who had recently gone through a painful divorce and created a 6 foot tall effigy to burn and celebrate the summer solstice. The annual event was held there until its last year on Baker beach brought nearly 800 participants and Harvey was required to find a new home and in 1991 the First Burning Man was held at Black Rock City.
Black rock City is located in north western Nevada on Federally protected land that is managed by the Bureau of land management (BLM). A key step to throwing any event on federally protected land is procuring the proper permits. You can imagine how hard it may be to procure permits to throw an event on protected land but much of this has to do with the general ethos of the Burning Man festival.
Besides being the founder of this Iconic festival, Harvey was also the author of the key principles that embodies this community: the “Ten Principles”.
These principles include:
Radical Inclusion Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.
Gifting Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.
Decomodification In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.
Radical Self-reliance Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
Radical Self-expression Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.
Communal Effort Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.
Civic Responsibility We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
Leaving No Trace Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.
Participation Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.
Immediacy Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.
Having gone to festivals for many years the idea of there being principles of expected social compliances was extremely attractive to me and so was the lack of any sponsorship or commercial interest/ vending.. Maybe this wasn’t going to be just another event of excess and expected entertainment…
I was looking for a family, one who stood for something, something that was realistic and attainable in day to day life beyond just another festival.
To be Continued…