Disposable Art

It’s that time of year again. The Burning Man community’s buzz is increasing steadily towards a loud clamour with people making plans on what to do, how to do it, who will bring or do what, and so forth. The outside observer would have very few things to compare it all to.

Burning Man – where each year spectacles of art and performance fill six square miles of dusty, dry Nevada desert for a week ending on Labor Day.

Burning Man – where everyone is a participant. “No spectating allowed! Leave no trace!” a seasoned Burner would remind you (sometimes incessantly) with a shirky grin. They say you are the art, you make the art, you are… what was that exactly?

There are some people – even groups of people – who spend every day between Burning Mans planning for the next one. Themes, messages, how big, how small, extents of comedy and drama are dwelled on and obsessed over, developed and rehersed. Clearly, it’s a passion at work, built up and pent up and waiting to be released over one seven day period in the otherwise unnoteworthy month of… August.

I’ve been to Burning Man once before; In 2001 to be exact. I went with a local group of friends from the Baltimore area. Some of us flew, some drove the 2,000 or so miles. We were a mix of first-timers and been-there-done-thats. We all rendezvoued and set up a modest camp away from the circus-like sounds and lights of the Esplanade and Center Camp. Our contribution? A nice geodesic dome painted in fluorescent colors, complete with a small DJ system, chillows, and black lights. Cammo netting such as what you’d see on a episode of M*A*S*H was draped over the dome to keep the sun at bay. Here, we offered the passing weary Burner a place of rest.

My daily ventures while at Burning Man felt like one was let loose in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, where every turn and every “room” held something splendid and fantastic (though, arguably this wasn’t always the case.) I was awash in the ebb and flow of people playing their roles, people taking it in, confused or engaged. It was all the best TV show I’ve seen. Wait, that makes me a spectator, right?

See, something started to poke at my reasoning while immersed in this calamity of creation. I’d walk through the camps and crowds and overhear people saying how long they’ve worked on their projects, how long they’ve planned, and all the troubles they had to surmount get to Burning Man. I started to think about how Burning Man can be seen as a sink of creativity… filled up over the course of months and then suddenly drained in seven hot and dusty days.

So many resources and art are poured into Burning Man. It’s almost as if the big wooden man at the middle of it all is saying “Feed me your time, your will, and your passion! Let me make you believe that this is the best of all possible creative worlds!”

I’ll add more to this thought later…