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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Burning Man a mixed bag

    Burning Man festival participants enjoys the playa near an art installation in the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nev., on Friday morning.
    Burning Man festival participants enjoys the playa near an art installation in the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nev., on Friday morning.

    Some call it an event hinging on hippies and drugs, and others speak of it as a weeklong ceremony that engages the community in thinking globally about one another and the environment.

    Either way, Burning Man, an art festival held in Black Rock City, Nev., turns a few heads.

    For one, there are masses of people, about 45,000, decked to the fullest in costumes that consist of chaps, tutus, glow paint and full-frontal nudity.

    And yes, there are a few individuals who party too hard and end up sunburned in the extreme heat of the desert, passed out in the dirt or whisked off via helicopter to the nearest hospital because they fell upside down from a multiple-story art sculpture and broke an arm.

    After spending Labor Day weekend at my first-ever Burning Man and witnessing all that the event has to offer, I can tell you firsthand that it is not for the faint of heart.

    To make it through Burning Man, you must be prepared to deal with extreme temperatures and powerful dust storms that reduce your line of vision to about one foot in front of your face. Not so fun.

    Likewise, there are days when you have to be a trooper, enduring the joys of porta-potties and the smell of body odor.

    The event is set up circularly, like a clock, housing most of the art sculptures in the center, which can make for a long bike ride or walk from the surrounding campsites. The event is a mecca for extreme art, including 30-foot art sculptures of welded semi-trucks stacked together to form an arced “”S”” and a crawl space for admirers, and intricate light installations digitally programmed to form different patterns in neon light.

    During one week out of the year, Black Rock City transforms from a desert into a sustainable habitat for “”burners,”” with a large emphasis on picking up after yourself as you leave.

    This year’s theme of the “”Green Man”” placed heavy importance on “”leaving no trace”” and living as environmentally friendly as possible.

    Many individuals whom I spoke with traveled in vans that ran on vegetable oil, while others worked to reduce waste as much as possible by handing out trash bags or forming compost heaps.

    Although the event culminates in “”burns,”” which are not exactly environmentally friendly, Burning Man organizers donate excess wood to Habitat for Humanity.

    Perhaps one of the most shocking things about Burning Man is the risk of injury.

    In past years, individuals have been run over and killed by “”art cars,”” or double- or triple-decker buses that roam around the desert blasting music and instigating dance parties.

    This year a suicide by hanging, which was originally mistaken as an art project and went unnoticed for nearly two hours, pointed towards the dangers apparent at the festival.

    Although many have pointed toward the number of participants and the number of injuries as proving the safeness of Burning Man, there are dangerous activities to beware.

    I did not witness any injuries in my time at the festival, nor did I hear talk of the suicide among other participants. For the most part, Black Rock City and all of the “”burners”” who converge there once a year present a picture of members of a community helping one another out.

    See someone who looks thirsty? Give them water.

    Need a ride home from the event? Just ask around.

    And while the dust storms have left me creased in desert powder that will not rinse out, the event left me stimulated by a community of individuals who seem to be more or less proactive about the kind of world they would like to live in.

    Burners seem to show no fear of who they are or the ways in which they express themselves. That, in itself, was worth the money and time it took to make it to Black Rock City.

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