by Eric Griswold “There were people from Milwaukee there before us, but we were the first to really get organized. We wanted to give something back. So in 2000 we organized the first-ever theme village from the Midwest, and every year it just gets bigger and better. Call it Urban planning in a temporary city. We extended the urban planning to Burning Man as a whole, giving a series of suggestions to the central government there that became known as the Village Community Proposal. This led to the Wheel of Fire Project, an attempt to create community cohesion through a gigantic shared art project of fire-lit processions leading up to the ultimate event of the festival itself, the actual burning of the Man. The project was carried out in 2001 and will be implemented again in 2002 with the participation of the central government. It will form a multi-spoked fiery wheel nearly a mile in diameter, visible from the air or from space.” “The central government began to see that they could trust us with large projects, and made us Regional Contacts to the State of Wisconsin. In this role we provide guidance and orientation to anyone seeking to attend the Festival.” “The next step was to set up the BurningSnow center for the Experimental arts, which has recently opened at 2578 N. Weil Street in Riverwest. One of its functions is as an official contact center for the Burning Man festival. We have orientation meetings on Sunday nights, fundraising parties and so on. Also, it is a place to develop new experimental art forms, for example, the golden electric surfboard for the desert, the ultraviolet teepee, and our Speed Dating interactive game that was written up in Penthouse.com.” “It is an incredible source of inspiration, especially for a first timer. Every minute of every day is a jaw-dropping experience. You see an incredible piece of art, like a galloping neon horse with somebody riding it, and your jaw drops. Then you wonder, ‘how did they get that thing out here?’ and your jaw drops again. Then, you realize that there are 10,000 more things just as amazing out there, and it’s only the first day, and your jaw drops again…. It’s the ‘Eureka’ factor, every minute of every day, that’s why the heat, and the wind, and the dust don’t matter — they just don’t matter at all.”
Several things make this festival unique…
- The “gift economy” — no vending is allowed. Nothing can be bought or sold. So it’s all done for the love of art. In return for your gift of art you sample the gifts of 20,000 other people.
- The remote desert location itself encourages only the most dedicated to attend.
- The “No Spectators, only Participants” rule. From Burningman.com: “Burning Man is a 100% participant sponsored, participant created event. We often like to say there are no spectators at Burning Man. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to look at — it means that even the process of viewing is active. Even first-timers are participants — they always figure it out.”
- The “Leave No Trace” policy of deep ecology insures that every scrap brought in must be brought out again.
Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 8 – September 2002
by Eric Griswold