Skip to content

Burning Man Participation

Burning Man 2019 art theme Metamorphoses this year open up the gates to the event on August 25. A lot of people want to be there and tickets are hard to come by. In the latest The Jackrabbit Speaks, the newsletter sent out by Burning Man there is a very spot on letter written by a lady named Marian. It talks about burning Man participation and what that really means.
You can read it here,
https://journal.burningman.org/2019/02/philosophical-center/tenprinciples/cultural-course-correcting/

I want to highlight a few excerpts,

“I am disappointed with the attitudes of the mutant vehicle and art car folks. Their gatekeepers are very discriminatory on who they let ride. I was actually told, ‘No, it’s too late for old people to be out, anyway,’ ‘you’re not pretty enough,’ and ‘we’re only picking up hot girls right now.’ I asked other camp members and heard similar stories. One gay couple said they had tried for 3 years to get on a vehicle and they were denied every time.” -Retired Artist, Male, 70 [1]
That just broke my heart. How did we get here? Who thinks saying this is okay on or off the playa? This isn’t Burning Man."

"Surely you’ve seen examples. Whether it’s commercial photo shoots, product placements, or Instagram posts thanking “friends” for a useful item, attendees including fashion models and social media “influencers” are wearing and tagging brands in their playa photos. This means they are using Black Rock City to increase their popularity; to appeal to customers and sell more “stuff.”

"One of the most distressing trends is the increase of participants (both new and experienced) who don’t seem invested in co-creating Black Rock City, and are attending as consumers. Mass consumption in our default world, ticket scarcity and some elaborate luxury camps have contributed to the rise of a playa “convenience culture.” In some cases, camps or companies are offering “all inclusive” pre-packaged Burning Man experiences, claiming they will preemptively meet all of their client’s needs. Burning Man is anything but convenient, and therein lies its transformative potential!"

"Black Rock City requires significant investments of time, energy, and resourcefulness. Part of what makes Burning Man unique and powerful is that everyone has to work hard to be there. Planning, securing a ticket, packing, building, organizing, contributing, and engaging are part of the journey everyone should experience. Though it manifests differently for each one of us, personal effort is integral to the social agreement we make with our fellow community members when we decide to participate in Burning Man."

Speaking for MYSELF, I have been to Burning Man six years in a row now and I am hoping to attend again this year if I am lucky to get a ticket. The first time I heard about Burning Man was when I was out camping somewhere in the middle of Nevada at some hot springs in 2003 or 2004. Some people that me and my ex boyfriend met thought we would just love Burning Man and we did want to go but it took me all the way forward to 2013 to actually attend my first Burning Man. I was prepared to go in 2012 but did not get a ticket in time. You want to attend Burning Man? Make sure you understand how the whole ticket process works. There is way more demand than supply. The Playa could easily hold 100 000 people but for now the cap is at around 70 000, give or take a few thousand.
Is Burning Man inconvenient? Yes it can be, depending on your own personal level of comfort but it should be somewhat inconvenient and even then it is SO worth it. White out dust storm? Bring it on! It is FUN and an experience! Sore ass from biking all day? I love it, I get so much exercise at Burning Man. I have stayed at the Playa in a tent and an RV, I prefer being in an RV for the comfort BUT if my only option would be a tent in order to attend I would absolutely stay in a tent. It is more work but still kind of fun when the wind rips a hold of your tent and you lay inside bundled up in a sleeping bag just grateful to be RIGHT THERE.
The first two times at Burning Man I was just taking it all in, dancing and exploring, the third time I was showing a Burgin around, aka Burning Man virgin. I am one of the people taking pictures and a ton of pictures but I have been taking pictures of stuff for years. Of all kinds of things. I do not see the problem in wanting to take pictures at Burning Man, people want photos to look back at moments and remember stuff by. On the other hand I do not agree with the increasing number of people I see dressed up in the "right" (not really) Burning Man garb that spend hours picking out their outfits and doing their make up, only to go pose in front of the art pieces and then put it up on Instagram. You are lame OK. Those people would probably not stay in a tent, those people are too preoccupied with looking "perfect" when in fact they are posers. If you go to Burning Man mainly to take some photos of yourself for your Instagram then in my opinion you are not there for the right reasons. Besides your Instagram is lame. I can understand that those would be some of the people that Burning Man want to weed out. Because they do not contribute much. YES, I have pics of myself in front of art pieces at Burning Man but I also have pics of the art itself and everything else in between. I have also spent hours describing the event in written form.
Art cars.....I have been on ONE art car and that was last year and I think I lasted 30 minutes and then I got off and walked back to my camp. Art cars are not for me.
I would personally not stay in a turnkey camp and I think Burning Man needs to address that issue and also the airport at Burning Man. I think the airport and the luxury turnkey camps go hand in hand.
After being at the event a few times I felt like I needed to participate in more ways than just being there. So I started volunteering as a barista at Center Camp, not in hopes to get something out of it like tips (I donate the tips) or a free ticket but because I want to participate in Burning Man because Participation is one of the 10 Principles. As far as picking trash, I do that in regular life too, basically every day. If you know me you know that I do. Leaving No Trace is one of the 10 Principles as well.
I completely understand that if a person never been to Burning Man before then the first time will be about just being there and basically taking it all in. It might take a few times before you discover just how you can get more involved and some people volunteer right off the bat. I also know people that have been going for longer than I have who show up, set up camp and party all week long and then go back home again. That is their Burning Man experience. I want it to be more than that for me. Look, just because somebody went to Burning Man like 20 years ago or have attended the event ten times does not automatically mean that they are contributing to anything besides their presence. Some people go once and do more for Burning Man that one time than those that have been a lot.
To me Burning Man is ALWAYS present, I talk about Burning Man year round. I tell people how amazing it is....today I went to Stumptown Coffee downtown Portland and put out several Burning Man magazines to share with others.
Burning Man is amazing, even though the people that have been going for a long time (over a decade usually) see changes that they are not happy with. Even I can see things, people and behaviors after attending only six times that I don't think belong at Burning Man but I still have a wonderful time and I am definitely far from a perfect Black Rock Citizen. I think I have peed on the Playa maybe three or four times. When you are far out on the Playa and far from a bathroom (porta potty in this case) you just have to pee sometime. I don't feel too bad because I know that the rain will wash away my pee and it's not like I pee on the Playa every day I am there. Besides that I think I am a fairly good Black Rock Citizen but there is always room for growth and improvement. I will volunteer again of course and it would be really cool to get more involved with Burning Man in the future.