Dates: 30th August - 7th September 2020
Location: Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA
The other-worldly experience that is Burning Man offers festivalgoers a most extraordinary celebration of self-expression, art and community spirit. Set in the ephemeral Black Rock City, this affair draws all sorts of characters and asks that they detach themselves from the encumbrances of reality, rejoicing in expansion and development of the mind and identity in a kinship of like-minded souls.
The roots for this festival were reportedly put down in 1986, at a small party on San Francisco’s Baker Beach, where they burnt a smaller version of the annual conflagrated effigy. Larry Harvey, one of the founders, saw the flames instantly draw people from all over the beach, and as it burnt, he felt a collective spirit grow and realised the profound affect it was having on the watchers; a realization that led to the birth of Burning Man.
There is an exceptionally strong ethos behind every event, performance and relationship formed over those hot desert days. The Ten Principles were written down as a reflection of these values and are eagerly followed by all ‘Burners’ – initiating transformative, long lasting life-philosophies. Radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy are the cornerstones of the Burning Man culture.
Interactive art installations are erected across the desert floor, creating remarkable and bizarre views all aiding the overall sense of illusory wonder. As they say: “The playa is a tabula rasa, a blank canvas upon which many a fantastic vision has been realised. All participants are welcome to create — or be — art at Burning Man.” Festivalgoers are encouraged to respond to these magnificent displays with their own manifestations of self-expression, through the medium of fancy dress. Participation is key – outfits are prepared months in advance and come together in a fabulous explosion of beauty and madness.
For the past five years, Lachie Gordon, co-founder at Bassline Productions with Robbie Parry and Portobello Tents co-founder Charles Audley, has made the journey over to Burning Man in August. But not as your average punter, rather with a big pile of Bassline Productions’ Funktion-One audio and a shipping container full of lights, lasers and pyrotechnics!
Each year Bassline jump onboard as production team and help build the large scale Ooligan Alley Sound Camp, deep on the Playa at Black Rock City. Conceptualising and facilitating awesome ideas and weird and wonderful projects, adding to what is fast becoming the world’s No.1 destination festival.
The concept behind Ooligan Alley is that of an aeroplane crash site, the DJ booth is the cockpit of a Boeing 737, harvested from one of the USA’s vast plane graveyards in the Nevada Desert. Various parts are scattered around and about, including seats and chunks of wing, whilst the cockpit is flanked by several tonnes of Funktion-One. The wings are forged from scaffolding and LED battens, pyrotechnics and beam lights are rigged aloft, and high powered projectors map the aeroplane in kaleidoscopic psychedelic 3D designs which warp in time with the music; all are controlled from the giant airport control tower out front.
To get around, many people use bicycles, which are also often decorated to within an inch of their life – lit up at night with elaborate glowing neon wires and fairy lights. You might also see a few mutant vehicles driving around – again, more art installation than automobile. Gifting and decommodification, as listed in the ten principles, ensure that almost nothing can be paid for with money – trading experiences, or non-monetary objects, contributes further to the dreamlike world where nothing is normal.
On the culinary side of things, food does not tend to play a huge role in the desert – what with the heat and dust, it’s easier to go without than normal. Nevertheless, communal kitchens are provided and it’s not a bad idea to pre-prepare some food that’s easy to munch when you need it. Funnily enough, children are also welcome, though not common, at Burning Man. There is after all an abundance of visual stimulation that will stir and ignite their imaginations, and a world free of commerce may be something worth exposing them to.
In a hot, dusty desert, you’d be wise to try and secure comfortable accommodation. With such a never-ending onslaught of sensory elation, you’re going to need your rest. Many people will take an RV, though most will bring their own tents – just make sure it’s dust-proof and roomy enough to get changed in. Boutique camping isn’t an option at Burning Man due to the fact that it would be commercial and exclusive – so make sure you pack carefully!