How has Burning Man changed over the years?
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To call it simply a festival - in fact - is reductive: Burning Man is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Burning Man is more than 30 years old, yet it still fascinates. Discover the differences with past editions.

A Cosmopolitan Community gathers every year in the Nevada Desert for an immersive experience of tribal dances, DIY art, sandstorms and massive bonfires. Its name is Burning Man.

The Burning Man Festival is one of the most mysterious and original events on the planet: from August 28 to September 5, since 1991, tens of thousands of people populate a temporary metropolis made up of tents, vans, architecture, artwork, ephemeral constructions, and caravans, spanning more than 8 thousand square meters at Black Rock City, a boundless desert located in northwestern Nevada.
The purpose of Burining Man is to find oneself, and that is what every single participant says when asked why he or she is there.

Re-finding oneself with respect to the castrating rules of society: a necessary escape from the hectic life of the city, from the feverish race for profit and consumption; at Burning Man, in fact, any currency of exchange is forbidden and only barter or donation is allowed.
A very Hippie Mood, where a super-respectful anarchy prevails, the use of drugs is allowed – in fact -, orgies are held in specific and organized areas only for those who want to indulge in this kind of practice, sun salutations, ancestral rituals and workshops of oriental philosophies.

Each participant is given a handbook, where the rules of the community are explained, in which the limits of coexistence are actually very strict. Everyone must look after their own subsistence, bringing enough food, electricity and water to live for 8 days in the middle of nowhere, where temperatures reach as high as 40 degrees and there is no cell phone signal.

Civic and environmental responsibility is inescapable: the community pledges to leave everything clean at the end of the festival, as if humans had never lived there intensely for 8 intense days. Everything is picked up from the sand, even the most insignificant and carried away from the desert.

To call it simply a festival – in fact – is reductive: Burning Man is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
It celebrates art and personal expression through extemporaneous Site Specific installations that are destroyed on the last day, Saturday. Through art grants, mentorship and art stewardship programs, Burning Man Arts’ mission is to change the paradigm of art from a commodified object to an interactive, participatory, creative sharing experience.

Burning Man Arts acts on the belief that interactive, inclusive, community-driven art is vital to a thriving culture: each work is made from recycled and totally non-toxic materials so that they can be set on fire during the night of the big bonfire of the little man that gives the festival its name.

While the BM’s authentic spirit of freedom and unfettered expression has not changed over the years, the festival has achieved such popularity that it has changed some of the structural and practical factors of its essence, which we were able to compare with past editions, thanks to the testimonies collected from those who experienced it from the very first editions.
Here is how the BM has changed over its 31 years of existence.

Spectacularization.

 

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Un post condiviso da Burning Man Project (@burningman)


The BM has always eschewed any kind of public spectacle: devices such as cell phones, camcorders, and cameras are screened at the festival entrance, and the organizing committee must give permission for the dissemination of video-photographic material.
As the popularity of the BM has increased, the video-photographic material disseminated on social media has quadrupled in recent years, distorting – in effect – the mysterious appeal that has always enveloped the event.

Currency of exchange.

As we have said, money is neither allowed nor accepted as a currency of exchange, although in recent years the black market between services and goods has been growing in a big way: without arousing the attention of the organizers, on pain of immediate expulsion, many resort to cash to buy basic necessities, despite the fact that the manual prohibits it.

Personal expression.

While previously the outfit was not thought out or studied, but the result of free self-expression, for the past few years participants have been changing their look toward a fashionable version of Steam Punk, dressing in increasingly elaborate garments, ready to be snapped and posted on social media-another sign of the changing times and the Burning Man audience.

BM participants in the 1990’s

BM participants Today

Entertainment.


What has always characterized Burning Man has been the absence of distinguished guests: everyone could improvise a DJ set, a concert or play the most unlikely instrumentation made on the spot.

For some time now, the BM line up has consisted of such high-profile names as Carl Cox, Flume, Skrillex, just to name those from the last edition. The event has gone from being a DIY phenomenon-which among other expressions of art included music-to an increasingly Coachella-like festival.

Take a look at the Burning Man docufilm from 1998 compared with the one from the last edition 2022 and let us know what you think of this generational shift, are you for or against it?

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