The second I think I have Burning Man figured out (a kind of counterculture week long camp for artistically oriented Gen Xers who practice radical forms of self-expression by way of wearing no clothes, consuming Schedule I – V controlled substances, building things out of wood, and lighting fires), I talk to someone who’s actually been to Northern Nevada’s Black Rock desert for the event/festival/celebration. He or she says something like, “Ha! Some people walk around naked and some people do drugs, sure. But that’s not what our camp is about.” I respond with, “This thing has different camps? Which camp does the clown that steals bikes belong to?” Then he or she walks away and I’m confused as ever.
If you’re like me and not at Burning Man but looking for some insight into what the whole shebang is really all about, the internet has a live stream that may be of some assistance.
The Burning Man Webcast on Ustream provides a multi-angle view of the art, cyclists, camp grounds, dust storms, and temporary denizens of Black Rock City. The vantage points are accompanied by what’s more or less a public access radio variety show, with a handful of hosts and guests taking the mic to sing children’s songs, recite French poetry, explain the genesis of their involvement with Buring Man (where they say things like “Ya know, some people find Burning Man and for other people Burning Man finds them”), and provide color commentary for the day’s events.
It’s interesting, for sure. The manmade sculptures are awesome (in the literal meaning of the word), even when viewed through a video camera that’s often times zoomed in past the point of pixelation, and the cyclists kicking up dirt in the Nevada sand as they ride amongst rows of makeshift tents and RVs make for an almost bucolic desert scene.
I still don’t have an answer to the question, “What’s Burning Man?” (and apparently, Burning Man doesn’t either), but after watching the live stream for a few, maybe next year I’ll see you there.