Back to Black Rock Cityby Royce Carlson
in the desolate wilds of northwestern Nevada lies Black Rock City, one
of the most unusual places on Earth. Even though it is considered to be
the 4th or 5th largest city in Nevada, it exists
for less than two weeks a year. At the center of Black Rock City stands
a 40 foot tall wood and neon sculpture of a human figure built on a
pyramid of straw bales. The "Man" is the revered focal point
and at the end of the 9-day existence of the city, the Man is burned to
the ground while all the citizens watch in awe and amazement.
For the rest of the year, the citizens of Black Rock City live in
other towns and cities across America and even other countries. Many
have jobs and families and look like the rest of American citizens. But
all that time they are waiting and preparing to return to Nevada for the
week-and-a-half of radical self-expression and experimental community
that is Burning Man.
It is almost time for Black Rock City to rise again from the stark,
lunar-like ancient playa in the Black Rock Desert. Advance crews are
already on their way to lay out the city and build the infrastructure
that will create a home for over 20,000 citizen-participants. In less
than four weeks caravans of cars, trucks, buses and some very strange
looking vehicles will leave their various and more permanent locations
on a pilgrimage toward the Man.
The Burning Man is such a powerful experience that it is difficult to
describe to people who have not also had the experience. It is all about
art, music, freedom, community and, above all, free self-expression in a
friendly and accepting atmosphere. There are four very important
principles that lie at the heart of the experience:
- Radical Self Expression
- Participants Only
- No Vending
- Leave No Trace
Radical self expression is one of the primary purposes of the event.
The only condition is that your self expression does not infringe in a
negative way on other participantsí good time.
Participation is the key to creating a community and therefore is a
keystone of the functioning of the event. Those who come just to look
are encouraged to get involved and to become a part of the experience.
Even journalists are initiated into the experience at the Media Mecca
Another less talked about but very important principle is the No
Vending rule. Commercialism of any kind is discouraged. No advertising,
no buying or selling, and only limited bartering is accepted at Black
Rock City. What exists in its place is a temporary society based on
gifting. You give freely and thereby receive in return.
Lastly, and very important, is the Leave No Trace principle. People
bring all kinds of equipment and materials to Burning Man including
food, vehicles, tents, huge artworks and more. All of it has to be
removed at the end of the event. Not a speck can remain.
The combination of these principles plus the Man as ritual center
creates a powerful sense of community that has literally transformed
peopleís lives. For some, the rest of the year is a dull
black-and-white existence whose only purpose is to provide the money and
time to prepare for their week of living in color, excitement and
acceptance at Black Rock City.
Itís not too late to get tickets to this fantastic, temporary city
in the desert. For more information go to the Burning
Man web site. The Zenzibar
crew is going again this year and our office will be closed for the
duration of the event. I, like so many others, canít wait to go home
to Black Rock City, one of the greatest alternative culture events ever
See you at the Man!
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