The Burning Man conjures up all kinds of outrageous images for the uninitiated. The Playa, which is the desert stage location of the Man, the temple and much of the art, is a culturally curious place, as it is one part hedonistic, one part idealistic.
The Burning Man's history tells how back in 1986, Larry Harvey and a dozen friends burned an effigy of a man on San Francisco's Baker Beach in a cathartic act of spontaneous creativity. This experience of reconciliation and rebirth quickly grew into an annual ritual with hundreds of people, leading Harvey to move his Burning Man experience to U.S. government land in northern Nevada's remote Black Rock desert. Today, this is where 70,000 attendees and travelers gather the week leading up the Labor Day, transforming one of the least hospitable pieces of land on Earth into a loving, hospitable temporary village called "Black Rock City".
At its heart, Burning Man is a celebration of artistic self-expression for those who have a utopian vision of the world. For some, it's about creating a spiritual sense of oneness in an intentional community based upon certain principles. For others, it's about whole night partying and dancing, riding around naked on bikes and participating in the Slut Olympics.
It's figuratively ironic that Burning Man falls on Labor Day weekend as the amount of sweat and elbow grease that goes into creating the temporary art displays definitely equates to considerably high labor. But the result is the most stunning and the world's largest interactive display of art, set in a lunar landscape that gives an otherworldly flavor to the whole experience.
You'll see art cars that look like magic carpets, mechanical fire-breathing dragons trolling the desert and a life-size replica of an 18th-century shipwreck. At night, the whole festival ground turns into an overwhelming visual spectacle. Of course, there's the elaborately designed temple, which burns on Sunday night in a solemn ceremony after the tribal, primal burning of the Man on Saturday night. Be prepared for lots of fire, including roaming bands of tribal majorettes tossing flaming batons in the air.
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