By gillian zwengler
After six years of waiting, eight months of planning, one cross-country plane ride and a 36-hour journey from San Francisco, I finally arrived at Burning Man – a 70,000-person strong city that exists for just seven days in Nevada’s Black Rock desert before everything is packed up and burned to the ground.
From an architecture and design perspective, Burning Man is entirely unique. Artists spend months developing elaborate, large-scale installations and there is more art at Burning Man than you could ever hope to experience within a weeklong timeframe. Such vibrancy and beauty could only emerge from something as lifeless as the desert – the stark contrast between the dry, dusty playa bed and the ethereal, oftentimes otherworldly, installations let you appreciate the artworks in a completely new way.
One of the major attractions at this year’s Burn was Embrace, a four-story wooden sculpture. Inside, a long, winding set of stairs led straight to the top, where you could look out through the sculpture’s eyes and onto vastness of the playa. Connecting the two forms was a massive, electronic beating heart that filled the structure with the cathartic sounds of our own internal rhythms. My favorite part of Embrace occurred only in the brief moments after the sun rose each morning and the space between the sculptures lips was illuminated, almost as if the two figures were greeting the new day with a fiery kiss. Embrace burned to the ground early Friday morning in front of thousands of revelers, myself included, and its smoky destruction was every bit as epic as its existence.
Robert Allen’s fabrics made a special appearance
For me, other Burning Man highlights included a pirate ship themed art car with a fully functioning merry-go-round, a bowling alley in the middle of the desert that streamed The Big Lebowski, and, of course, The Man, the festivals’ very own Northstar, which served as the focal point of the event throughout the duration of the week.
Although the music and art are incredible, Burning Man is much more profound than any song or sculpture can ever express. Each year, people come to the desert to create magic together and the energy that’s generated by this beautiful, bizarre community of people from all over the world is electric. It’s refreshing. It’s a radically open environment based on giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return. While I was there, the honest, heartfelt conversations, shared sunrises and deep, soulful hugs with strangers filled my heart with more light, love and positivity than I ever dreamed imaginable. It’s no wonder so many people call Burning Man home.
The Man on Burn Night. Photo courtesy of Ralfi Kondili.
If you’ve ever considered attending Burning Man – go. Go to the desert with an open heart and an open mind. The playa will provide the rest.
In dust we trust.