whatisburningman sectional graphic


Building Burning Man
The Official Journal of the Burning Man Project - Spring 1997 Newsletter

Burning Man: What Is It?

It's ritualistic, it's anarchic, it's primal, it's a radical communal experiment, it's art, it's the death of art, it's dream-like, it's surreal, it's creative, it's destructive, it's absurd, it's spiritual, it's real.

Think of Burning Man as Disneyland turned inside out. But unlike an escapist fantasy produced by others, Burning Man is not vicarious. At Burning Man you are the fantasy. People do not come to this event to be distracted from themselves; they come here to discover and distill what they uniquely are. We will not tell you what it means, for Burning Man is based on your immediate experience.

about this photo
about this photo
There is, of course, the Man. He stands atop a pyramid. He glows at night. He is the landmark that will tell you where you are. He's like the axis of a spinning wheel; the center and the symbol of a world that we create. Or think of him as like a mirror in which you see yourself and others -- plus something vastly greater than ourselves. Better yet, don't think of him at all. His relevance is purely the result of your participation.

During an extended Labor Day weekend we will construct a temporary city upon the shore of a vanished lake. Serviced by streets, lighted walkways, its own daily newspaper, and several radio stations, it will become a community peopled by thousands of citizens. While it lasts it forms a great metropolis which floats suspended like a space station amid the vast and empty space of the surrounding desert. And yet, its great central plaza and canopied towers, its little corner bistros and clubs, its outflung neighborhoods and monumental works of art; all of these, like Burning Man himself, are strictly temporary things. Black Rock City is a product of your imagination.

Come prepared to camp here and confront your own survival. Participants in Burning Man achieve identity through what they do. This is a wholly intentional world; a realm of virtual reality to which everyone contributes. We encourage spontaneous performances, costumes, artwork; anything that means what you uniquely are, what you uniquely see, or what you might become. We form a commonwealth of the creative and the desert is a vast blank screen on which reality may be projected. It is a place wherein the boundary that divides the inner from the outer disappears. What is Burning Man? It's what you make it.