As noted last week, I made my first trip to Burning Man this year. It became clear to me about a year ago that I had to go this year. 2012 is a year much about the future, so this was finally the year for me to make the trip. Many other people felt that way as well as this year had record attendance of 62,000+, up from approximately 50,000 each of the last two years, and much more than the thousands in the 1990s and the tens of thousands earlier this century. This growth is something I will discuss in Part Two.
I’ve found the reactions I’ve gotten when I mentioned I was going to Burning Man really interesting. People seem to be in two basic groups. They either have never heard of it or they are well aware of it, enthusiastic about it and quite often spoke about how envious they are that I was going or, how they have always wanted to go, but never quite got around to going.
There seems to be two metrics: age and geography. The younger people are, the greater the probability they know about and are very interested in Burning Man. The vast majority of people who have given me a blank stare when I mention it are either Baby Boomers or GenXers. People on the West Coast have a much higher awareness, as the majority of attendees come from California (the Bay Area in particular), as Burning Man is held in Black Rock (in the northwest corner of Nevada). People in the Midwest and East have been much more likely to say, “What’s Burning Man?”
So for those of you who may never have heard of it, here is the Burning Man website. Please note the 10 core principles, as they are the true drivers of the experience and the collective experience. It is these 10 principles that are manifested everywhere at Black Rock City.
As mentioned last week, I underwrote and led the Future Wow! team to Burning Man. The team, listed here, was comprised of young artists, most of whom are graduates of the Ringling College of Art + Design , where I am proud to be Futurist in Residence and Guest Lecturer. Here is a look at some visuals from Burning Man 2012. Many other recently posted videos can be found on YouTube.
As you will see from these photos and videos some of the most remarkable art, art installations and art vehicles in the world are on the Playa at Black Rock City. As someone who has an art degree and has traveled the world looking at art, I was absolutely stunned by the quality, creativity and sheer uniqueness of art that was everywhere. It was hard not to think that I was looking at some of the best art in the world, free from the physical boundaries and the constriction of the art world and galleries. To look at magnificent, monumental pieces of art in the middle of a beautiful desert in both the summer sun and the light of the full (blue) moon was, at times, transcendent.
Our team was fortunate enough to stay at Sacred Spaces Village, one of the most prominent camps at Burning Man, and certainly one of the most spiritual and inspirational in terms of the seminars, workshops and endless sessions of yoga and ecstatic dance that went on all week. The Future Wow! team shot a documentary of Sacred Spaces Village, and are now in the early stages of editing and compiling footage. We hope the documentary will be finished by the end of the year and available for viewing early in 2013.
Burning Man is one of the most important events in the world today. It has evolved from its early years, when it was largely a place where free thinkers, hippies and artists could go to party and be free for a week. It has developed into so much more. The word that kept coming up was renaissance. Without question, Burning Man is the renaissance of humanity during its 9-day existence. The high quality and originality of the art, the music, the speakers, the architecture, the costumes, the theme camps and the vehicles is simply unparalleled in the world.
What is equally impressive is the freedom of spirit, the complete willingness to share and gift and the depth of humanity and openness that is everywhere. It was a place of widespread, ongoing and intense self-discovery and letting go. One felt totally safe and free, even amidst tens of thousands of complete strangers. It is the one of the only places I have ever been where, during practically every conversation, whether it was with someone you knew or a complete stranger, your eyes locked and held during the entire conversation. Think on that and take a look wherever you go in the next 24 hours, and you will see people looking away, checking a screen or avoiding eye contact. The depth of human interaction at Burning Man, even if just for seconds or a few minutes, is full and fully present.
Next I will look at Burning Man 2012 through the eyes of a futurist, as for me that was unavoidable. There is much that Burning Man has to help humanity face the transformational changes we face here as we enter the Shift Age.