On a small beach in San Francisco, just west of the Golden Gate Bridge, during the 1988 summer solstice, the first wooden structure designed as a stick figure ‘man’ was burned as a symbol of expression by a group seeking to experience life outside of mainstream society.
By: Sarah D’Antoni, Social & Cultural Psychology
The man-burn notably marked the beginning of a movement called Burning Man. Now far from a small beach, Burning Man brings in over 50,000 attendees from all over the world to build a temporary city called Black Rock City in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada (USA) for a week-long festival full of music, art, and expression.
This isn’t your average festival, however. There is no commodification, meaning no money. Gifting is the main ‘currency’ in this city where individuals, friends, and even families set up camps with themes such as “Birthday Camp” where you are treated like it’s your birthday, even if it isn’t, “Shower Camp”, where you can be washed in a human car wash, and various sound camps where DJs gift their music to visitors at all hours of the day and night.
Just how does this temporary city function?
The Burning Man Organization developed a set of ten principles that attendees are encouraged to uphold while attending the festival.
While experiencing these principles in Black Rock City, outside of the mainstream society, provides a container for a controlled experiment, the adventure continues well after the dust has settled.
Burning Man attendees are encouraged to incorporate these principles into their everyday lives- integrating their experiences from their time in the desert watching the ‘man’ burn, the city build up and be broken down, and the desert sand return to its natural barren state.
For some, Burning Man is a place they call ‘home’, a place where they truly feel accepted. For others, it is a place to explore, share, and learn about themselves and others.
Principles weave their way into communities and companies through projects based in the arts, leadership, community development, and through sub-organizations like “Burners Without Borders.” Not only limited to the US, a Burner (Burning Man) culture has expanded internationally with Burner cities, like that of Black Rock City, popping up at regional Burning Man-inspired events from South Africa (AfrikaBurn) to Israel (MidBurn) to Spain (Nowhere Festival) to Denmark (The Borderland Festival), and even rumors of a future NorwegianBurn in Norway in 2020.
For some, Burning Man is a place they call ‘home’, a place where they truly feel accepted. For others, it is a place to explore, share, and learn about themselves and others, and to experience a world in which whatever one wants to create, can be – a world where ten principles guide the behavior of its inhabitants.
If the childhood ‘you’ is jumping with excitement, eager to be a part of this and interested in getting involved in the local Burner community in Oslo, reach out to the Burner’s Oslo Facebook group and check out burningman.org for more information on the ten principles.