Burning Man (Part 2: What’s Out There?)

September 29, 2010

in California, Creative Living


What do you find in Black Rock City? Everything–absolutely everything–but especially art, people, and music. Those are big broad categories, and it’s nearly impossible to capture the myriad forms they take. Every single person who comes is free to create whatever they like.

Art might be a 40-foot tall metal sculpture of a woman dancing with such grace that she quickly becomes the most popular piece on the playa.

Bliss Dance

Art might be an aisle of miniature realities–dioramas–so varied that each peekhole is a delightful surprise, a huge tesla coil with a guy creating lightening flashes of electricity as he touches fluorescent light bulbs and 2×4’s to its crackling head, or a spinning globe with four layers of steel cutout maps and a light shining from within.

Burning Man 2010 - Metropolis: Home

Art might be a dragon smelter that turns aluminum cans into coins, a field of disfigured barbie dolls, a phone labeled “Talk To God”–and someone answers when you call, a fake porta-potty facade to disappoint you after you’ve biked over to it, or art might be you.

talk to god


An amazing style

I particularly like anything climbable. I scaled this precarious modern minaret until I reached the dome cage looking out over the entire city.

Minaret 2

Also, it’s BURNING Man–many pieces of art include fire: an effigy of San Francisco’s skyline to be incinerated, giant primordial flowers that pour and spout flames, a vertical sculpture shooting upward bursts of flame, the man himself, and a temple where people go to leave their grief and loss and watch it burn at the end of the week.

San Francisco burning

Burning Man 2010 - Metropolis: Infinitarium

Burning Man 2010


Burning Man 2010 - Metropolis: Temple of Flux Burn
Art also extends to art cars, moving vehicles (ranging in size from golf carts to articulated city buses) which have been transformed into pieces of art through welding, painting, decoration, sound systems, lights, and a heap of imagination. While interesting art cars have always flitted across the playa, this year had an absolute plethora of them! They drive around at 5mph and you can hop on (if there’s room) and be carried away to wherever they’re headed. A giant preying mantis, a small polar bear, a birthday cake, a jules verne style hovercraft, a coliseum, an apartment building, a yacht, a barge, a viking ship, a victorian mansion, a spider, an exquisite butterfly…all lit up and cruising slowly through the desert darkness.

Butterfly Art Car, Burning Man 2010




More amazing art cars here and here.

In the midst of all this are people, a disproportionate number of whom are from San Francisco (city of eclectic creatives). People also come from all over the US and the world. Among our camp and extended friends, we had folks from Sweden, Guatemala, Britain, Colorado, Vermont, and California. They are lawyers, software consultants, entrepreneurs, DJ’s, engineers, social workers, surgeons. Whoever they are, people are often wearing the most ridiculous, beautiful, bizarre, ugly, or strange costumes or wearing nothing at all. The vast majority of them are friendly, helpful, playful, quirky and fun.

burning man 2010

steam punk couple

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner 2

Hanging on the Beast : Burning Man 2009 #44


leaping ladies

Immersed in all this novelty, it’s easy to forget about the surrounding expanse of nature. Look past the art, however, and you’ll see clouds drifting over the mountains, the sky fiery with sunset or glowing with dawn, or this year’s stunningly unusual double rainbow.


Just when you think you might stay here forever, you’ll discover the other thing that Burning Man has in abundance: dust. At any time, you might be hit with a massive (or minor) dust storm. The dust will invade every crevice of home and body, will seep into a sealed tent, and will sting your skin if the wind is strong enough. Put on your goggles, cover your mouth with a thick kerchief, and continue on. If it gets too bad, you might seek some shelter, but then again, you might just keep riding your bike.

Tall Bike Land, Burning Man 2010

*Please note: None of the Burning Man photos are mine. Many thanks to friends who supplied photos and for those that were borrowed from the web!

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