It's been said that there's a fairly predictable pattern to Burning Man attendance. The first year is an eye opener, the realization that thi sort of community can exist anywhere blows people away. The second year has a backlash of sorts, since the space isn't novel any more the flaws become apparent. By the third time a person has either assimilated into the community, or the flaws have become too much and they stop going.
After '99 I was dubious. On Sunday morning, scraping stuff off the playa post-burn I wondered why I put so much energy into supporting a community that, by the weekend, had deteriorated into a bunch of red plastic cup carrying yahoos there for a big party, and after going up for a weekend of clean-up and seeing that the yahoos weren't the problem, in fact the major issues came from big theme camps, I felt like the event was a big show, and perhaps I wouldn't find my place in between spectating and the whole-hog dedication to performance that putting on Burning Man required.
This year I feel a little more realistic. I participated with a sculpture on the playa, and a mapping and clean-up project for which I'm still assimilating the data. I was a part of a camp that became a locus for our neighborhood, a center for shared meals and hanging out, protection from the elements for those whose shelters weren't up to the extreme weather, a part of the local community.
Yes, I've got some reservations, and I'm no longer the starry-eyed beleiver in Burning Man as an experience that can be had nowhere else, but I see in Burning Man elements that I want to incorporate into my life full-time.
The increased establishment intervention has removed much of the spontanaeity. Adding to the annoying rules the various health departments imposed last year were drug busts, at one point the Black Rock Gazette was reporting over 70. Most of these were misdemeanors with small fines, but it's pretty obvious that it's a matter of some local DA and sherrif being an asshole, surely some sort of negotiation for protection money from the Burning Man organization would serve their purposes more honestly?
The police presence, along with an increasing number of children, also seems to put a damper on some of the sexual expression.
There seems to be an emphasis on large-scale art, much to the detriment of the art overall. Most of my favorite pieces this year were the product of one or two people, but you'd never know that from the massive structures along the road to the man which created a sense of separation between those who've mustered the resources and energy to build such huge projects and the average attendee.
I'm also not sure that the community can sustain the growing number of attendees. I might have some further thoughts on this later.
The gorgeous copper and glass roses, with photovoltaic cells in the leaves and petals which glowed and faded in various colors at night. An amazing and gorgeous piece that everyone I talked to who had seen would love to have in their living room.
The picture, a collection of seemingly abstract cut-outs and colors on sheets of plywood, but which when viewed from a specific point merged together into a wonderful painting.
The Gay Boy Scouts, troop 69, in their uniforms and skirts, offering to help passersby earn merit badges from "woodworking" (ahem) to fisting.
The burn platforms and more responsible attitudes towards clean-up. Yes, there were some problems, but a week later the space was much better off than it was 6 weeks later last year.
There'll be pictures and more when my clean-up information is filtered.
Sunday, September 10th, 2000 email@example.com