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Burning Man is a temporary city of approx 70,000 people created every late August on the arid "Playa" of the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada. It's re-built with grid precision annually on an alkaline prehistoric lake bed. The city is completely vaporized without a trace when the event is over.


It's considered the hardest to get to event in North America. Ticket prices are prohibitive often $350-$800 each (cheaper if you're poor) and sell out instantly months before. The after-market ticket price soar far beyond, but the organization will void any tickets they catch at gouging prices. There is an ethic to gift tickets or re-sell at face value. The ticket and car passes get you absolutely nothing but entry into the hard packed dust perimeter. It's heavily patrolled by state and federal law enforcement.


It's said that describing Burning Man to someone who hasn't gone is like describing color to a blind man.  It has become a global cultural phenomenon that is being copied with other "Burns" from Australia to Africa. I ran into Brits stocking up their rental RV at a Reno grocery who said it's like a pilgrimage for them.  What started in 1986 as a small SF beach event to burn a wooden man has morphed into a monstrous Dada Brigadoon.


There is no commerce at Burning Man. No bands. No advertising. No promoting. No money. No garbage collection, virtually nothing can be bought. It's not a festival nor concert. Everyone must pack in and pack out what they need to survive. Normal vehicles can not be used once in. Instead an impossible collection of "Art Cars and Mutant Vehicles" sail across the desert amidst tens of thousands of bicycles. There is no trash or waste blowing about -- it's all very pristine generally (minus the Sani-Huts). Cars are searched at entry for prohibited items. Most at event are rigorously Eco to leave no trace. Even dirty water is taken out and not poured on the Playa. There are 10 Principals to be followed.


Burning Man has become a Byzantine ragù of Blade Runner, Mad Max, Hieronymus Bosch, National Geographic, the Phantom Tollbooth, High Plains Drifter, Lawrence of Arabia, Purim, Medieval, Victorian, Shinto and Wicker Man. It's like really camping on a moon of Star Wars. It's real and unscripted and sometimes fatal. Soaring Temples and boulevards and impossible art installations and events in sometimes choking dust storms. The holy and profane mix. From the nude to the elegantly top-hatted on rambling contraptions or pirate ships.

Excerpt from "Temporary City" by Jack Deming

Panoramic photographs by Frances Melhop

Panoramic photographs by Frances Melhop

Earlier Event: August 8
Sierra Nevada College Midway Exhibition
Later Event: October 19
Art + Environment Conference