Burning Man: Here to stay?

Every year, thousands of people from all across the globe make their way to Black Rock Desert in Nevada to raise a sprawling, temporary metropolis, Black Rock City. As the name implies, Black Rock Desert is not the friendliest of environments. All sorts of extremes, from freezing cold and sand storms to bug plagues constantly batter the place, home to Burning Man festival. And still, tickets sell out every year. This year’s much coveted tickets for Burning Man sold out within an hour, with many a celebrity getting their hands on one.

Burning Man is more popular than ever, and change might be on the horizon for this annual oasis for utopianism and collectivism.

  • Black Rock City

The high level of organisation that characterises the event is reflected in the circle and pentagon that Black Rock City creates in accommodating its 68,000+ visitors. Not your typical field of festival tents, it is a structured temporary city. Roads labelled by the hour of the clock, and concentric rings with alphabetically arranged names allow for a crystal clear coordination system for its inhabitants as well as emergency services. There are no supermarkets or food trucks present; food, water and beverages are all to be brought by the visitors. With no readily available accommodation provided, most “Burners” stay in their own tents or rented RV’s.

Black Rock City is a ‘temporary city’ in the most literal sense. “The Man” sculpture at the centre of the ring, as well as all other structures are torched-down at the end of the festival. An impressive feat is the festival’s “Leaving No Trace” policy, ensuring absolutely no waste is left behind.

  • The annual temple at Burning Man

  • Burning of “The Man” ceremony

  • Communal cleaning after all structures are torched down

New York Magazine reports that last year, Burning Man leadership renewed efforts to buy up and develop a nearby property, the geyser-filled Fly Ranch, which they’d been eyeing for years. As co-founder Goodell recently said on a podcast called “Positive Head, “For the long-term survival of the culture, we are going to need a physical space … We will, as time goes by, find it hard to only be in the Black Rock Desert. We may need to find a place that would allow for infrastructure. I’m certain that’s in our future.”

“Employees and affiliates may build on a ‘Homestead’ basis, or rent or buy into the Village community at the project’s north end,” he wrote in his proposal.

Another co-founder, Will Rogers, envisions a utopian future for Fly Ranch: “I fondly hope that this concept can develop rapidly, and become not only a destination for learning and wonder, but a model to the world of a community, although remote, that is ideal and sustainable. It is for the Burning Man Project to create this wilderness paradise.”

Burning Man first attempted to buy the land back in 2005. According to New York Magazine “They tried again a few years ago, but the asking price was around $11 million to $12 million, and they only raised about a half-million dollars, he said. But last year, the landowner Sam Jasick passed away, leaving his son Todd in charge, and Todd said he’d welcome another offer.”

  • Fly Ranch Geyser

To be sure, developing an area of 4,000 acres, mostly desert and wetlands, would cost large amounts of money and last year the organisation began to offer tours of the Fly Ranch to potential investors. In a statement, now taken offline but still available on the Wayback Machine, the organisation says: “The Burning Man Project is pleased to announce the initiation of the preliminary stages of the development of the Fly Geyser property.” Why the statement was taken offline is still unclear.

Burning Man might not be the first organisation with big dreams about utopianism and collectivism, as Inverse reminds us, but the acclaimed festival finds itself at the forefront of the international events scene. It could well become the first event of its kind to establish a permanent base, a “community”, which makes it one of the most relevant and interesting festivals of the moment.

Here at G3 we will be following these developments very closely.