Burning Man by peterfuchs
September 11, 2008, 6:59 am
Filed under: Art as Gift Research blog | Tags:
Burning Man

Burning Man by Aaron Logan, source:

For more than two decades, on every Labor Day tens of thousands of participants gather at the temporary city of  Black Rock City, Nevada, to build a huge, 12 meter high wooden effigy and finally set it on fire.

One of the basic organizing principle of the event, which attracted almost fifty thousand visitor this year (2008), is the lack of monetary transfer: gift economy. Only then the tickets to the city itself, and the basic needs like drinks, water and ice can be exchanged by using cash, any other transaction should be used by the means of gift economy.

In the earliest days of the event, an underground barter economy also existed, in which burners exchanged material goods and/or “favors” with each other. While this was originally supported by the Burning Man organization, this now is largely discouraged. Instead, burners are encouraged to give gifts to one another unconditionally.(Wikipedia)

It might be hard to point out, what exactly made lead to the creation of the temporal town of Black Rock City, which exist only for this single event. Maybe it was a radical social, political gesture, a situationist utopia longing  for a better, transparent community, – like the simple but string communities we know from Mad Max styled post-apocalyptic movies. If we take a glance on the basic principles of the city, we might get an overall idea of what it might look like to be a participant:

Black Rock City, the temporary city in which the event is held annually (via Nasa image database)

Black Rock City, the temporary city in which the event is held annually (via Nasa image database)

The Burning Man event is governed by the 10 principles of Burning Man, which are radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy. (Wikipedia)

The event iteslef has its on artistic profile, apart from the site specific installation, after which it is named, a large number of artist are experimenting, supporting the event.

The Black Rock Arts Foundation, run by the same people we established the Burning Man event are promoting similar, but smaller scale public art projects, site specific interventions which somehow all point together to some sort of romantic anti-consumerist mythology.

The largest gift economy based event nowadays, which somehow could remain free of “Coca-Cola Company gift drinks” and other merchandize, could act as an example of a viable alternative, even trough it has a serious enviromatalist background and a dedicated population who seems to be quite concious in terms of social behaviour.


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