TEN YEARS AGO I SEEN PHOTOS WITH ALIEN DAWNS: the sun rises from white dust and people in suits are lost in endless space. Then I thought: “Lord, how lucky the photographer is! This is some incredible world, another planet. " I didn’t even know that it was a festival and, moreover, how to get there. About three years ago, I learned more about Burning Man and decided that going there and seeing everything with my own eyes was my new crazy dream. While applying for a visa for a trip to America, I said that I was going to Burning Man, but in fact I did not go anywhere then.
BURNING MAN FESTIVAL takes place annually in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA. For the first time, the wooden human figure that gave the name to the festival was burned in 1986: Americans Larry Harvey and Jerry James burned an effigy on a beach in San Francisco, on the summer solstice. This year the festival was held for the thirtieth time, and the number of its participants increased from several dozen to 70,000.
My second summer in New York was coming to an end, and I accidentally saw a photo on my friend's Instagram with the caption "It will be dusty soon." I wrote to her and found out that she was going to Burning Man to the camp to build an art object. Tried to buy a ticket on sale for $ 390. Nothing came of it, and I decided that, apparently, it was not destiny. A week before Burning Man started, after talking with a friend, I decided to try again and bought a Craigslist ticket for $ 600 (which is incredible because tickets cost $ 900-1200). Until the last moment, I did not believe that the ticket was real.
After all the fuss, I still ended up on the other side of the world, in the desert under the scorching sun. I thought that only young people go to Burning Man, but no - there was a 20-year-old girl who has been going to the festival for thirteen years, and an 80-year-old woman who came for the first time. It's almost "Futurama": there is no age, nationality or religion - there are only smiles and incredible costumes.
There are many ways to live at the festival. You can rent an RV - a giant bus for 3-10 thousand dollars with a toilet, shower and air conditioning. If you are traveling with a child or do not like living in tents, then this makeshift hotel on wheels is a cool option. There were guys who lived in tents alone, but this is not very comfortable: it is very hot in the desert during the day, and very cold at night. The six of us lived in a hexayurt that we collected ourselves. The camp had an awning, a kitchen and a shower, for which water had to be brought.
BASED ON BURNING MAN there are ten principles: radical inclusion, donation, decommodification, radical self-sufficiency, radical self-expression, community effort, civic responsibility, leave no trace, participation in the here and now.
Each camp is responsible for something. For example, there was a friendly Russian camp that did pilaf. There are camps that are in charge of art cars, clubs, bars and the like. You can come alone and come up with something to your liking - for example, after a hot day, I met a man who delivers cold beer around Playa every year. You can also volunteer - for example, pouring coffee or hanging lanterns. And when you are building an art object, an art car can easily drive up to you, the passengers of which will feed and drink you free of charge. The only thing for sale on the Burning Man site is coffee and ice; everything else can be obtained for free, because there is no money on the territory. There is a principle of giving gifts: you bring something with you, you give it away for free in exchange for other things.
The main means of transportation on the territory is a bicycle: we bought them for ourselves at Wallmart, and then just threw them out, because there is sand all around on Burning Man and everything breaks because of it. If you are tired of pedaling, you can jump on the art car and drive, dancing happily, to your next destination. If you have fun in a different way, then you can move around on foot.I heard that, although rarely, there are deaths at Burning Man - for example, an art car can run over those who fall asleep in the desert. To prevent this from happening, at night everyone hangs glowing garlands on themselves and on the bike. Upon returning home, I woke up a couple of times at night: it seemed to me that I was lying on the Playa and I would now be crushed by an art car sweeping by.
At the beginning of the festival, everyone is handed out printed instructions, where it is written that you need to carry water with you all the time, that it is very difficult to be in the desert, that you need sunglasses. One of the rules of Burning Man is to carry with you everything you may need (water, warm clothes, glasses or a dust mask) and you should not rely on anyone. At first we all followed it diligently, but in the end we relaxed. Yes, there are pillars of acrid dust around, scorching heat and night cold, but you get used to everything - you squint, of course, but you can live. It seemed to me that there was no need to put in any incredible efforts for survival. Perhaps just because I went hiking since childhood.
Like any other city, Black Rock City has basic infrastructure - including emergency and security services - but the primary concern for its health falls on the shoulders of the participants themselves.
At Burning Man, there is a rule: do not litter or leave anything behind in Playa. When you set up a camp, you literally pick up every speck and every hair. It turns out that there was nothing in the desert, then a gigantic city for 70-75 thousand people comes for a week, and after it there is nothing left - this, of course, is very cool. It's a pity that this is not common anywhere else.
We bought ourselves a lot of healthy products: vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals. Camping conditions doesn't mean you need to buy instant soups. If you want a healthy meal, everything is in your hands. We slept from time to time - more often in the very heat, or, for example, from ten in the evening to three in the morning to meet the crazy sunrises. But I often thought that there was absolutely no time to sleep and rushed to take pictures on Playa in the very heat. But even if you are not sleeping at all, you will have time to see, at best, a tenth of what is happening - too many things are happening at the same time.
Many people prepare costumes in six months or a year. Due to spontaneous gatherings, I turned out to be the most unprepared - the thought that a fur coat would be needed in California did not even occur to me. When choosing an outfit, I would advise you to think about how things will look when dust settles on them. I can say with confidence that you should not choose black, but shiny, white, light looks cool. Therefore, those who come to the festival usually have a strange costume flickering under a sand-colored fur coat, while others simply wear fur coats on their naked bodies. During the day, everyone walks half naked, and in the evening a masquerade extravaganza begins: hats, fur coats, flowers, masks, glowing garlands. Of course, when you look at it from the outside, at a sober head, a lot looks too theatrical. But it's still impressive.
DURING THE FESTIVAL IN THE DESERT its members are building the city of Black Rock City. From above, it resembles an incomplete dial or a giant cobweb: the streets radiate from the center in rays. The city center is a huge Playa square, on which the Burning Man figure and other art objects stand.
In general, at Burning Man you just need to trust the moment - exactly what you need now happens around. Since I didn't have the right suits, and my friends had fifteen outfits with them, I also wanted something special. And I found a second hand! It works on the same principle as everything at Burning Man: you leave something, and you take something for yourself. So I found a gorgeous dress, which I also gave away.
At Burning Man, everyone can find whatever they want. If you want to do yoga, run in the morning, raise children, attend lectures on nuclear physics, you will find it. If you want to listen to music and dance - everything is for you. If you want to go to bars, arrange naked bike rides, wash in shared showers - you will find this too.Orgy camps are also at your service, drugs - please. In search of alcoholic adventures, you simply come to one of the free bars with your mug with a scan of your passport pasted on top. Despite the craziness, this is still America, and without an ID you won't be poured anything, even if you are over 80. Or you can just be alone and drive off into the desert, drive around Playa in a circle where no one bothers you - there is only you and a desert that seems endless. I don't know what kind of person you need to be to dislike Burning Man.
There is an application Time to burn, where you can see when what will happen, where and what time the DJ is playing, where exactly the art objects are located, but I have never used it. There is no strict schedule at Burning Man - you just leave the camp and everything happens by itself: you never know what will happen in a minute. This is some kind of concentrated version of a life that is several days long - especially in relationships. They say that it is not very good to go to the festival with a couple: everyone is smiling at you and making eyes - it is not so easy to be faithful. Although in our camp there were those who came in pairs, and everything was fine with them.
Burning man - this is a festival of contemporary art, and many music venues, and numerous trainings, which are arranged by the visitors of the festival. Every year the festival has a specific theme - in 2016 it was “Da Vinci Workshop”.
Despite the fact that Black Rock City is a utopian city, the Internet is here (for example, in the Artery building), so you can post a photo on Instagram and write to your mom that you are alive. But there is so much going on at the festival that you don’t care about virtual reality at all, even if you’re an internet maniac. It seems to me silly to sit for two hours, chatting with someone online, when life is raging around you.
One of my most vivid impressions is the burning of the Temple. In it, people leave their memories, posters and letters about deceased loved ones. When it was burned, people really cried. For me it was strange: if you feel so bad, how could you come to the festival? I perceived Burning Man solely as fun, but everyone treats it differently - for some it is like a reboot of life. You find yourself in a completely different world, on another planet. I had nothing to burn, I left nothing in the Temple. But the action itself, of course, amazed me.
One of the goals of my trip was to shoot a stunning photo essay. But during these two weeks I practically did not shoot anything: at first I was very afraid that the camera would break from dust, and then life spun in such a swift sand hurricane that it was not up to the camera, and I stopped thinking about it altogether. And on the very last morning of the festival, a dust storm arose at dawn and the very picture for which I went to Burning Man arose. The one that I saw ten years ago in other people's photographs.
The festival starts at midnight on the last day of August and ends on the first Monday in September (in 2016, Burning Man ran from 28 August to 5 September). The culmination of Burning Man is the burning of a wooden figure of a man, which takes place on Saturday night. Another important building that is erected annually is the Temple, where people come to say goodbye to their deceased loved ones. The temple is burned on Sunday evening. Other art objects by their creators are often burned throughout the festival.
Incredible colors, objects drowning in dust, costumed characters that appeared from the void and then disappeared back. I jumped on my bike after a day without sleep, without a mask, without glasses, in frost and wind - I just rushed with a camera at the ready, filming without any bags and protection on the camera, in the middle of a dusty storm. And I realized that for this I was going here. Not for the sake of electronic music, not for the sake of new friends, not for fun parties and benevolent hugs, not to become a part of the festival, building an art object, but for this. For a dream. At some point, the bike got stuck due to dust. Where I am? What to do? I can not see anything.The dust cleared a little, and it turned out that some guys nearby were burning a fire - just like in the fairy tale "Twelve Months". They hugged me, gave me tea - miracles always happen at Burning Man.
There is a huge queue at the entrance and exit from Burning Man: we arrived almost a week before its start and stood for four hours. People who come on the opening day can stand there for a day and a half. On the way back we spent eleven hours in line - moreover, it was five kilometers to go. But Burning Man doesn't end when you get in line. Someone knocks on your window, asks: "Do you want a melon?" - and hands you a sliced melon. The whole line continues to live according to the principles of Burning Man, when you want to give everything, treat everyone, give gifts, dance and smile. It seems to me that in Russia it is customary to do this. For me it was not something surprising, but someone will probably find it incredible.
When you come back to reality, you probably need to pause first. Do not commit harsh actions. Think about your experiences in silence. This is a very strong and vivid experience, to which everyone reacts differently. For those who are going to Burning Man, I would advise you to prepare for the festival more thoroughly than I do - because suddenly it turns out that you need a fur coat, glowing garlands and three times more money than originally planned. I would advise you to relax, disconnect from life and not make any plans.
I don't know if I will go to Burning Man next year. Maybe I need a pause to understand everything. I did everything I wanted at the festival - and what I haven't tried is probably not necessary for me.
Photos: Zhenya Filatova