“Let’s burn a man, Jerry,” are the five fateful words Larry Harvey said to Jerry James in 1986. Soon after, they built and burned a wooden man on a San Francisco beach, and the flames drew a spontaneous crowd. Everyone danced, a familiarity and ease took over the night, and something took root. Decades later, that far-out crowd is still dancing and is now over 70,000 strong. They’ve moved their party to the Black Rock Desert and gather each year to burn a man. Oh yes, this is Burning Man 2022.
Ask a modern Burner to describe the upside down week of Burning Man and they might stutter. “You have to be there,” they’ll say. “It’s not like anything else.” True, Burning Man has few physical analogs, though, in the New York Times, Abby Ellin considered her experience there in 2000 as similar to a Grateful Dead Concert. She also called the festival, “the internet made flesh,” which, as far as we can tell, is exactly right.
More than anything, as prominent Silicon Valley Burners have noted, Burning Man is a platform. Like on Twitter, Facebook or TikTok, the festival creates the space and the users generate the content. In this case, the content is an entire city. Aside from the burning of the man, Burning Man is defined by the momentary construction of Black Rock City. It rises at the beginning of the week and disappears at the end of it. The festival provides nothing to create such extensive infrastructure except medical care, Porta Potties, and 10 principles — including radical inclusion, decommodification, participation and radical self-reliance — on which to govern the ephemeral society. You have to provision everything else yourself. Food, clothes, hygiene products, shelter, city streets. Money doesn’t work here save to buy coffee and ice. (Despite the “money doesn’t work here” vibe, everyone needs a ticket to enter Black Rock City. And tickets for the main sale go for 575 dollars plus 140 for a parking pass.) Exchanges only happen as gifts, and you must participate in the gifting. This isn’t just camping. It’s world building.
What can you expect to see in Black Rock City? Multi-story art cars. Lights you wear so those art cars don’t hit you. Tents giving away mint tea. Facebook executives slinging grilled cheese. All-night parties. Raves. Statues the size of the Statue of Liberty. Art — everywhere. Prototypes of the next big Silicon Valley invention roaming the streets. Naked people roaming the desert. Honky-tonk bars. A temple filled with memorials to those who have passed. The burning of that temple. Everyone living in dingy RVs. People of all ages (even kids). An airport where you can take plane rides. Bars. Group showers. Clubs built overnight. Lectures on a variety of topics. Bright colors. Computer coding. Orchestras. Absolutely no normie clothes in sight. And the guarantee that it will all disappear as soon as the people do.
- 80,000 are expected to people attend Burning Man 2022.
- Burning Man only offers one tier of tickets, and those are released in multiple sale periods.
- During the main sale, you can grab a ticket for 575 dollars. There is also a low-income ticket program for 225 for those who qualify.
- There’s no lineup or app for this festival, but check out Burning Man’s preparation resources to get ready for the wild week.