Industry “Burners” from Brad Falchuk to Dana Brunetti discuss the boundary-pushing wild festival in the desert, where inhibitions give way to abandon (drugs: yes; pants: optional), artists do extraordinary installations and the rich (of course) threaten tradition with private chefs, $10,000 tents and air conditioning.
Burning Man, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2016, has grown from a tiny summer solstice bonfire gathering on the beach in 1986 near San Francisco to such a powerful cultural phenomenon that no less than President Barack Obama name-checked it at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April. His 18-year-old daughter, Malia, he joked, isn’t allowed to go. Running this year from Aug. 28 to Sept. 5, Burning Man — where attendees include Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, iHeartMedia chairman Bob Pittman, director Chris Weitz (who met and married his wife, Mercedes Martinez, there) and such celebrities as Anne Hathaway, Jared Leto and Michelle Rodriguez — might scare off some people, but not the 70,000 who now throng the countercultural festival. Celebrating boundary-pushing self-expression (from Socially Appropriate Boner Day to Rosario Dawson’s 2011 vagina-tent installation) and community building (more than 300 individuals worked on one of this year’s art projects: two enormous pyramids), it’s a mix of participatory artworks with crazy costumes, aerialist troupes, shirtcockers (guys who, as it sounds, wear shirts and nothing else), the anonymous-sex-orgy dome (men can’t go alone), fire dancers, yoga and meditation sessions, TEDx talks and, yes, a good many people tripping on a lot of drugs.