One of Nevada’s largest cities exists for only one week each year, built from scratch and then dismantled, leaving only bare desert. Revelers build giant interactive installations, this year including a pyramid complex (complete with catacombs) and a participatory recreation of the Last Supper. It kicked off with the 90-foot centerpiece structure, a Vitruvian Man, ritually incinerated. Burning Man has transformed since a small group of friends first put match to Man in 1986: each instalment brings $50m to the area, and it has spawned many other such “transformational festivals”.
But veterans fret that the Hollywood starlets and Silicon Valley bosses it now attracts threaten its original spirit. Despite trumpeting inclusivity, tickets cost hundreds of dollars and attendees are overwhelmingly white; the huge consumption of resources, from water bottles to fuel, might seem more destructive than creative. But try telling that to the 70,000 proud citizens of a city built on “radical self-expression”.
First appeared on The Economist Espresso.