“24 Hours at Burning Man. Sky update. Trying to figure out how to end this video edition…”
If you’ve seen any of my 24 Hours at Burning Man videos, you may be familiar with my endless asides to you, the viewer at home.
If not? Now would be the perfect time to decompress from your 2020 Burn, whether it was virtual, backyard or elsewhere in the Multiverse. Sit back and let me take you on a tour of Burning Man as I experience it.
Go back to Burning Man 2019. Meet the artists I met. Join me in marveling at the sky (spoiler alert : it looks “magnificent”). Ponder the risky outcomes of “idiots versus gravity” (from a safe distance, of course). Basically, go do some Burning Man, right now!
Why 24 Hours at Burning Man?
In 2012 — a year I was supposed to be skipping — I had the dubious realization that one day on playa would probably be better than none at all.
Capping the last-minute trip at 24 hours made it feel more like a project. Also, it prevented me from dawdling too long, then driving home through desert roads in the dark. Safety first, people!
And because I packed a video camera, I can see that I packed a lot into one busy day on playa.
But this was not my first rodeo. In 1999, on my third burn, I took a video camera to document the experience. Without editing — that came later — it laid bare the natural narrative of the event.
The long drive into Nevada, with subtle shifts in scenery. Is this the desert? How about now? Are we there yet?
A turn down a bumpy desert road. “The event horizon.” We’re unpacking, and building. Welcoming friends to camp. Adventuring. Finally, departure. Both exhausted and replenished.
And now a VHS cassette tape (ask your parents). Coming home from psytrance parties (also, ask your parents). “Who wants to go to Burning Man?” In goes the tape and the familiar journey begins again.
With a skipped year here and there, I’ve been sculpting similar stories, increasingly in one-man-movie, feature length videos. They’re filled with interviews, in-jokes, sky-admiration, flashbacks, the occasional post-playa reflection and more.
A few highlights? In 2014, we built and burned the Alien Siege Machine. In 2017, I fell in love with the Spanish marionette, Euterpe. In 2018, implausibly, I became the voice of Euterpe’s grandfather and watched my friends rise beautifully to their own creative aspirations.
In 2019, I was in search of an ending. Unsure how I could possibly top the year before.
Not that it should matter. But a satisfactory emotional payoff would be nice, right?
I found the ending somewhere surprising, in the kind of artistic detail that’s easy to miss on playa, and mind blowing if you discover it at just the right moment.
You’ll have to watch to find out what happened. No spoilers! But it’s poignantly relevant to where we find ourselves today.
I spent most of Burning Man 2020 bouncing around BRCvr, and dipping into Zoom parties in the Sparkleverse.
Finding friends in VR. Building a new vocabulary. “Do you know how to fly? Let me show you…” “Are we even in the same Multiverse?” “Ready for something else? Right, someone – make a portal.”
In a way, I’ve been building portals to Burning Man since 1999.
Functional, persistent portals for Burners’ skeptical friends, dubious coworkers, on-the-fence parents. And sometimes, for Burners who just want to go back for a while.
One of my favorite Black Rock City moments goes something like: “There’s someone I want you to meet. This is my Dad. He didn’t think Burning Man was going to be for him, but I showed him your videos. And here he is.”
That my journey has become so enmeshed and persuasive in other people’s personal journeys to Burning Man delights me as much as the sky does.
Where do we go from here?
Well, I hope you’ll find the ending I found in a drawer in an art installation in Black Rock City as magnificent and magical as I did.
Meanwhile, I have 24 Hours in the Multiverse to get started on…
Header photo by Leori Gill