24 Hours at Burning Man — One Man’s Personal Portal to the Playa

“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.

Photo by Mark Day

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.

Photo by Leori Gill

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

About the author: Mark Day

Mark Day

Mark Day is a long-time Burning Man videographer, who has interviewed many artists and event participants for his 24 Hours at Burning Man video series. You'll often catch him pondering the fact that "the sky looks magnificent" at Burning Man, in a moderately successful attempt to turn it into some sort of meme. You can find his work at youtube.com/markdaycomedy

8 Comments on “24 Hours at Burning Man — One Man’s Personal Portal to the Playa

  • Famous Mr.Ed says:

    And the sky IS magnificent!
    Thank you Mark, it is true, I was most inspired to attend my first Burn in 2017 after watching your 2014 24/BMvid. (and the 2015, and 2016….)
    Amongst all the hype and fluff music tributes, your view into the reality and wonder of the event stands out like the Tree of Tenere’ in deep playa. You have been able to catch both the tedium and work that the event is, as well as the magic and wonder of it that inspires us to return, again and again. Thank you a thousand times over, for these excursions into the past are keeping me, and the Burner community, from going nuts in these crazy, pandemic times.
    We will meet again, either at an Airpusher event or at the DMV line on Playa, and we will laugh and marvel at the sky once more!
    Thank you!
    Famous Mr. Ed
    camp Oh No You Didn’t!

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    • Jai Hudes says:

      A quantum archive was activated for Burning man this year as support to the continuation of this concept, through the annals of time. We look forward to have you populate your experiences into this virtual Timecapsule, including all art, camps and projects, as well as representing the spirit of BM and its 10 principles. Looking forward to share this epic work, its fractal based holonic browser and synchronicity search engine.

      Who’s best to talk to, to share this work and how best to use it to support this amazing and wacky community.

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  • Eldina Rose says:

    Mark Day! You bring joy, wonder, hilarity and intrigue to so many people, all while experiencing it yourself. It’s magic. I love the way you bring the playa to new folks in such a real and honest way, and bring us old, salty burners back for more of what we love. Thank you for this huge gift you share with the community each year!

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  • Christopher Healy says:

    That captures the experience of being there about as well as I’ve ever seen. Still, a person who’s never been couldn’t watch that and know the feeling of almost vibrating that happens in your body as you see it all in real life–especially the first year which for me was 2012. Beautiful work.

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  • Jai Hudes says:

    Was great to land in virtual Black rock this year with your tour…. was great start to the festivities…

    Great job. You are like the opposite of Where’s Waldo:-)

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  • Susan Gladwin says:

    That was such a beautiful video, Mark. You really brought it home…in every way. I’m so glad I got to meet you on the playa in 2018 for my one and only visit there. Until we meet again.

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  • Condo Ghost says:

    24-Hours 2019 magic as always and ‘well worth the wait’ eight years now. A question: you mention almost all of the Incidental music was By Chris Zabriski. I’m looking to track down the piece that is playing 22:39 through 27:47. Much obliged pointing me in the right direction and thank-you for all the hard work you put in to create all these memories 1999, 2007, 2012 through 2019. Mark Day – you’re a legend!

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