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A fifteen meter high gigantic figure engulfed in flames. Naked men and women walking proudly. More than ten thousand participants under a burning sun. The spirit of ‘No Spectators’. ‘Burning Man’ is a kind of new festival and culture which came about in 90’s San Francisco, the orogin of the hippie and rave movements.

A fifteen meter high wooden doll called ‘Burning Man’ is built up in the awful vast desert as the symbol of this event. Participants camp out surrounding it, drawing a semicircle, and building a new city to last only 7 days. They enjoy performance and rave. The spirit of Burning Man is ‘No Spectators’ and every participant is considered a performer. Performance starts suddenly and in an impromptu manner. This is the great difference between Burning Man and other ordinary raves. Ordinary Raves have a certain form as ‘performer and audience who come to see the performers’. All participants of Burning Man have their own freedom to do anything they like.

We can see lots of great performances there because people who support the underground scene in San Francisco participate in Burning Man. Radical performances like the huge painted cloth being burned by a flame-thrower in the sky can only be seen there. People are walking with nothing on quite naturally and women are forming a line at a barber shop specializing in body and pubic hair. Bicycles are decorated colorfully and a ‘running sofa’ with a motor and tires can be seen running.

This year a Japanese finally participated in a Burning Man performance. He created a tea ceremony room of Rikyu. His attitude of his original ‘Japanese taste’ in the desert received a great ovation.

Click above image for the QuickTime4 Streaming video.

This event was started by two Americans in 1986 and is now a world-scale festival. Media from all over the world visit this festival every year. In such situations, there are some calls saying that the quality of the event has dropped recently. I surely felt so during my participation. But as long as it maintains its ‘No Spectators’ spirit, I think we don’t have to worry.

After dark, neon signs start to light up all around the place and performances start in earnest. Fire dances, flame-thrower, performance play using obscene expressions are plentiful, porn movies. The performance that artificially created a thunderbolt using a loud low frequency sound on a trailer was really surprising. Of course, people enjoy a rave. Dancing under a sky full of stars, the pitch-dark horizon and star-filled night sky was harmonizing and I felt as if I was dancing in the universe.

As the event name shows, the fifteen meter high Burning Man is burned on the final day. This was a terrible scene and more than ten thousand people were going on the spree around the Burning Man being engulfed in flame. Then this one week event finished.

Click above image for the QuickTime4 Streaming video.

Today we can participate in various raves. Club events are being held every night all over the world and outdoor raves are being held somewhere every week. But now, I’m wondering when this style started. We’re audiences who pay admission charges and there are DJs at clubs and raves. From the commercial point of view, rock’n’roll and techno were dead. So where will the ‘Next One’ come from? Burning Man may get an answer to this question.

Burning Man was definitely a good event which let me think of something like that in desert.

Burning Man Project Official Site

Text and Photo: Yoshikazu Iyomasa
Translation: Mayumi Kaneko
Also visit to Yoshikazu Iyomasa’s Burning Man web site.

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