As an expected 45,000 people pack up for Burning Man, which starts Monday in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, The Examiner caught up with one of the men who started it all in 1986 on San Francisco’s Baker Beach. The weeklong festival of self-expression, self-reliance and art has become an international event, but still draws heavy participation from the Bay Area.
Give us a sneak peak of this year’s art. It will be big. They’re already installing a piece called “Big Rig Jig,” two oil-tanker trucks that twine around each other vertically. It looks like a strain of DNA. It will be immense and intricate at the same time, an exquisite thing.
How has Burning Man changed — both for the better and the worse? For the better, there’s actually more participation than when it was small. There are more theme camps per capita, more art, more interaction — there’s just more of everything we come to value most. For the worse — for those who don’t like a big city, they might not like it because we’ve become a cosmopolitan place complete with our own international airport. I guess the only thing that’s vanished is the feeling of being a moat in the middle distance — when you’re pushing up against the horizon and feeling infinitesimally small at the same time, that’s near mystical.
Is there a place for introverts at Burning Man? Yes. At the back of the city, we have walk-in camping where your nearest neighbor will be many feet away. You can commune with the stars and enjoy a relative amount of quiet. There should be a place for the quiet-minded, but if you’re really seeking silence, I wouldn’t come to Black Rock City.
Check out more 3-minute interviews from our San Francisco newsroom.