What Burning Man Is (and isn't)
Burning man is different for everyone and there is no single way to explain it. I will try here to define it, but by necessity it will be in broad terms and pretty much just my opinions.
- An art festival - when there you will be immersed in art pretty much non stop. Sculpture, paintings, poetry, costumes, music, and performance art, to name just a few as well as art that is hard to assign a genre to. Furthermore, much of the art (not all) is interactive in some way and designed to engage you - unlike art in most museums.
- Although opinions vary my art education leads me to believe that Burning Man is very much a resurgence of Dadaism. More information on the Dada Movement may be found here for those not familiar with it.
- It is to a very real extent a temporary autonomous zone (although not to the extent it originally was). Many of the rules from the outside world do not apply there (some do though). Nudity is common, public intoxication is common, other than actual suicide attempts if you choose to do something that puts your health or life at risk no one will stop you (unless it also endangers others). It is a very free place but many default world rules are enforced - drug laws, speed limits, serving minors, DWI laws, and public lewdity laws to name a few.
- It is an exercise in radical self reliance. Although someone will usually help you out if you forgot to pack something, showing up radically unprepared is a sure way to wear out your welcome fast.
- A place where the weather can go from idyllic to hellish in seconds.
- It is like a circus where the entire audience brings an act. Burning Man is about participation.
- A place where you will get out only as much as you put in. Spectators and tourists gain nothing other than maybe a few interesting photos.
- It is the worlds best party.
It Is Not
- A music festival in any way shape or form. Although music is art and there is plenty of it, music festivals are a completely different animal.
- A Rainbow Gathering. Although there are a fair amount of Rainbow family folks that attend - it is a completely different thing. Much RG behavior such as bartering is considered uncouth at Burning Man.
- A bucket list destination - If you consider it a bucket list thing that makes you a tourist and not a participant. If you don't want to be an active participant please stay at your own home and don't bring your personal brand of "loser" to my home.
- A drugged out hippie orgy. Regardless of how the media portrays it, alcohol is the most popular intoxicant there. Drugs happen, sex happens, but at about the same percentage you would expect in any city of 70,000 people.