For the first time in its festival history, Burning Man announced its cancellation early April due to the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic. While this came as a shock for many, it also presented an opportunity to unearth decades of events and community spirit, and translate it for the digital sphere.
Cue Kindling by Burning Man, a first-ever virtual platform that shares live online experiences, original content and opportunities to ignite projects with artists and the worldwide Burning Man community.
Kindling has already kicked off on June 3 with NOMCON (Nation of Makers Annual Convening) and runs until June 6. It features 60 online sessions, interactive workshops, fireside chats and cocktail hours with a diversity of leaders and more.
Next up is the Everywhere Pavilion, which is known for their live artist talk show on-site in Black Rock City. They have also shifted into a virtual live experience on June 25 with a full rundown of the schedule available on the Kindling website.
It will be interesting to see if kindling can capture the Burning Man spirit online, especially since the man won't actually burn this year. Burning Man began in 1986 when co-founders Larry Harvey and Jerry James gathered with friends and burned an eight-foot-tall wooden figure of a man made of scrap lumber along with a wooden dog sparking a legacy that we now know as Burning Man.
Today the event draws upwards of 100,000 participants who convene for nine days in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada who consider themselves a pop-up community thriving in a surreal dusty metropolis sharing art, self-expression, music and live performances. Overnight, campsites, gigantic structures and sculptures are built by architects and craftsmen on the desert grounds, along with the now 40-foot version of the original Burning Man, which is still set on fire and burnt to a crisp as a ritual to seal off festivities. The whole festival spans 3,410 acres of land and is shaped into a semi-circle known as the Wheel of Time layout.
What sets Burning Man festival apart from renowned music festivals is the non-existence of currency transactions but rather barter exchange for food, water and resources throughout the full nine days in the desert. It has been known for full preparation to take place weeks before arrival with communities preparing their own stocks of food, liquids and camping equipment for essential survival and rest.
While it is expected that the full-scale Burning Man experience may not be completely authentic online in comparison to a live experience on the Playa, it’s evident that the Burner community will be able to shed light on the cultural and spiritual core values to a demographic of curious festival-goers who have yet to experience the culture.
Read more on the impact and innovation from the Burnerverse and Beyond via their Medium account here.