Burning Man 2020 goes house fire, wooing potential global audiences

Yeah, we know. You can’t go to Burning Man this year, and it sucks.

But maybe not entirely.

Burning Man, the mac daddy, mac mama and mac baby of cultural events / festivals / raves / touchpoints, normally takes place in the Nevada desert at the end of August. But when the event in person was canceled this year due to COVID-19, the organizers took care of setting up a virtual festival recreating many highlights and adding another type of sizzle.

Everything is meant to be experienced from the comfort of your own home, or at least from a safe social distance. And what he loses in the privacy of Black Rock City (the temporary town of 79,000 people that is Burning Man’s desert home) he catches up in creativity and potential global reach. Anyone in the world with a device can be a virtual burner.

From home work to home burning

Each year, Burn has a different theme, and “In a Twist of Synchronicity” reads a statement from the Burning Man Project, the theme for 2020 was already to be the Multiverse, the astronomical theory of an unknowable number of universes. apart from ours. “We weren’t all sure how multiversal things were going to become truly.”

Kim Cook, director of creative initiatives for The Burning Man Project, calls this year’s Burn “a great experience.” Just as Burning Man has become a “global cultural force” (the Art of Burning Man exhibitions have set museum attendance records in Washington, DC, Cincinnati and Oakland), Burn 2020 can be an unexpected opportunity to push the boundaries. creativity with technology.

“We’ve all now become familiar with Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype or Google Hangouts,” says Cook, “but that doesn’t mean we all had a satisfying experience with engagement and interactivity. “

She therefore calls virtual Burn “a laboratory of digital interactivity, and that’s super interesting”. The designers created a multiverse of experiences across 10 platforms, “all expressing their version of” what interactivity looks like in the digital space? “”

The offers range from gargantuan to quite intimate for your garden, balcony or bathtub. Some are best experienced through virtual reality headsets, while others require nothing more than a wearable device.

Iconic experiences recreated

Take the temple, one of Burning Man’s iconic experiences. Normally it is a gigantic wooden structure with a different and grandiose architectural design every year.

Visitors to the temple are encouraged to write directly on the wood and leave offerings – notes, objects, mementos – conjuring up things they are trying to work on: “Memories of loss and change, from divorce to death, to pets, to personal identity changes, says Cook. The community can walk inside, contemplate offerings, meditate on the sandy ground, come into contact with its own spiritual side. Then, on the last night, the temple and all it contains are burned in a cathartic, climaxing conflagration, surrounded by crowds watching in hushed silence from a safe distance.

For the 2020 virtual temple, called the Ethereal Empyrean Experience, Cook says the creators have stayed true to Burning Man’s ethics of participation. Visitors can upload their own digital offerings, “audio files, text files, photos, images – then decide whether they want to let others see it or not and put it on the temple.”

At the temple opening on August 30, she said, “You can have a virtual experience inside the temple and see what people have left,” over 1,000 virtual offerings to date. Then on September 6, in the spirit of the annual Burn Temple, the creators will virtually destroy the virtual temple in real life: hardware, software and data.

If the temple is one of the heaviest experiences, another, Sparkleverse, looks like an online map of digital gathering places. Sparkleverse creator Ed, who calls himself “a holiday philosopher,” says “you can connect in all the ways humans want to connect, in all the ways we deserve to connect,” such as chatting with friends in a virtual jazz club or virtual hot tub, while riding the virtual playa on a virtual bike and maybe uploading your own content.

Other experiences span the photorealistic landscapes, art, parties, theme camps and DJ sets of Burn himself, through BRCvr, Burn2, Infinite Playa and MysticVerse to random encounters amidst the drawn aesthetic. by hand of the interactive Build-A-Burn. On September 5, when the namesake Man would burn normally, Burn Night: Live from Home features plans to build your own two-foot-tall effigy to burn at home.

Across the multiverse

Entry to the experience is a portal called Ignition; if you don’t have a Burning Man profile, you’ll need to create one, and you’ll want to check the technical requirements in advance for the content you have chosen. Some content requires payment, but most does not, and other content works with donations.

In addition to the creativity that pushes the envelopes of the Multiverse, there are dozens of opportunities to come together, experience, play, and learn, echoing the offerings during normal Burning Man. Some are serious (virtual reality social relations workshops on how to run for political office), others are playful (build your own man to burn – safely, please – wherever you go). be), fun (DJ sets, virtual bar parties, online puzzles and games) and other silly (we think – like the porta-pot simulator). And just like during Burning Man, a lot of the fun is wandering around the site and meeting unexpected people.

Longtime burners may find all of this balm for a burn-free summer, and for the curious, this is a low-impact way to check it out. And, says Cook, while until now the Burning Man experience has only been possible in person in Black Rock City, “now it could suddenly be available internationally.”

My favorite thought about the 2020 experience comes from Stuart Mangrum, host of the The Burning Man Live Podcast: “If social distancing is the answer to the pandemic, Burning Man just might be the answer to social distancing. “


For further : To see how the cancellation of Burning Man 2020 in person is impacting life in the nearby town of Gerlach, Nevada, click here.

About Chris McCarter

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