Each year it draws more than 60,000 creatives, free spirits and the just plain curious to a sprawling campsite called Black Rock City, so large it can be seen by orbiting satellites.
One of the traditions of the festival is to do something extravagant and gift it to the gathered ‘community’. Selling things isn’t allowed, but your contribution could be a week’s worth of sandwiches, coffee or cold drinks, free haircuts, design -them-yourself t-shirts and, yes, even sex.
One of the most celebrated gifts of Burning Man is the art – larger than life pieces that inspire awe, installations you can write, sit or climb on, and constructions lit by any and every kind of light from neon to solar. At the end of the festivities, all of it is taken away or set alight wiping the desert slate clean for another year. The scope and ingenuity of the installations by amateur and professional artists from around the globe is a vital part of the whole experience and, up until now, most people have only seen it in person or through holiday snaps.
This hefty book features the only authorized collection of more than 200 images from 1986 to the present day. Enlightening interviews with the artists give some insight into the way the assembled ‘Burners’ interact with the geography of the desert and view the wide open space of Black Rock as both a metaphorical and actual tabula rasa, with no expectations and no limits on where their imaginations can stretch.
It may only capture only a small flicker of the clever, awesome, and occasionally weird world of Burning Man art, but as armchair experiences go, it is both inspiring and simply beautiful to dip into.
BURNING MAN: Art On Fire by Jennifer Raiser, Scott London and Sidney Erthal, Race Point Publishing, £21
This review was published in the November 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine