Burning Man is an annual week-long experiment in temporary community. Dedicated to anti-consumerism and self-expression, the Burning Man art festival, which attracted more than 35,000 participants in 2005, traditionally culminates with the burning of a large wooden sculpture of a man.
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Burning Man was founded in 1986 when San Francisco artist Larry Harvey gathered a small group of people on the Summer Solstice to burn an 8-foot wooden structure of a man at Baker Beach. Today, Burning Man is celebrated on an empty lake bed in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. For six days in late August, "Black Rock City" exists as a self-sustaining community. On the seventh day, the residents of the temporary community break camp, taking care to "leave no trace." Burning Man, which costs over $8 million dollars to run, is supported by ticket sales. (In 2006, a ticket at the gate cost $350.) A team of six people, led by founder Larry Harvey, plan and oversee the festival. Profits from the event are invested in creating the following year's festival.
Unconventional forms of self-expression (like performance art using light or fire, nude body painting or the creation of "Mutant vehicles") are integral to the Burning Man experience. In 2005, Burning Man featured over 275 art projects, 485 theme camps, an extranet , intranet and a WiFi network that provided the entire area with connectivity. In Black Rock City, all commercial activity is forbidden and is replaced by the adoption of an extensive barter economy and the practice of "gifting." Due to the harsh conditions of the desert, a comprehensive survival guide that emphasizes the importance of self-reliance and preparedness is provided to all prospective residents. Civic responsibility and communal effort are of special importance. Volunteers and a limited number of paid employees contribute to the creation of the physical community, including telecommunications infrastructure, fire management, waste control and the immense clean up efforts that follow. Total cleanup, a requirement of the Bureau of Land Management, can take as long as a month.
Burning Man has grown with the Internet as a populist movement and is sometimes seen as a concrete version of the free wheeling, "anything goes" spirit of the early Internet. The festival has inspired many of the Web's founding technologists with its ability to generate personal connections that transcend traditional divisions of age, income, geography and class. Past "burners," as participants are known, include Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Brian Behlendorf, the primary developer of the Apache Web server and Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive.