The ABC’s of Burning Man with Andrew Jorgensen

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All images by Andrew Jorgensen for The Confluence

Written by Stephanie Rosa

Although its been a little over two weeks since the man burned, the pain of leaving what so many of us call home still lingers. In an effort to satisfy the longing that I have to return back to my dusty blankets, faux fur Spirt Hood jacket, and beautifully decorated bicycle, I present to you the ABC’s of Burning Man. Combining the 10 Principles of Burning Man, key ‘burner’ phrases, and some help from world renowned festival photographerAndrew Jorgensen, this short yet sweet guide should help spark the best playa memories of 2016, and encourage all virgin burners to take the plunge in 2017. Now, lets get started!


A is for Awakening

Brought to the Playa all the way from Denver, Colorado, this interactive sculpture allowed burners to go inside and view screens with 3D glasses, along with the ability to control the hands on the outside. Those who ventured far enough would be able to find this amazing piece of art.

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B is for Bicycles

There are a handful of things that you cannot live without in Black Rock City. Bicycles are one of them. They serve as a mode of transportation, a way to be lit up at night (don’t be a darktard) and a way to be funky during the day. To get the most out of your experience (and to see as much as possible), a bicycle should be at the top of your packing list.

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C is for Catacombs

Said to be the largest art structure to ever see the Playa, the catacombs were a fully interactive (and climbable) structure this year. Desert dwellers were invited to walk through the catacombs and see what its artists had to offer. Although they were never fully finished, they burned at sunrise on Saturday morning and were joined by a tornado (shown left in the photo below).

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D is for Deep Playa

Known as the area that extends beyond the clock system in Black Rock City, Deep Playa is the place you can venture to find art, popular art cars, and awe at sunsets. Note: a bike is highly recommended if venturing out to Deep Playa!

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E is for Esplanade

While its true that Black Rock City is set up on a beautiful and intricately thought out system, the Esplanade marks the separation of Deep Playa and the city itself. It is full of sound camps, the beginning of all the art and a great view of the man.

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F is for Fireworks

On Saturday night when the man burns, Black Rock City erupts in a joyous celebration. While watching the man burn and the fireworks take off, I had a great conversation with a man named Guardiian who told me that “the man burning is like New Years for burners,” and I couldn’t agree more. We proceeded to talk about our resolutions while watching the beautiful display of fireworks.

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G is for Gifting

While it is true that in Black Rock City money is not accepted, it is a common misconception that you need to bring things from home to trade and/or barter. Burning Man runs on a gifting system. The artists who build and bring art to the playa provide it as a gift for anyone and everyone to enjoy. The camps who have bars attached bring alcohol to throw parties and bartend for all burners. Sound camps make incredible lineups as a gift to those who attend the sets. Gifting is one of the ten principles of Burning Man and its one of my favorites on the list.

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H is for Home

For 70,000 people this year, Black Rock City was home. For about a week, strangers introduced themselves with hugs, friends became family, and a city was fully functional off of the 10 core principles. Since 1986 this temporary community has grown, accepting more and more people into its arms. Black Rock City is an incredible place, and it is home for me.

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I is for Immediacy

In default world, if you’re out at a restaurant (or virtually anywhere) you see friends and family sitting together and playing on their phones. This is just one example of how we have lost touch with the ability to connect with one another. Immediacy, a core principle of Burning Man, tackles that. We’re reminded to stop and smell the roses, to enjoy the now, to live in the now. We’re reminded to jump on trampolines, to dance to music, to sing that karaoke song, to take a booty popping class, and to enjoy the sunrise. Immediacy is what makes Burning Man so beautiful because each year, the surroundings will change.

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J is for Jokers

This year, our friend Tucker Gumber aka The Festival Guy played a crazy joke on everyone at camp Ego Trip. The Funk Hunters came out dressed as Daft Punk and played a wild set that included GRiZ on saxophone. According to numerous articles, Tucker decided to play this joke because he had attended a fake Daft Punk set the year before and loved the energy. For years it has been a long running joke that Daft Punk will play at the trash fence on the playa… I think 2017 is the year.

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K is for Knowledge

The lessons that you learn on the Playa are ones that you will not learn anywhere else. What you take away from a week in the dust is knowledge, and it’s the most amazing gift you’ll be given while in Black Rock City. Your duty as a burner is to take that knowledge and spread it to everyone in the default world to help make a better community where you live.

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L is for Lighthouses

This year, Black Rock City hosted a beautiful cluster of lighthouses, with the tallest one at about 60 feet (thats 20 feet taller than the man!). This interactive art install was meant to be climbed and explored for anyone with an adventurous side.

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M is for Mutant Vehicles

Probably one of my favorite parts of Deep Playa are the mutant vehicles. Each one has its own unique flare, from the size to the music, but they’re to be enjoyed by all. They are not taxis, but instead, moving parties. They’re a fun way to get around and make friends. Hop on or hop off as much as you like to change your perspective of the burn!

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N is for No Trace

Arguably one of the coolest parts about Burning Man is that i prides itself on being a leave no trace event. So what does that mean? At a typical festival, that means that you throw your trash in the garbages provided. In Black Rock City, it means providing your own garbages and means of disposal. Are you a smoker? Bring a tin for your cigarettes. Most theme camps will do MOOP (Matters Out Of Place) sweeps to ensure not even a sequin is on the ground. The idea to leave no trace is what keeps the playa ground absolutely beautiful.

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O is for H2O

Yes, yes… I know I played this letter a little unfair, but I really want to bring up the importance of water in Black Rock City. Many people have heard and believe that water is critical, but some don’t understand exactly how critical this is. Burning Man recommends 1 gallon of water per day per person. And this is just for drinking (not for showering/bathing). Keeping yourself hydrated while out in this desert means having a great and safe burn. There are no watering stations and not many camps will provide water, so make sure to bring enough for yourself.

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P is for Play

One of the best things that you can do on the playa is play: with your friends, with the art, with your look, with others. The playa is the place to explore and play with all things related to you, so take advantage of this time and what is available to you!

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Q is for queue

The best part about Burning Man is being there. The worst part about Burning Man is getting in and getting out. Its true that there is only one road leading into Black Rock City, and its true that this one road can “pulse” at any given time… making your entrance or exit (also known as exodus) an 8 hour journey.. each way. So plan accordingly! Bring a book, load some playlists, meditate and reflect on your journey in or out.

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R is for Robot Heart

One of the most famous art cars on the playa is none other than Robot Heart. Robot Heart is known to travel out to deep playa and play the best techno music that you could hear every night. Its fans will bike around the playa asking each other where the art car is parked on that given evening. Robot Heart will play into long hours of the morning, making it a great spot to people watch as some of the most fashionable burners come to dance here.

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S is for Sunsets

Almost as incredible as the sunrises are the sunsets at Burning Man. One of the best spots to watch the sunsets is the infamous Distrikt, a major sound camp in Black Rock City. Distrikt plays a variety of techno and deep house and is a beloved hot spot to virgin and veteran burners alike.

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T is for Temple

Most people know about the man as a staple to Black Rock City, but almost as important is the Temple. The most religious/spiritual place on the playa is the incredible temple, changing architecture and being burned every year at the conclusion of the event. Several burners come with photos, paintings, letters, and gifts for loved ones who have passed on in this life. They come to mourn and to celebrate life. Most Burning Man weddings take place here as well, and is one of the most important pieces to the culture and community.

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U is for Unique

2016 marks the 30th year that the man has burned. Although the man is typically an upright standalone structure, this year, he was placed on a wheel to represent a clock. The man was unique this year in that he was supposed to spin (although due to some technical errors, he did not). Regardless, it was a different take on the man, and made the burn extra special.

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V is for Victrola

Probably one of my favorite art structures on the playa this year was the 35-foot tall Victrola gramophone. According to a Curbed SF interview, the artists’ idea was to shake up the EDM image at Burning Man and to represent several different music tastes in Black Rock City.

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W is for White Outs

White outs are the dust storms that hit the playa at any time. They are the reason that goggles and bandanas are another necessity for your visit to this magical, temporary city. White outs can block out everything over 5 feet in front of you, and can last for about 30 minutes. It may sound scary, but they’re actually pretty awesome and in my opinion, theres nothing better than dust in your hair.

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X is for Xpression

Biking around BRC and exploring the playa, your eye will catch beautiful costumes, clothing, accessories and bodies. Anything goes at Burning Man because everything is art and everything is beautiful and accepted. You can wear what you want, or what you don’t want. And as a matter of fact, one of the ten principles of Burning Man is radical self expression.

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Y is for You

What makes BRC the most special city in the world? You. Whether you’re an artist, designer, virgin burner, fashion icon or theme camp leader, YOU are what makes BRC what it is every year. And every year it changes along with the theme, the man, and the temple.

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Z is for Zen

This year was my second year in BRC and I was even more amazed this year than I was in the last. I had some incredible conversations, met other worldly people, and had some truly life altering moments. At the end of the week and at the end of it all I experience the idea of ‘zen’, or a total togetherness of my body and mind. I find myself in an environment that is uninhabitable for an entire week, and I gather with some of the most creative and ingenious people on this planet. I am reminded what is important to me, what is important in life, and where I stand with it all. Once again I was transformed in my thinking and as a person in Black Rock City and I cannot wait to head back there next year.

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