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Burning Man Festival Co-Founder Larry Harvey dead at 70 April 29, 2018

Posted by bohdan.warchomij in : Metaphor Online , trackback

SAN FRANCISCO — Larry Harvey, whose whimsical decision to erect a giant wooden figure and then burn it to the ground led to the popular, long-running counterculture celebration known as “Burning Man,” has died. He was 70.

Harvey died Saturday morning at a hospital in San Francisco, surrounded by family, Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell said. The cause was not immediately known but he had suffered a stroke earlier this month.

The Festival has had successful spinoffs throughout the world, including West Australia’s BLAZING SWAN, which I attended for the first time this year on the peripheries of a salt lake near Jilakin Rock near the town of Kulin.

It was a revelation. And an inspiration. Blazing Swan is an annual festival held in Kulin, 300 kilometres away from Perth,  during the Easter long weekend. It’s an official Australian counterpart of the American ‘Burning Man’ event and attracts people from all walks of life – challenging their collective attitude and their philosophies of life.

Upon arriving at the entrance to Jilakin Rock City (the land where the festival is held) my car was stopped by a beautiful woman called Cat with blue lipstick. She welcomed me to Blazing Swan and talked about protocol, the need to ask permission when hugging a stranger and my expectations of the event. The introduction to the festival was communal and positive. And then we crossed into the world of the Blazer.  It almost appears as though a god from an alternate zone has thrown together a circus, a costume shop,  fire throwers and incredibly warm people into a test tube, mixed them up and poured the amalgam out to produce a new breed of human. Mutant vehicles drive around the ground filled with people clothed in wild, fabulous costumes. And sometimes just unclothed and perfectly comfortable. I connected with people I met en route, with friends from my past and taken photos that have engaged me with new friends. Humans seem to be wired for Ceremony. Music connects them. Expression connects them. Creativity and the Burning man concept connects them.

Jilakin Rock City is the informal name of the community and supporting infrastructure and services created each year at Jilakin around the Blazing Swan event. The site has some permanent infrastructure, notably the horse racing track and associated buildings, and the accommodation block known as ‘Camp Hart’. A set of dirt roads are graded for the Bush Races and for the Blazing Swan event, roughly following the same plan each year. The naming of these streets can change from year to year. Generally speaking the site is divided up in to four zones: Art Burn, Theme Camp, General Camping, and Service Areas. Since 2016 the Art Burn zone has been located at the base of Cave Rock, with the Theme Camp zone wrapped around that in a rough semi-circle.

Created infrastructure: the Temple and the Swan Effigy, erect lighting, help install art works, set up the Medical Centre and the Greeters gate.Portable toilet blocks are also brought in, along with diesel generators and power distribution systems in the Theme Camp areas Provision of water, sewerage services, and power to the community remains the greatest logistical challenge and cost to the Blazing Swan organizers. in 2017 over a quarter of a million litres of water was brought onto, and taken off, site by contractors. It is likely that in 2018 the organizers will turn to a full cost recovery model for the provision of electric power to Theme Camps, and further reduce the availability of showers onsite. Some sense of the scale of the operation may be gained by noting that the 2,500 Blazing Swan attendees briefly but significantly outnumber the population of Kulin township (400), and even the entire Kulin Shire (800).

There are Burns like this all over the world. In Africa, in New Zealand, in Ukraine, in Netherlands. The circuit is constantly expanding.

Longtime friend Stuart Mangrum posted on the organization’s website that Harvey did not believe in any sort of existence after death.

“Now that he’s gone, let’s take the liberty of contradicting him, and keep his memory alive in our hearts, our thoughts, and our actions,” Mangrum wrote. “As he would have wished it, let us always Burn the Man.”

The creator of the annual week-long summer festival in Northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert was hospitalized April 4 after suffering a massive stroke. The Burning Man organization did not disclose his prognosis, only saying that he was getting round-the-clock care.

Burning Man takes place annually the week before Labor Day, attracting some 70,000 people who pay anywhere from $425 to $1,200 a ticket to travel to a dry lake bed 100 miles (161 kilometers) east of Reno, where temperatures can routinely reach 100 degrees (37.8 degrees Celsius) during the summer. There they must carry in their own food, build their own makeshift community and engage in whatever interests them.

 On the gathering’s penultimate day, the giant effigy — or Man as it is known — is set ablaze during a raucous, joyful celebration.

“A city in the desert. A culture of possibility. A network of dreamers and doers,” is how the gathering is described on Burning Man’s website.

An “esoteric mix of pagan fire ritual and sci-fi Dada circus where some paint their bodies, bang drums, dance naked and wear costumes that would draw stares in a Mardi Gras parade,” is how The Associated Press once described the gathering.

While tickets now sell out immediately, Harvey described in a 2007 interview how he had much more modest intentions when he launched Burning Man on San Francisco’s Baker Beach one summer day in 1986.

“I called a friend and said, “Let’s go to the beach and burn a man,” he told the website Green Living. “And he said, ‘Can you say that again?’ And I did and we did it.”

It wasn’t until afterward, Harvey recalled, that he had the epiphany that led to Burning Man.

“What really changed my life and what in some sense gave birth to the rest of my life and career is the fact that suddenly all these people, on that beach, who we didn’t know, strangers, came running towards that figure,” he said. “The spectacle was fine, but it was people who joined us in such a heartfelt and instantaneous way. It opened our hearts and that’s what made us feel and know in the end that we had to do it and keep doing it.”

Within a few years the event had outgrown Baker Beach and moved to the desert.

 While Harvey would speak frequently about Burning Man in the years that followed, he would reveal little about himself and it was often hard to discern truth from fiction.
He believed he was conceived in the back of a Chevrolet by parents who abandoned him soon after his birth, he once told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Adopted by potato farmers and raised near Portland, Oregon, he said he hitchhiked to San Francisco at age 17, arriving just as the 1965 Summer of Love was ending.

After that first fire in 1986, Burning Man flourished as Harvey meticulously oversaw its every detail from the various communities that would spring up overnight to its annual arts theme to the beautifully crafted temple that accompanies Burning Man and is also burned.

 He laid out 10 “principles” for those who attend, including interacting and sharing unselfishly with one another, developing self-reliance and, after the event’s conclusion, leaving the desert landscape unspoiled.

Harvey eventually formed a limited liability corporation to put on Burning Man, converting it in 2013 to a nonprofit with 70 employees and a budget of $30 million. He was president of its board and “chief philosophic officer.”


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