Burning Man: Society

ambience Crowd sounds, drumming in the background


We’re in a place where a population of more than 20,000 people moves in and out of the area in just over a week. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. Welcome to the Burning Man Festival, held yearly in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. Out in this expanse, people work hard to create an encampment that has a wealth of artistic expression — newspapers, radio stations, visual and performance art, and plenty of live music.

music drumming

And there’s even a city council. Festival founder Larry Harvey.

“We have a hierarchy. There’s a council, and there are people beneath that and people beneath that. But we never vote. If someone doesn’t like a thing, we’ll talk some more about it. And it’s never led to a deadlock.”

According to Harvey, it’s through this laid back kind of organization that leaders are recognized and social roles are distributed.

“People naturally organize themselves by a kind of organic process. It’s the way culture spontaneously happens. It’s informal, but it leads to a higher level of organization than any conscious plan could. Through a natural process, you gain a voice. And then you have a say in what goes on.”

The week of celebrating, and the year of planning by Larry Harvey and other council members, is highlighted when a wooden statue standing 50 feet tall is set on fire. Shaped like a man, soaked with gasoline, and stuffed with firecrackers, the Burning Man statue explodes in an impressive display that culminates a week of unbridled art.

ambience Crowd cheering, the statue burning

Please visit our website at nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Burning Man: Society

There's nothing quite like the Burning Man Festival, held every Labor Day in a different location. It's a week of uninhibited creativity that comes to a fiery conclusion.
Air Date:09/05/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience Crowd sounds, drumming in the background


We're in a place where a population of more than 20,000 people moves in and out of the area in just over a week. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. Welcome to the Burning Man Festival, held yearly in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. Out in this expanse, people work hard to create an encampment that has a wealth of artistic expression -- newspapers, radio stations, visual and performance art, and plenty of live music.

music drumming

And there's even a city council. Festival founder Larry Harvey.

"We have a hierarchy. There's a council, and there are people beneath that and people beneath that. But we never vote. If someone doesn't like a thing, we'll talk some more about it. And it's never led to a deadlock."

According to Harvey, it's through this laid back kind of organization that leaders are recognized and social roles are distributed.

"People naturally organize themselves by a kind of organic process. It's the way culture spontaneously happens. It's informal, but it leads to a higher level of organization than any conscious plan could. Through a natural process, you gain a voice. And then you have a say in what goes on."

The week of celebrating, and the year of planning by Larry Harvey and other council members, is highlighted when a wooden statue standing 50 feet tall is set on fire. Shaped like a man, soaked with gasoline, and stuffed with firecrackers, the Burning Man statue explodes in an impressive display that culminates a week of unbridled art.

ambience Crowd cheering, the statue burning

Please visit our website at nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I'm Jim Metzner.

music