The year 2018 was already a big one for Burning Man, arguably the greatest annual art festival ever. A large-scale installation, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, opened in March at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. Most profoundly, April marked the sudden death of Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, who died from a stroke at 70 years old.
The loss sent ripples of grief throughout the Burning Man community in San Francisco, where it all began 32 years ago. There is no doubt, though, that the party that Harvey started will blaze on, with thousands preparing to descend upon the Playa in Black Rock City August 26 through September 3. The theme: “I, Robot.”
Feeling the burn
Camping for cool kids
Sabrina Buell [art advisor, Zlot Buell and Associates]: We have stayed at a camp called Disorient. It was founded by Leo Villareal, an artist who did Bay Lights, and also another guy
Braving the elements
The burning of the man and the temple
Jennifer Raiser: When the Man’s arms go up, it’s time to burn the Man. There is a huge fireworks show that is craziness and then there’s a huge explosion under the Man that lights him on fire! People just roar! It’s just like you are at this crazy, tribal, nutty thing and then the Man Burns, and the next night is the Temple Burn.
Mark Ritchie [founder of the Bay Area real estate firm Ritchie Commercial]: And that’s super dramatic with all the art cars surrounding the site for the Temple Burn. I don’t even know if it’s a set time, but everything shuts down and everything gets dark — and everybody turns off their lights and it’s amazing. Then the Temple — unlike the Man, which is an explosive fire, like space meets a Hawaiian volcano display — is burned from within. It’s a slow start, a natural start of the fire. It burns naturally. There are no incendiaries.
Ana Roth: When you first see the Temple Burn, you are sobbing. You can’t believe the beauty of it. When you first see the Temple, it is so stunningly beautiful. That’s what David is going for, because through beauty, you can grieve and release and find healing. It moves you so much.