One explanation for burning art at Burning Man is that it reflects the impermanence of everything in life. Things don’t last forever; they decay and fall apart. Fire speeds the process along. You have construction and you have deconstruction. Let go. It’s an Eastern philosophy that has made its way into western thought.
But fire has it’s own attraction. We are drawn to its beauty and danger like moths. Our brains are hard-wired with the fascination of watching things burn.
When I was growing up, my father served as a volunteer fireman. He was an electrician and it was his job to show up first at fires and disconnect the power to burning houses so firemen didn’t have live wires bouncing around. That explained his presence at the fire… but not that of his wife, three kids and cocker spaniel.
Mother never missed a fire in our small town. It didn’t matter if we were in the middle of dinner or it was 3 AM. Pop was out of the house and running for the fire station when the siren went off. Mother was gathering us up and dashing for our well-used car. Tickle the Dog jumped in first.
I’ve often wondered if Pop found our presence embarrassing. I do remember him telling Mother once that he preferred that she not be the first car behind the fire truck, which is where she liked to be.
Mother would have loved the excitement of watching things burn at Black Rock City. I suspect that the majority of Burners are closer to her reaction to fire than they are to the philosophical and psychological implications of deconstruction and Zen.
Still, there is a definite release of emotion at the climax of a fire when the structure finally crashes down, when ultimate deconstruction takes place. It was powerful feeling when I was growing up and it is powerful at Burning Man.
Burning Man 2012 added a new twist to its art of burning (or burning of art). Over thirty effigies built by regions from Lithuania to Maine and placed in a circle around the Man were put to torch simultaneously on Thursday evening. It was a spectacular event. Those responsible for creating the art were responsible for burning it.
Because the burn was spread out over a large section of the playa, spectators had a front row seat as is demonstrated in the photo at the top of this post.
Members of the Horse-Bone Tribe ended up focusing on two of the effigies: Kokopelli and the Lighthouse. Punkin Beth and Adios Tom’s home in Davis California is crammed with Kokopelli art. Peggy and I wander the West photographing Native American rock art including Kokopelli. All of us love the rugged coast of Northern California and its lighthouses.
The following photos feature the burning of the Lighthouse, Kokopelli and other nearby art.