“Man loves company – even if it is only that of a small burning candle.” – George C. Lichtenberg
The nice thing about hurricanes is that they eliminate pretense. By virtue of their unpredictability, they quickly bring to light the nature of one’s community and of those whom one holds closest to one’s heart. Having grown up in Texas, I have been through many a strong storm. Sandy, however, is the first I will have ridden out alone.
I’m not sure why, but I am actually excited. There is something about the idea of passing little tests in perseverance that gives me a rush. Hopefully this exercise in extreme independence will be enough to satisfy my curiosity for some time. If not, I’ll always have Burning Man.
Burning Man is an annual festival held in the Black Rock dessert. Beginning the last Monday in August and ending the first Monday in September, it is an experiment in camaraderie, self-expression, and radical self-reliance. Aside from the fact that it is a guaranteed one of a kind experience, there are no prizes to guess why else I am intrigued by the event. For starters, there is the unique intersection of social psychology and personal challenge. Then, of course, there is the art.
At Burning Man, there are no guidelines for behavior – it is up to each participant to decide how he or she will contribute to the community. As a result, there is creativity abound, not to mention loads of story material.
Each year, attendees must make one arbitrary theme come to life, whether it is through a large-scale installation, the construction of a thematic campsite, gifts to be exchanged with others, or a homespun costume. One of the more unusual ways in which these themes manifest is “mutant vehicles” – uniquely transformed cars or trucks. It is policy that vehicles which are only minimally altered, or whose primary function is actually transportation, are prohibited and off limits. Personally, I find this to be one of the cooler rules of the event.
I have heard that, “trying to explain Burning Man to someone who has never been is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.” After seeing Hector Santizo’s documentation of the experience, I can appreciate how that may be the case.
Santizo is a two-time veteran of Burning Man, and his photographs are simply mesmerizing. There is an ethereal quality to Santizo’s sand-speckled pieces — a compliment to the fantastical elements naturally present in his environment.
What I like most about Santizo’s work is the way it appears to be entirely candid, despite its truly deliberate composition. Whether or not a week-long test of survival in a desert sounds appealing to you, chances are you will enjoy Santizo’s depiction of the experience. If you yourself have ever been to Burning Man, I would love to hear your thoughts. Perhaps you will see me there, too, next time around.