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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Journey of Fire: Burning Man 2011 Rites of Passage

Guest blogger and fabulous friend Onnoleigh Sweetman shares her thoughts about the upcoming Burning Man festival. She will be traveling to the deserts of Northern Nevada to participate in the week long art, music, culture, and shamanic festival that brings out thousands of participants from around the world. Through the eyes of Onna we will experience a festival for the ages...

Burning Man 
August 29 through September 5, 2011
For more information - 

Journey of Fire: Burning Man 2011 Rites of Passage
A two part series of a journey to Burning Man
written by Onnoleigh Sweetman

Bins, boxes, fur and disco balls line the walls and hallways of my two story apartment in downtown Las Vegas. Reminder notes of last minute shopping and to do lists permeate my mirrors and numerous facebook invites surge my phone with reminders of the countless parties that will take place in a remote desert next week. It’s that time once again, a time when thousands from all over the world, will make a trek to the Black Rock Desert to create the only homegrown city and event of its kind. Burning Man.

I prefer to call Burning Man “Utopia”. A sort of magical place where the misfits and madmen go. A place where people of all kinds come to play, build, dance, burn and most importantly, renew. An almost ten year veteran of Burning Man I find every year to be a pertinent lesson in many areas of artistic and spiritual development. Each year the “playa” has graciously and not so graciously handed me a stern lesson in detachment. Not surprising coming from an event whose artists and performers spend nearly an entire year in preparation only to burn most the art and leave the desert with no trace of human existence at all. The “playa” (as most burners call it) has a way of downright kicking your ass at any sign of forced control, but will bless you in all its glory once you surrender within the dust. This has been evident every time I have gone searching for someone or something, gave up, and then less than a minute later was handed exactly what I originally was searching for on a dusty silver platter or electro thumping art car.

But behind this magical place and Utopic society, there must always be a mass intent for the gathering of the tribes. A reason for co-creation, a reason to provoke emotion and stir up the organized chaos…Which brings us to this year’s theme. “Rites of Passage”. This year, countless burners, performers, dj’s, artists, sculptors and participants will explore this theme of transformation and transition through all types of media and art. The vision? “To remove us from the context and the cares of daily life, confront us with our vital need to be, and then return us to the fellowship of a society.”- burningman.com

And at Burning Man you can do just that. With no cell phone service, no television, and no internet, “BM” is a perfect opportunity to deprogram one’s self from social media and the digital age.

With that being said, if you are one of the record breaking numbers of the 75,000 attending the festival this year, take heed. With extreme temperatures during the day, hour long white outs and extreme temperatures at night, you might want to read the survival guide and familiarize yourself of what it takes to survive a week with no running water and no corporate stands to purchase from. And with the ten principals solidly in place, principals of radical self expression and radical self reliance become a term of endearment. Burning Man isn’t for the weak of heart; I see it for those that are restless at heart. Most these burners are restless with the mundane life of the 9-5 job, restless with the mediocre, and restless with conformity. It takes a die hard to rough it in a tent for a week and a downright warrior to spend 2-3 weeks setting up camp only to tear it down and start over for next year.

Most notable Las Vegas based theme camp is Black Rock Syndicate headed up by Ronnie Brust and Brett Rubin-who in my opinion spearheaded most the spirited interest in bringing together the Las Vegas burner community the past couple of years. Ronnie Brust, or Chicken as he likes to be called, describes Syndicate as “A day sound oasis featuring some of the brightest music producers and DJ’s on the playa with climbable structures, shade, libations and one amazing sound system”! It’s also not a bad place if you like to listen to the live music stylings of artists such as DJ Dan and Donald Glaude. Another LV based camp is “Classic Candy” founded by the most solid of artists Mike Pierce. Classic Candy is a visual odyssey combining classic rock and cutting-edge visuals right in the heart of the esplanade.

So many things to see and experience in the magical dust of Burning Man and with only one week my ultimate Bucket list have been created. My picks for this year are Scott Kraske’s “Final Passage” art sculpture which will host a meet and greet created by my dance company Nytronix Entertainment and will be associated with a 60 person snail art car called the EZCARGO. (Had to throw myself in there). Next up is the movie premiere of Electronic Awakening directed by Andrew Johner, a movie screening that lifts the veil on an underground spiritual movement that has developed within electronic music cultures worldwide. Also on the list is Reno favorite The Rhino aka Johnno Lazetich who can be seen rocking the decks at the District, Black Rock Syndicate and sunrise sets on EZCARGO. In addition is the first ever CORE project and regional burn of effigies where the Vegas burners spent the summer constructing a Showgirl that will burn on Thursday night amongst other core projects.

And last but not least is The Temple. This year’s temple theme is most eloquently themed The Temple of Transition. For anyone that hasn’t been inside the temple at Burning Man, one word and one word only can describe this honorable art project and that is Reverence. Filled with pictures of loved ones that have passed on, letters and notes, the temple is sanctity of solitude and heartfelt tears with respect of all that pass through. Originally created by David Best, the temple is a perfect place to write on its walls your fears, your sorrows, your grief and let them all burn away the night of temple burn. This year I take a very personal trek to the temple. Within a three week time span in April my Mother, baby nephew, and dear friend passed away. This year I will make a heartfelt trek with two friends to honor them all and most notably say goodbye to a mother that raised me to be the artist and woman I am today. A mother that helped me pack and prepare every year for Burning Man and had hopes of attending the festival someday. With prior experiences in the temple, combined with this year’s theme, I know that this experience will be a transition and rebirth all of its own. The temple is a prime example that Burning Man itself is not just a party or drug fest but a cleansing of the soul. And as with the burning of the man, the ashes will undoubtedly rise again.

And so in five days, I make my next venture into the unknown and my own rite of passage where I will dance, laugh, cry and experience all the wonder and magic the desert has to offer all the while chronicling the entire experience day by day, and night by night. So stay tuned folks, the next article will be the after burn report. )’( From the dust we came and to the dust we shall return and emerge new beings of light- Onnoleigh Sweetman

Onnoleigh Sweetman is a Las Vegas based director, performer and writer. Founder of Nytronix Entertainment and The Sin City Fire Dolls she works throughout the valley constructing avant-garde events and boundary breaking performances. www.nytronix.com

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