Burning Man 2009 Evolution: Faces Behind the Burn

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Each year, thousands flock to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create, participate, gawk, and gasp in marvel. A beautiful spectacle, Burning Man is like a Dali painting on one too many psychedelics. For one week, the playa is filled with bright, garish neon lights, sweeping and blinking to all; oversized sculptures or structures of every material, shape, and twisted design; bicycles wholly covered in plastic flowers, fur, and dangling balls of light; and art cars creatively re-imagined to resemble skulls, wagons, birthday cakes, and other creepy crawlies of the night. It is utter wonderment watching a city spring up from nothing into an endlessly colorful feast of pure sights, smells, and sounds… and then just as quickly, melting back into bleak emptiness.

Generally the art receives the most attention, and rightfully so. However, the real charm of Burning Man lies in the transient city’s inhabitants — the performers, artists, even the spectators. Everyone has a spiritual reason and personal story for being there, and most believe in the cleansing power of fire. Watching a piece of newly-created symbolic art go up in flames becomes a mystical experience, a lesson in letting go.

As the largest and most international arts and culture festival of its kind, Burning Man attracts the best fire dancers in the world. Snohomish Brown is one such example. An intellect by day and stilt-walking-fire-breather by night; his performance requires nothing less than dexterity, gall, and more simply, sheer passion to execute. At eight feet high with wide flaming wings, and fuming flames pulsing from his lips, it is indeed an impressive sight to behold. Though mesmerizing and gloriously fun to watch, fire-dancing is definitely sensible only when left to the experts and not the uninitiated.

But more than just performance itself, the philosophy and thorough thought behind his Horus-inspired costume blends pure mysticism and practical mechanics. A true synergistic compromise embodying the spirit of Burning Man, the merging of art and science fully embracing 2009’s Darwin-inspired theme — Evolution!

Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” The only thing he neglected to mention is that humans are capable of dreaming. And in Black Rock City for just one magical week, all dreams have a chance to be manifested into reality.