Like a zombie outbreak, Burning Man culture is exploding to pandemic proportions. Many of us are still fighting to make sense of the ticketing chaos. To those of you who have not yet secured tickets, my heart goes out to you. I understand how stressful, depressing, and infuriating a situation this can be; as I did not receive a ticket in the initial sale, through the STEP program, nor through our art grant proposal. To those of you who have secured tickets, congratulations, and good luck with all of your projects and with all the late nights that are surely coming. I think this year will be unlike any other (but aren’t they all?). So much press, so many noobs, such a fiasco with tickets; are all sure to cause many vibrations. But just as it is with any culture, that which does not destroy us will only push us forward. New horizons, new influence, and new energy are hurdling toward all of us. It is time to embrace the change.
This change is already appearing in the realm of regionals like Apogea – Colorado’s official Burning Man event. Apogaea, or APO, is in its eighth year. The event is still young and growing, but just like Burning Man, it has hit its maximum occupancy – a clear sign that Burner culture is a powerful thing. Last year was my first at APO, and it was a complete and utter blast. The event is very similar to the world of Black Rock City, and at the same time, VERY DIFFERENT. The principles are the same, but the size, the vibe, and the environment are their own. Being a Colorado native, I can’t even remember when I was first exposed to camping. Since my childhood, I’ve been quite fond of the mountains and of camping in them. Last year, Apogaea was held at Fhloston Peak, on private land, east of Bailey, CO. This was the first year that the event was not thrown at Happy Ass Ranch. From what I hear, the new location was quite an improvement. And what a truly beautiful location this was. To anyone who loves the outdoors, the mountains, the fresh air, the beautiful pines, and magnificent rocks; camping in Colorado is something you NEED TO DO. Not to mention camping at Apogaea, with 1,100 burners. If you let it, the mountain environment will kill you just like the alkaline deserts of home, only much more slowly, and with less vigor. For more general information on Apogaea, check out the beautiful newly designed website: Apogaea.com.
Brown Paper Tickets fulfilled logistics and handled sales of APO tickets this year. As with the Burn, ticket sold out immediately. Unlike the main lottery, tickets were sold out in a matter of hours instead of minutes, but still wildly fast. The tickets for Apogaea are non-transferrable, an element that many in the Burn community have voiced as being a clear and simple solution that BMORG should have used. The possible pros of this process, in my sometime less than humble opinion, FAR OUTWEIGH the cons. Yes it prevents people from gifting tickets, and for those of you who have read my previous articles on gifting, you know how important gifting is to the culture and the experience, as well as to me personally. Non-transferrable tickets do not prevent anyone from gifting tickets; any person who would like to gift tickets can simply gift the money for the ticket in place of gifting the actual tickets. Non-transferrable tickets almost completely inhibit the ability for scalpers to molest the system; and, more importantly, safeguard against the increasing commoditization of tickets. There are always ways to manipulate things, but for the majority, scalping of our culture, our friends, and our family would be prevented. There is also concern that providing ID to get into the city would be an invasion of privacy, and contradict the principle of Radical Inclusion. This is completely wrong. Everyone HAS IDs, and requiring ID to enter is not an intrusion of privacy. If you are flying on a plane to Nevada you have an ID. If you drive a car to Nevada you have an ID. If you are riding in a car, you most likely have an ID. Providing ID is not an invasion of privacy, and I for one would be glad to show mine at the gate to heaven, if it meant no one would be paying upwards of $1,000 for tickets. Regardless of how terrible my ID picture is and how much it makes me looks like a drug-dealing-scum-douche-bag-of-a-thug, I would happily do it.
The growth of Burning Man culture is a very interesting and complex thing. There are many facets to this new spurt and I believe the Internet is principally responsible. My first year on playa was 2007, so in a vast majority of the culture, and even in my own eyes, I am still a noob. I wasn’t there to see the drive-by shooting range, the ten-story ladder, or a hundreds of other projects. The positive effects of this growth are as obvious as the negative ones. The plus side includes a true realization of radical inclusion, and an exponential wave of change. The more people who think this way, and embrace art, the better. The main negative outcomes are the desaturation and possible decrease of the potency and power of Burning Man.
In my opinion, the latter will never happen, the explosion of regional events is a testament to that. Almost every state has a regional Burn, and that, in itself, is evidence that we as a culture are a part of something special, and are responsible for the creation of an antidote to the mind-crushing, soul-destroying default world. This culture gives us the power to change things, and to take the lessons that we learn home with us. Maybe next year BMORG will take some direction from the APO planners and use a direct headshot on the ticket-problem-zombie. I sure hope so. Lock and load BMORG, it’s your move.