Burning Man 2013 Theme “Cargo Cult” Released: What does it mean?

Every year we all wait patiently for the Burning Man theme to drop. Back in 2012 the theme wasn’t announced until February making many burners pretty anxious, especially those planning large scale art projects and BM grant proposals. This year we’ve received the theme pre-Christmas (did the late release of last year’s theme and the subsequent community pressure have anything to do with this early drop?) and we’re even getting a glimpse at the Man structure. We wanted to get the initial response of Burners everywhere and see what they thought about this year’s theme.

The 2013 Man Base. Pavilion design by Lewis Zaumeyer, illustration by Andrew Johnstone


Before getting a real chance to process the informational blurb we asked burners,

 “What do you think Cargo Cult means?”

Laura Rubin – NYC

Dan Fried said it best: “Cargo Cult is about using things that you find without understanding them, just relying on their magic abilities, so that when they break or malfunction, you have no idea what to do.” This is one of the best themes in the past few years. Unforseen gift culture: unforeseen. It’s in the not knowing, that empty space, that we truly have to rely on our creativity.

Jungle – Kostume Kult

I would have preferred “Kult” and any way, since I always over pack, cargo cult makes sense to me. (and what’s with the silence re: tix- last year they had that December pre-sale)


Andy LostMachine – Clockship Tere
I actually kind of like it. I made this Flkr photo pool of just cars overloaded on the way to the Burn, including my truck. Everyone fills up their cars as much as possible and then throws on a couple extra bikes. Cargo Cult rings a bell, we bring millions of pounds of stuff to a desert for one week and then we take it all back. Maybe for an art car this year we’ll just drive to the desert and we won’t unload, we’ll just drive around with our shade structure stuck to the side of the truck.


Captain Shaggy2k – Space Pirates
Cargo Cult. This theme illuminates the Burner association with transporting massive amounts of stuff. I mean, we shipped our Art Bus Dubstar on a truck with another art car, both packed with even MORE stuff. It’s an accurate theme. Only problem is, to me, it is not inspiring creative of fun. We ship stuff to bring dreams to life, the idea of shipping stuff to celebrate shipping stuff is boring.


EZ Almighty – Disorient/PEX/Space Pirates/Himself
Perhaps this is a critique or a self analytical look at burner culture and Burning Man. Cargo Cult may be talking about the alleged infection of the Bun by rave culture. The cargo is in reference to cargo pants.


Global Ruckus – HookahDome/DustFish/PDX
Three things pop into my head – Han Solo running blaster, David Koresh running UPS and a giant sea bound ship filled with containers run by some apocalypse minded group where they’ve stored all their goods (seeds, food, water) for the end of times….


Tigre Bailando – Raised By Wolves
I have no fucking idea.

Erika Mysti – Disorient/Jersey

Burning Man 2013 art theme announced.. I didn’t understand the theme upon first sight, but after reading a bit further in the post I recognized it from something I first read about in a Carl Sagan book. What speaks to me is the “Myth of Return”. It’s actually a really cool story if you want to get into it. I think the art themes don’t have much bearing on my experiences at the burn but it’s interesting nonetheless.


Truly Stack – Colorado Core 
I love the theme. We will show in grand style that we have not forgotten and we still wait for the return of John Frum. It follows along a belief that hasn’t made me very popular with my very Christian mother-in-law. That in some ways the story of Jesus return is a lot like many other cultures where they wait for their deity to return. That the stories that have been past down makes me think what if all these religions past and present are like Fry’s dog from “Futurerama”. Fry and his dog had a special relationship where Fry took care of him, sang songs of joy with him, walked the same path, was a god to his dog. One day Fry needed to go without his dog but promised that he would be back. Events happened beyond Fry’s control and he was never able to get back to his dog. Finally there was a chance to see his dog again but Fry figured that his dog had moved on and had forgotten their time together. Sadly the dog never forgot the promise and held out hope and stayed in the same place always waiting for his return. He never moved beyond that lamppost. Are WE Fry’s dog always waiting for his return? Are we stuck to our “lamppost” of beliefs as we wait for the return of John Frum? Maybe we need to break our leash and explore what is just around the corner. Or are we doomed to sit and become fossilized?


Consensus at BARmag headquarters- We’re really psyched about those slides coming off The Man space ship. Also we’ve heard that The Man will be rotating on his base. Pretty boss.


PS. What do YOU think about the theme? Let the universe know in the comment section below.
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