The Playadox – Reflections on Burning Man

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“The pink-blue light at dawn and sunset only accentuates the surreal beauty of the desert and the conglomeration of weirdness it contains. It really was jaw-dropping, impossible to compare to anything else that exists on the planet…”

Then again, where else do you find the ‘Leave No Trace’ philosophy executed with such diligence, making the event a world exemplar of civic responsibility? Apparently The Playa is left even cleaner after the event than before, due to the two-foot high ‘trash fence’ that encircles the perimeter, not only preventing litter blowing off into the desert, but also any litter blowing onto it. 


Compare that to the millions spent on cleaning up after Glastonbury every year.

I felt immensely grateful for the having had the opportunity and, given the chance, I would always recommend it to anyone seeking to go. The artwork is astonishing, from giant pulsating psychedelic jellyfish to cathedrals of stroboscopic lighting; the vibe is extraordinary, with every manner of weird and wonderful deviation imaginable; there is some incredible music, when and where you manage to seek it out; and the whole event is suffused with a surprisingly ironic and surreal sense of humour – such as The Prize Cock, a strikingly authentic small English pub, complete with hilarious quirky messages pinned to the wall, my favourite being a ripped piece of A4 paper with an inscription reading: Missing – half a poster


with the other half of the paper pinned to the adjacent wall.

Perhaps the most indelible impression of all however, is the awe-inspiring sense of ingenuity, commitment and dedication, from thousands of people pursuing no other agenda than their collective contribution to the spectacle – and to have a thoroughly good time in the process. It would just be that much more impressive if they could green their act up a bit.



May 2019 Rory Spowers MONK

photo credit: Saskia Manners

2 thoughts on “The Playadox – Reflections on Burning Man

  1. Another coruscating Spowers’ essay from the imaginarium. Playadox revealed beneath the pyrotechnics. Says a lot about contemporary America too.

  2. Really interesting to read a balanced account. I have a friend who loves this event and lives for and by it every year. The eco aspect is rarely highlighted, nor the conformity element, in accounts I hear. All in all it probably shows that any ‘utopia’ is going to end up with similar problems experienced in our very un-utopian capitalist system – so more ‘research’ (= participant observation) is required to work that out!

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