Freestyle: Looking back at Burning Man

Sep. 3, 2013 | 2 Comments

The oasis created by my campmates, with dance platforms, balance wires and hula hoops, "volcanoes" and palm trees, is evidence of the extravagant ingenuity of Burners. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski.)

The oasis created by my campmates, with dance platforms, balance wires and hula hoops, “volcanoes” and palm trees, is evidence of the extravagant ingenuity of Burners. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com

Aloha! I’m away from the playa, but I still have some memories and photos to share. Living through Burning Man has been a strenuous and exhilarating experience, but I believe it was well worth while.

To return to my ongoing theme, for me, Burning Man is a test of what people are able to accomplish with creativity and cooperation — and it is full of staggering examples of what is possible, along with all that partying and playa dust. It’s uplifting for that reason.

Burning Man is also full of messed-up instances, from overcrowding to drunken bro-steppers. It’s a test of how well you’ll deal with heckling, contradictions and true physical challenges.

Art abounds at Burning Man, and some of it is wonderful. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski.)

Art abounds at Burning Man, and some of it is wonderful. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

I find Burning Man most enjoyable when I expect people to contradict and challenge me, because that experience is built into the event.

But I have a new insight: the value of kindness and cooperation.

A photographer set up in Center Camp to provide photos to anyone at Burning Man. The images were impressive, and so were the subjects. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski.)

A photographer set up in Center Camp to provide photos to anyone at Burning Man. The images were impressive, and so were the subjects. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

I focused on the people of Burning Man this year — the people who band together to create art, build solar-powered camps or feed strangers pancakes.

You’ll have to work with a team to make a camp, gather ice and make food, get there and get along. If cooperation and selflessness aren’t part of your makeup, Burning Man might encourage you to reconsider.

This year at Burning Man, I had big conversations with close friends and international strangers, hugged random people, walked for miles, witnessed an unexpected pole dance and a solo modern dance performance, listened to live jazz and concert-scale electro, ate too much vinegary food and not enough vegetables, and experienced the time of my life.

A Pinhole Project photo of The Man in 2013. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski.)

A Pinhole Project photo of The Man in 2013. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

I never saw much to reinforce the official theme, “Cargo Cult,” but Burning Man’s emphasis on creating something from nothing seems essentially linked to the concept.

What would we do if the supersystems we’re enveloped in today — “the grid,” our commercialism — went away? Maybe we’d throw a party and build a new way of doing things in the process.
———
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com or follow her on Twitter.

  • Christa Wittmier

    or nothing would get done ever ;)

    i love your posts and definitely have this event on my bucket list. thank you so much for sharing !!!!

  • ElizabethKieszkowski

    Yo Christa! The work you-all do with Pow Wow Hawaii is linked to Burning Man style – so is the indie scene in Kakaako. Appreciate so much that you’re reading the blog – and maybe we’ll go together next time!