Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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4 / Ceremony and Society

Burning Man Effigy
Burning Man Effigy
Artist / Origin American artist
Region: North America
Date Early 21st century
Material Wood, nails
Dimensions H: approx. 40 ft. (12.19 m.) (without plinth)
Location Black Rock City, Nevada (temporary community)
Credit © C. Lyttle/CORBIS

expert perspective

Tavia Nyong’oAssociate Professor of Performance Studies, New York University

Burning Man Effigy

» American artist

expert perspective

Tavia Nyong’o Tavia Nyong’o Associate Professor of Performance Studies, New York University

Burning Man is sort of a newly invented ritual, and its origins have some connections, some argue, to the summer solstice. There is no preconception, according to the organizers, as to what forms of creativity that will take, and it often looks like a festival, or a rave, or a neo-counterculture to people who are encountering it for the first time. So the purpose, number one, is to kind of foster that and experience that for the duration of Burning Man, but then to leave Burning Man with the memory of that. And people then go on to identify as ‘burnees,’ and there are ways of incorporating Burning Man into your life that go beyond just those eight days. And so in some ways it fulfills—in a modern Western setting—it fulfills a lot of the conditions that we associate with non-Western societies of an annual event that becomes a kind of time and place set apart from daily life. I think it is very important that Burning Man comes to a very empty space, and it leaves it as empty as it was when it arrived. So this notion of a whole city appearing and disappearing more or less overnight is very important to that sense of a temporary experience.” 


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