Massive NYC Effigy Will Go Up in Smoke at What Might be the Last Burning Man Festival Ever

08/31/2011 4:08 PM |

Burning Mans last stand?
  • Burning Man’s last stand?

Bushwick denizens Kat and Jesse Green will set aflame an epic 12-foot model of New York City for the sake of setting aflame an epic 12-foot model of New York City at what might be the last Burning Man Festival ever at the Blackrock Desert in Nevada (now through Sept. 5).

The product of eight months of hard work with the help of many volunteers—including at least one biomedical engineer from DUMBO—will burn to a crisp this Sunday for the first ever “Circle of Regional Effigies.” For the 25th anniversary of Burning Man—an impromptu weeklong temporary city of creatives and contrarians—event organizers have invited regional groups across the country to light up effigies representing their home base in the biggest coordinated bonfire in the festival’s history. Coming from the biggest city in the nation, Kat Green told the Times, “We’re going to have the biggest effigy.”

The Times reports that the structure will include:

“Metro cards, re-creations of four city bridges and a 20-foot-wide map of the subway —- without the G train… Before it combusts, it will emit the shrieks of children in Central Park and the grumble of a jackhammer… A tree — like the one that ‘grows in Brooklyn’ — will rise from the map. And on its branches, leaves, covered with menus for takeout Chinese food, will flutter in the desert winds.”

Neither politics, nor protest (nor reason, really) factor into the lighting of this effigy—the customary precursor to a good ol’ tar and feathering—though the work does take a few light jabs. Staten Island and New Jersey are shrunken down to mere slivers and the G train, of course, “doesn’t exist,” Jesse Green tells the Times. “If you’ve ever spent any time waiting for the G, you know that.”

This year marks the first time ever that the festival has completely sold out. Last year upwards of 51,000 ‘burners’ showed up, even though the Bureau of Land Management permitted them an average of 50,000 participants per day. In July, Larry Harvey, one of the original founders of Burning Man, announced that 2011 would be the final year of Burning Man.

“When we realized we’d actually sell out this year I had an inkling this was the end,” he said. “When it was clear demand would outstrip supply and market forces came to bear I knew that there was a strong possibility people would abandon the ethos of the event and turn to profiteering by scalping tickets, offering tourist packages and other practices we’ve been opposed to since the beginning.”

Tickets, which start at $210 and climb to $360 further in the summer, are being scalped for upwards of $500 a piece. The festival, which prides itself on fostering a temporary “alternative economy” based on the barter system—trading drugs, art and any other sources of hippy sustenance—actually brought in over $10 million a year to the local economy, according to the Times. In recent years, the state of Nevada has even permitted a temporary FAA-designed facility called Black Rock City Airport to shuttle festival-goers to what is a barren desert for most of the year.

After this year’s festival, the company that runs Burning Man, Black Rock City, L.L.C., will be transitioning from a for-profit company to a not-for profit. They say they will attempt to “continue to promote the festival’s ideology throughout the year.”

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