What Is Burning Man? Inside the History of the 2018 Art Festival

Year after year, thousands of people gather together in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in celebration of art and community for the Burning Man festival. The seven-day event kicks off its 32nd year on Sunday.

Throughout the week, festivalgoers—otherwise known as “burners—will build their interactive metropolis in the middle of the desert while participating in a number of immersive activities based on this year’s theme, I, Robot. The focus of the festival will center on the “many forms of artificial intelligence that permeate our lives; from the humble algorithm and its subroutines that sift us, sort us and surveil us, to automated forms of labor that supplant us,” according to the Burning Man website.

While there will be plenty of experiences and parties taking place over the course of the festival, the biggest event is the annual Burning of the Man ritual on Sunday, during which a larger-than-life-sized man effigy is set ablaze.

The festival started out as just a group of hippies getting together at a dog beach in San Francisco in 1986, but as word of the free festival spread over time, the crowd increased and the event was relocated to Black Rock Desert. Now the festival draws some 70,000 attendees from all walks of life as they gather together for the sake of self-expression and radical inclusion in a completely judgemental free zone.

Since money isn’t accepted during the festival, burners have to bring their own supplies like water, food and any other goodies that may help them survive a week in the desert. Bartering for good and other desires among neighbors is highly encouraged as the festival thrives solely off community and fellowship.

Granted, access to the festival is no longer free. Tickets for the event this year were priced at $425.

Burning Man launches on Sunday and will run in Nevada until September 3.

What is Burning Man? Revelers dance around the burning remains of a 52-foot tall wooden man during the 15th annual Burning Man festival September 2, 2000, in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada. The 2018 festival kicks off on August 26. David McNew/Newsmakers/Getty Images

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