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article imageA Digital Journalist at Burning Man 2013 Special

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By Brett Wilkins     Sep 4, 2013 in Arts
More than 65,000 art and music enthusiasts from all over the globe, including this Digital Journal contributor (for the fifth time), gathered in the high Nevada desert for the annual weeklong experiment in participatory community known as Burning Man.
Burners from near and far re-created Black Rock City (BRC), for a week the fifth-largest city in Nevada, under this year's theme, 'Cargo Cult.' Some were part of large theme camps; others braved the unforgiving desert environment on their own or in small groups, but all Burners united under the Ten Principles enumerated by Burning Man founder Larry Harvey. Foremost among these are radical inclusion, radical self-reliance, decommodification, self-expression and participation.
And oh, how they participated! From constructing 'mutant vehicles,' also known as art cars, and mind-blowing art installations, to throwing legendary parties day and night, gifting, another of the Ten Principles, is a way of life in BRC.
an art installation at Burning Man
an art installation at Burning Man
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Burning Man art installation  BELIEVE
Burning Man art installation 'BELIEVE'
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Some theme camps, such as Kostume Kult, are built around gifting; in this case, giving away hundreds, if not thousands, of free costumes. Other camps gifted morning coffee and pancakes, ice cream, pee funnels, massages, yoga lessons-- even simultaneous wine and spankings.
Kostume Kult  a Burning Man theme camp  gifts free playa costumes.
Kostume Kult, a Burning Man theme camp, gifts free playa costumes.
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Costumes are an essential part of the Burning Man experience.
Costumes are an essential part of the Burning Man experience.
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Burners  costumes really come alive at night  when various modes of illumination are often employed ...
Burners' costumes really come alive at night, when various modes of illumination are often employed to increase visibility and style.
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Playa gifting takes many forms  such as this sensual  Buffer Zone  at Spanky s Wine Bar.
Playa gifting takes many forms, such as this sensual 'Buffer Zone' at Spanky's Wine Bar.
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On the playa, as the desert which hosts the event is known among Burners, art comes in all sizes. Art is even mobile in BRC, with incredible mutant vehicles, often themed, seemingly floating across the flat, dusty ancient lakebed.
A favorite art installation at Burning Man towers above city residents.
A favorite art installation at Burning Man towers above city residents.
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The Christina  a perennial mutant vehicle favorite  is a converted 65  yacht.
The Christina, a perennial mutant vehicle favorite, is a converted 65' yacht.
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Nautical-themed mutant vehicles are common in BRC. It is a surreal experience to witness a ship-of-t...
Nautical-themed mutant vehicles are common in BRC. It is a surreal experience to witness a ship-of-the-line sailing out of a whiteout dust storm towards you in the middle of the desert.
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As with much of the art in BRC, mutant vehicles are often at their best after the sun sets beyond the mountains. Below is a YouTube video of the 'Pulpo Mechanico,' a steampunk octopus that's fast become a favorite among Burning Man attendees.
Although mutant vehicles are a great way to get around the playa, most BRC residents rely upon bicycles as their primary means of long-distance transport. And some of the main destinations are the many parties, big and small, thrown day and night throughout the city.
Bikes are Burners  primary means of long distance transportation in BRC.
Bikes are Burners' primary means of long distance transportation in BRC.
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Distrikt  a popular day party destination in BRC.
Distrikt, a popular day party destination in BRC.
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Boogie down days at Distrikt.
Boogie down days at Distrikt.
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Of course, the biggest parties happen from dusk 'til dawn, when tens of thousands of Burners dance the nights away to dozens of superstar international and regional DJs like Paul Oakenfold, Deekline, Kimba, Subsqwad, and Bootie's Adrian Roberts, and lesser-known artists like DJ Vaughn, who rocked the party at Spanky's Wine Bar, an S&M-themed wine bar camp on the Esplanade.
Osiris  one of the larger sound camps in BRC  featured a DJ lineup which included Deekline  DJ Dan a...
Osiris, one of the larger sound camps in BRC, featured a DJ lineup which included Deekline, DJ Dan and Major Lazer.
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DJ Vaughn with the author in the Bordello  Spanky s Wine Bar
DJ Vaughn with the author in the Bordello, Spanky's Wine Bar
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BRC night skyline
BRC night skyline
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It's not all about partying at Burning Man. There are also many theme camps dedicated to spirituality, healing and just chilling out. The Temple, arguably the second-most prominent structure on the playa, is a place of quiet contemplation, reflection and remembrance of loved ones who've passed on over the course of the year.
The Temple is a place of reflection  meditation and remembrance.
The Temple is a place of reflection, meditation and remembrance.
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Inside the Temple
Inside the Temple
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Burners of all ages gather in the Temple  one of BRC s most spiritual spaces.
Burners of all ages gather in the Temple, one of BRC's most spiritual spaces.
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The 'main event' at Burning Man is the annual Saturday burning of The Man, the towering, centrally-located effigy that's been the focal point of the event since Larry Harvey burned the first one on Baker Beach in San Francisco more than a quarter century ago. This is followed by the burning of the Temple shortly after sunset on Sunday, a solemn and cathartic affair that marks the beginning of the end of the Burn.
Denizens of Black Rock City gather in anticipation of the burning of the Man.
Denizens of Black Rock City gather in anticipation of the burning of the Man.
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Fireworks light up the sky around The Man just before he burns.
Fireworks light up the sky around The Man just before he burns.
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The Man burns!
The Man burns!
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The Man Burns!
BRC residents gather for Sunday s Temple burn.
BRC residents gather for Sunday's Temple burn.
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The Temple burns.
The Temple burns.
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Attempting to describe Burning Man to one who's never been is a bit like trying to describe a sunrise to a blind person. Although it may sound cliché, it is truly a life-changing experience. Burning Man is many things to many people, but the tens of thousands of Black Rock City residents who unite in the dust each year, from wide-eyed "Burgins" to grisly veterans like this reporter, know that they're part of something truly special, quite possibly one of the greatest gatherings of humanity on earth. If you've never been, my one word of advice to you would be simply... go!
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