Burning Man isn’t for the faint of heart. Those that attend the weeklong art and music festival must prepare to conquer life in the Black Rock Desert. And while there is always a symbolic ritual burning of a large wooden man at the end of the festival, no one expects to have his or her property vandalized and ruined.
Sadly, that’s exactly what happened this year. According to the festival’s blog, this is the first entry that’s been submitted by a patron who was affected by some serious destructive behavior this year.
As told by a member of Iron Monkeys, a Seattle-based metalworking group that has brought art to the playa for nearly 10 years, their shop space was vandalized in the middle of the night.
“I have never directly experienced vandalism or destruction of art on playa to the degree I did this year. I have heard stories of such behavior and witnessed art being damaged due to carelessness or inebriation, but never this,” Karen Shults says.
Of course with a festival of this caliber there’s always some debauchery to be expected, but the severity of this act, along with rumblings of some other destructive actions are definitely something the festival organizers don’t want to become a tradition.
Following this first post, the Burning Man blog shared an open letter to the public around the highly publicized vandalism of White Ocean, a plug-and-play camp that often times has a negative stigma as it promotes an unwanted atmosphere of exclusivity. This closed camp, along with a few others, is constantly under scrutiny because it typically houses luxury accommodations for musicians and celebrities.
Regardless of the perceptions of the White Ocean camp, Burning Man has allowed the group to share an open letter to all parties affected by the vandalism acts. It’s here that they set the record straight on a number of things, including what the press got wrong.
“A band of hooligans raided our camp, stole from us, pulled and sliced all of our electrical lines leaving us with no refrigeration and wasting our food and, glued our trailer doors shut, vandalized most of our camping infrastructure, dumped 200 gallons of potable water flooding our camp,” reads the first statement made by White Ocean on their Facebook page.
The letter goes on to say that the White Ocean camp shouldn’t be considered a target or scapegoat for negativity and blame. They offer that they are always welcoming to those that are respectful and polite – offering food, bathrooms and even showers to those that ask. They also claim that they fed over 5,000 people this year, only 2,800 of those meals belonging to the White Ocean campers.
“Our magical society needs to learn how to stand united not divided, to show compassion not hate, to spread love and understanding. If we can show the world that side of us – while there’s so much attention focused on our community because of all this – we could send a powerful message.” And that message is for love and forgiveness.
Regardless of your stance on these high-profile campsites or the festival as a whole, the vandalism issue that plagued the 2016 festival can’t be an ongoing concern festival goers have to take on. The attendees need to band together to truly stand for what the festival represents.
“And that is art, communal effort and innumerable individual acts of self-expression.”