“Be As Weird As You Want”: Enchantment Brings Burning Man To New Mexico (More Or Less)

Enchantment Brings Burning Man To New Mexico (More Or Less)

Mike Smith
5 min read
ÒBe as Weird as You WantÓ
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I have never been to a Burning Man event, but in a lifetime filled with hitchhiking, travel and stays at both communes and compounds, I have heard a lot of relevant stories. And pretty much all of them have sounded incredible. We were staying in a three-masted, solar-powered pirate ship when someone got the idea of using the ship for a joust. … Or, And then right by our bonfire, a crowd of pantsless women (and one guy) went by on bikes with the seats replaced with sex toys. Or, Somehow I missed the second half of the event and ended up on a plane to South America to study shamanism …

Burning Man began in 1986 as an experiment—an experiment in self-reliance, radical-but-respectful communal living and artistic expression—that came to involve thousands of people moving into the northern Nevada desert and setting up a temporary city—the sort of city only a hive of deeply creative people would ever think to construct—then celebrating, dancing, playing music, creating art, burning a massive Zozobra-style effigy—and then taking it all apart, packing up and leaving the desert as if nothing at all had ever happened.

“So why spend money to create art, take time off work and travel across the country to spend a week (or more) in the blazing heat of a barren desert?” asks Satya Conscious Kalling, a Burning Man veteran and legendary figure in Albuquerque’s electronic music scene. “Because Burning Man is the single most concentrated point of positive energy of the world. It’s the only place in modern society that encourages radical self-expression. … So wear a tutu over your zebra striped jumpsuit. Cook bacon naked for strangers. Juggle fire on a dance floor. Climb everything you see. Attend a rope-tying workshop. Participate in a guided meditation. Be as weird as you want and still feel completely accepted by everyone around you. This is what I believe the basic nature of humanity is outside of the boundaries of a society that shuns difference: love. And I have never felt so much love as I have at Burning Man, among 60,000 people motivated to be there by and for love.”

Burning Man’s national, annual events have since spawned similar regional events across North America, Australia, Europe and Africa. New Mexico will host one not far from here—Enchantment—and it looks as if it will offer much of what the national events offer but with perhaps a smaller and more intimate feel. On the weekend of July 3 through 6, artistically minded denizens of this city, of Flagstaff, Ariz., and of elsewhere, will be taking to the desert en masse. A last-minute change has moved this New Mexico event to, er, Arizona—to Witch Wells, Ariz., near St. Johns, about three and a half hours from Albuquerque, just a few miles from where I once spent a months-long desert hermitage. I can tell you from personal experience that the area is beautiful.

Every Burning Man event is based around 11 principles, and this event will be, too—the principles of gifting, or giving unconditionally; of decommodification, of refusing to reduce every item and action to a product and a service; of radical self-reliance; of radical self-expression; of communal effort; of civic responsibility; of leaving no trace; of participation; of immediacy; and of gratitude. Burning Man exemplifies anarchy not as the punk nihilists of the late-1970s might have envisioned it, but more as early American communal leader Josiah Warren might have seen it—as a place of peace, respect, love and acceptance. Also, of music. And fun. And weirdness.

Enchantment, a four-day event, will feature among other things and events, “theme camps” and “mutant vehicles.” Theme camps are participatory, interactive and created to engage everyone. These might range from a miniature golf course to an instructional bar to a pirate-themed cove to a fire-art display to a chakra-alignment workshop to any experience that any participant might want to create to share with others. Many of these theme camps are staged inside absolute masterpieces of artful architecture—every year and every event is different, but it’s anyone’s guess whether you’ll find yourself in what looks like a fleet of mirrored UFOs or a towering spiral made of sticks and natural materials. (Enchantment will also feature Novarium, a “sound camp” featuring some of the Southwest’s best electronic music.)

Mutant vehicles are elaborately designed art cars, and they are just as ambitious and impressive as the theme camps—these vehicles might look like impossible bus-sized animals, steampunk locomotives, a house being towed by a tractor or anything at all. It’s the art and the effort put into Burning Man events that make each one so much more than just another hippie gathering in the desert.

“So we invite you, and everyone in New Mexico to come join us in radical inclusion and radical self expression at Enchantment—New Mexico’s regional burn event,” says Kalling. “Bring your band, bring your art, bring your turntables, bring your juggling balls, hula-hoops, funny costumes, anything you want to share, and come experience the love that changes lives. Let’s create a little slice of Burning Man together.”

This Independence Day weekend, consider taking part. It sounds delightful and so weird and fun. Go to
enchantmentburn.com for all the details you’ll need regarding theme camp registration, volunteering or getting tickets. Bring food, shelter, adequate gear and sunscreen. And then, go out into the desert. And get some Burning Man stories of your own.

I think I’m going to.


Thursday through Sunday, July 3 through 6

Witch Wells Ranch in St. Johns, Ariz.

See enchantmentburn.com for detailed location information.

Tickets: $25 to $100; children under 12 free if accompanied by adult.

Safety note: Enchantment is a self-reliant event. Bring everything you will need to survive in the desert, including water.

ÒBe as Weird as You WantÓ

It’ll be just like this. But different.

Image courtesy of enchantmentburn.com

ÒBe as Weird as You WantÓ

Conscious Kalling encourages radical self-expression and positive energy.

Photo by Joy Godfrey

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