Burning Up

Burning Man will proceed as normal, with some digital side content

Black Rock City from the air in 2013. (Duncan Rawlinson/Flickr)

Despite the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic and numerous restrictions across the U.S. intended to keep people indoors and away from each other, Burning Man organizers have announced that Black Rock City 2020, the 50,000-plus strong temporary city built in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, will rise after all. This year’s festival, themed “The Multiverse,” will be held from August 30 through September 7.

While that period might seem far off, planning and erecting the monumentally scaled art pieces that will adorn the mesa takes time. In the interim, the festival’s organizers, as they noted in the Burning Man Journal, have had to close their physical offices and cancel a number of pre-events. The Theme Camp Symposium, for example, where congregants can share their ideas for bettering this year’s event, has been moved to a Zoom meeting on March 28.

Of course, the assurance that Burning Man 2020 will move forward was offered cautiously, with a warning that while the novel coronavirus could level off before the summer, it was entirely possible that things wouldn’t return to normal by then. Still, the call has been put out for Multiverse Civic Design Plaza proposals; organizers are looking for ways to utilize the four main sites around the base camp and “create imagined space-station landing sites and teleportation lift-off platforms for Black Rock City citizens who travel through the Multiverse.”



The 2020 Black Rock City Honoraria Grants are moving ahead as well. Seventy projects will receive funds from the Burning Man Project, as well as promotion, heavy equipment, tickets, and other non-monetary support.

“This year, the artworks will reflect our love of PLAY (Play with Your Food, Chilopod, Loop, M- Theory Mechanica, The Möbius Harp, Small Hadron Collider); our sense of PLACE (from planes to trains to the Cosmos); and our love of the WEIRD (Though the Mind’s Eye, Mebuyan, The Autumn Spire, The Anomaly).

The Multiverse theme inspired a fun range of creative interpretations. Among the most original, the Ukrainian artwork Merman will be an 80’-long human figure, swimming and emerging from the playa surface, startling us into realizing that other realities may be coexisting and layered upon our own. Schrödinger’s Rat turns the classic thought experiment on its head, Unbound deconstructs a library, and the Multi-Verse pokes fun by having Burners compose multiple verses of songs and poems (ha, get it?).”

A render of a pointed temple in a desert with wooden canopies that feature cutaway patterns.

Empyrean will be the official temple of Burning Man 2020, which begins August 30. (Renzo Verbeck and Sylvia Adrienne Lisse)

As previously reported, this year’s 200-foot-diameter Empyrean temple will take center stage at the festivities. The star-shaped structure will stretch to 70 feet tall and house an electric “flame” at its tip, guiding burners across the playa.

Related Stories