By now, we’ve all been informed (against our will) that the sticky, muddy, porta-potty dumpster fire that was Burning Man 2023 has officially dissolved itself after less than an inch of rain over the Nevada desert prevented over 70,000 festival attendees from leaving or entering the temporary Black Rock City encampment. The festival touts itself as a week-long experience that claims to be all about “radical inclusion, de-commodification, self-reliance, self-expression, and leaving no trace.” Those tenets manifest in thousands of wealthy White people sporting box braids or loc extensions and clad in “Dune-inspired” festival outfits that somehow necessitate Native American war bonnets. They flock each year to the campsite from their STEM jobs in rented RVs and private jets to trip on psychedelics, dance and have sex with each other in and around shitty art installations, fulfill brand sponsorships, and gather to watch the annual effigy burning.

Not to mention that main sale tickets alone range from $600 to $3,000 … Now, I’ve never been to Burning Man, nor do I claim to fully understand what it actually is meant to be about, but that simply won’t stop me from hopping on the bandwagon of hating on it based on pictures and vibes alone, and I invite you to join me. Let us wade through the mud together to appreciate some well-cooked memes steeped in the misery and ridiculousness of porta-potties at capacity, stranded Instagram models and tech bros rooting around in the mud, false Ebola reports, mutually hated climate protestors, excessive cultural appropriation, a spectacular amount of waste and vehicles left behind, and the oxymoron that is the festival’s aims versus its attendees:


Hey! We flew into burning man on a private plane. Come to our plug and play! #burningman

♬ original sound – Amanda MCCants

This was a tough watch, wasn’t it? This should at least help you understand why Burning Man is so polarizing between attendees (or “Burners”) and haters. For context, the “playa” is the dried-out lake bed in the northwest Black Rock desert that the festival encampment situates itself on, and “mooping” refers to the Burning Man term “MOOP,” which stands for “Matters Out Of Place” — any object not originally on or of the desert. Though, if anyone knows what a “plug-and-play” is in this context, feel free to let me know.


Burning Man Is Hard Work 🤷🏻‍♂️ @brettcombest @RoadsharkRVrentals #burningman #burningman2023

♬ original sound – DANIEL MAC

“Burning Man is all about getting out of your comfort zone” is what many techies must’ve told themselves.

Speaking of techies, what’s funnier than Elon Musk falling for this shitpost using footage from a Balenciaga (sorry, “Balengiaga” per the community notes) runway show? He asserts that Burning Man is the “best art on Earth.”

(screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @morgan_sung on X)
(screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @JordanUhl on X)

Two sides of the same coin, aren’t they?

Jump scare warning (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @adamjohnsonCHI on X)

This must be what the Burning Man Project means when they said “radical inclusion,” right guys? Right???

In case you weren’t aware, “radical inclusion” also means including cultural and racialized aesthetics into your temporary festival look for “protection against the drying, alkaline dust” during drug-induced Instagram photoshoots. Because French braids just don’t photograph as well, do they?

Now, let me put some respect on Herman Wakefield, vintage furniture repairer and scathing meme poster who has been carrying the weight of Burning Man’s muddy chaos on his back through several meme dumps on his Instagram account @northwest_mcm_wholesale. I took the liberty of sifting through nine sets of his Burning Man meme slides to hand-select my favorite ones just for you!

With festival tickets at ~$600 minimum, how much do you think kiln fees will cost? (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @northwest_mcm_wholesale on Instagram)

Evidence of societal regression over the last century.

The real example of self-reliance and radical inclusion, obviously … (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @northwest_mcm_wholesale on Instagram)

Now, I know there’s a difference between King penguins and Emperor penguins, but do you think some MDMA might help boost Emperor penguin populations after the grim numbers this year due to habitat loss?

The week pass costs $3,000, but the imparted wisdom is priceless. (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @northwest_mcm_wholesale on Instagram)

Plot twist: I don’t need to go all the way to Burning Man to experience this … I just need to leave my home. Also, what’s Joe Biden’s solution to this?

Sounds about White, doesn’t it? (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @northwest_mcm_wholesale on Instagram)

It’s really fun to watch Burners get so bent out of shape trying to defend themselves against any criticism or misunderstandings about their, uh, participation in the festival. Especially because they always bring up their experience without prompting … Which leads me to this:


🙏 for anyone stuck in one those conversations #burningman2023 #burningman #humor

♬ original sound – Sam Morril

Once when I was attending my cousin’s wedding, a White guest told me she had never been to India before, but she had been to Burning Man so she felt prepared. “India’s the real Burning Man,” she told me in all seriousness. No, I don’t know what that meant. And yes, I felt trapped.

(screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @Bacchylides2 on X)

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...

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1 Comment

  1. No comments here leads one to believe Hyperallergic readers don’t care or don’t want to reveal their inner burning selves. But that’s merely speculation. The truth is Burning Man is to borrow a phrase from the article a “dumpster fire” of a bad idea. The Black Rock Desert is a distinctive beautiful place never intended for massive amounts of neohippie self-indulgence. The numerous compounds containing the “best” trash art sit in and around the towns of Empire, Gerlach and the desert playa like prisons where bad art is meant to live out its life sentence. This stuff is definitely alien to this otherwise amazing and forbidding landscape, yet there it sits, untended for eleven months out of the year waiting to hatch like body snatching cocoons. Driving up to the playa from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation would typically be breathtaking, except when stuck behind semi after semi of containers carrying Burning Man fixings while burning plenty of fossil fuels to make the nearly 2 hour trip up from Interstate 80 in Fernley. Nothing says “I really don’t belong here more than a pretend hippie in a 100K camper- or flying in on a winged penis- which apparently some people do. I spent a day in Gerlach and on the playa this past July, and which the playa is preferable as the Burning Man industrial complex in Gerlach is a constant reminder that you have to have a lot of money and spare time to look this shitty.

    While much is made of cleaning up and leaving no trace, the aforementioned chain linked compounds of crap (we really must overcome the urge to live on old painted buses belching unfiltered exhaust) are there year round and every year more crap makes its way to the playa. Oh and then there is the burning man itself- I suppose it pollutes less when you’re most fully self-actualized.

    What’s more interesting is the geologic history of the place and the evidence of indigenous habitation for the past 10,000 years. The playa, the dry lake bed that is Lake Winnemucca, and Pyramid Lake were all connected at one time in a wondrous system of lakes with unique species of fish which, along with the big horn sheep sustained the Paiute and their forebears for thousands of years. The loss of these resources, much of which occurred, once the whites came west looking to make their fortunes is something to be burned about. As it stands now, Burning Man is akin to dancing on a grave, something billionaire bros seem to do particularly well.

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