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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 14, 2004

Burning Man movie, fashion show at Marks

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Organizers of Burning Man claim it isn't a "pagan event," a "hippie festival" or an "apocalyptic anarchist party." But that's the kind of reputation you risk when 30,000 people from around the world annually gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert a week before Labor Day to create an experimental arts community that embraces gift-giving and the counterculture.

The Web site for Burning Man (www.burningman.com) explains that "to truly understand this event, one must participate." So for the curious, a screening of the documentary "Gifting It: A Burning Embrace of the Gift Economy" might be the next best thing to Burning Man 101.

Ka Pilina, Burning Man's Hawai'i regional group, will host a screening of the film tonight at The ARTS at Marks Garage. The evening will include displays of photographs from past festivals, a fashion show featuring Burning Man costumes, and guest speaker Harley Dubois, of Burning Man parent organization Black Rock City LLC.

The screening is the first of several Burning Man-related events Ka Pilina would like to organize locally to raise awareness of the annual gathering.

"This will be an introduction to what Burning Man is all about. The first of our urban-style events," said Andrew Cuniberti, of Ka Pilina.

The group's Hawai'i events are still in the planning stages. Ka Pilina counts 150 members statewide.

The Burning Man festival was founded in 1986 by Oregon landscaper Larry Harvey and a small group of friends who gathered on a San Francisco beach to burn an ornamental 8-foot wooden man. That spontaneous act of what Burning Man now calls "radical self-expression" became the group's calling card. Eighteen years later, the party has moved inland from the beach, its participants annually make it the world's largest temporary city, and the wooden dude that gets torched is five stories high. Burning Man's annual budget is more than $5 million.

Participants pay anywhere from $165 to $250 to visit and commune in a commerce-free city of more than 450 theme camps and art installations.

Creative names of these temporary structures at Burning Man 2003 included Barbie Death Camp & Wine Bistro, Flatulence Amplification Research Team and Tom Jones Roller Disco. This year's Burning Man takes place Aug. 30 through Sept. 6 with the overall theme "Vault of Heaven."

Cuniberti has attended six Burning Man gatherings since 1996. Ka Pilina plans to host its first-ever theme camp at this year's Burning Man.

"There's nothing you can really compare it to," said Cuniberti, attempting to offer a desert-level view of Burning Man.

"You're guaranteed to see things you've never seen before. There's 30,000 people who each bring something that they've been working on creatively."

These include experimental aircraft, fleets of art cars, costumes, music and performance pieces, laser shows and more. DJs from all over the world spin nightly.

"During the event, it's like Las Vegas (at night)," said Cuniberti. "There's lights everywhere."

Ka Pilina's screening of "Gifting It" starts at 7 tonight at The ARTS at Marks Garage. Entry is $10 ($5 if you participate in the fashion show.) Get more information at 521-2903 or www.kapilina.org.

Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8005.