Burning Man Is Going Virtual In 2020 & So Are The Orgies

Noisey Music by Vice – By Drew Schwartz – April 17, 2020

Every year at Burning Man, more than 60,000 people descend on a dusty patch of the Black Rock Desert to erect a small town from scratch, collaboratively shaping it into their version of utopia. COVID-19 has rendered a mass gathering like that unthinkable, and the festival’s organizers called it off—but they didn’t actually cancel it. Instead, they announced they’d be moving the event out of Northwest Nevada, and into “the Multiverse.” Somehow, they’re going to try to recreate the Burning Man experience—of raging your face off for a week, setting a bunch of shit on fire, and then cleaning everything up and disappearing without a trace—online.

We’re not sure how it’s going to come out,” the organizers wrote. “It will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes. It will also likely be engaging, connective, and fun.”

They haven’t released any details about what, exactly, a virtual Burning Man will look like, other than to say that they’re hoping to draw 100,000 participants, and that everyone will need “some kind of ‘ticket.'” Even without knowing what that ticket would be for, several longtime burners told VICE they’re already willing to buy one. The Burning Man Organization might not have a plan for what’s going to happen come August, when the event officially kicks off—but the people who live for it, pouring months of preparation and thousands of dollars into it each year, have some ideas.

On Reddit and Burning Man blogs, they’ve kicked around a number of ways they could build Black Rock City online using Second Life, Minecraft, or some kind of VR software. But the burners VICE spoke to said they’re most excited about the prospect of virtual Burning Man being, essentially, a directory of rooms on a video conference app like Zoom. Instead of entering an IRL “theme camp” like the 7 Sirens Cove, “a pirate bohemia where merrymaking, gypsy lounging, dancing rhythms, and mischief run aground,” you’d join its video chat, put on an eyepatch, and drink a daiquiri—or log into one of hundreds of other themed rooms designed to replace traditional camps. At its best, virtual Burning Man would replicate the feeling of having an infinite number of parties to stumble into. At a minimum, it would give burners like Patrick Daggitt, who’s been to Burning Man five times, an excuse to put on some of their festival gear and let loose.

“Every burner has a tickle trunk full of their costumes. If I do anything on a webcam related to Burning Man, I’ll have my faux-fur jacket on and my flame hat,” Daggitt said. “I also got a Utilikilt last year—that might make an appearance too. It’s this kilt that has these gigantic cargo pockets. All you wear is the kilt. You get the breeze up the underside of it to stay cool. It’s like you’re freeballin’ with a fanny pack on.”

There are parts of Burning Man you can’t replicate on video chat—like, say, splitting a bag of mushrooms with a stranger. But burners are creative people; for better or worse, there are workarounds.

“Should we all get together on our screens and drop acid to have the Burning Man experience? I think people will take that approach,” Eamon Armstrong, who’s been to Burning Man ten years running, told VICE. “But we don’t really want it to be the type of thing where ‘we’re going to have a remote Burning Man’ means doing really large doses of drugs in your home, by yourself. Because that’s dangerous. Also, where are you going to get the drugs right now?”

Some theme camps would be more difficult to recreate online than others. Take the “Orgy Dome,” a literal orgy dome that burners looking for a safe, relatively clean place to have group sex have relied on for years. That’s off the table right now, for obvious reasons—but that doesn’t mean the Dome won’t be a part of Burning Man in some form. For about a month now, Ethan Cantil-Voorhees, who’s on the board of the Orgy Dome, has been throwing “Zoom orgies” to replace the in-person meetups he used to organize in San Francisco. The first one had about 70 attendees. In one side-room dedicated to food play, a woman slathered herself in caramel, and had her boyfriend smear cake on her body while she “got really intimate with a rolling pin,” Cantil-Vorhees said. Meanwhile, someone else in the chat “ate a fresh-cooked steak off of their partner’s ass.” He’d set up a whole slew of kink-specific rooms: One offered tantric sex; another featured a “12-person puppet orgy.” He’s thrown a handful of other sex parties on Zoom, including one that drew around 400 people. He told VICE he could see something like that being incorporated into virtual Burning Man, though exactly what it would look like is up in the air.

“We absolutely will have a presence at Burning Man,” he said. “These parties have evolved a lot in the last four weeks, so five months from now, six months from now, you’re going to see a lot more evolution.”

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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