Saturday, February 03, 2007

Burning Man in Bologna

I saw many memorable things in Bologna on my visit. One of the more interesting was their "Burning Man". This was a contruction, shown here, that was about 40 feet high, and is set on fire on New Year's Eve at midnight. It is a symbol of the end of the old, and the beginning of the new. The man is set up at one end of the biggest public squre in Bologna, Piazza Maggiore. I imagine this is packed with happy revelers on New Year's Eve. There was a large tower set up in the middle of the piazza, with monster speakers. The celebration may be the equivalent of Times Square, on a smaller scale, but with a 40 foot statue burning! The flames must shoot up at least a hundred feet in the air, and must be quite a sight. A bit more spectacular than a crystal ball falling.

I've always wanted to go to the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA. Maybe it's because I missed the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1968, and did not get there until the Fall of Discontent. And then I missed out on Woodstock, having been drafted and dodging bullets in Vietnam in '69. Anyhow, I feel I have to get one of those big festivals under my belt. Of course, Burning Man in Black Rock has turned into a lot more than the one in Bologna.

As a part-time videographer, I would love to be part of the video production crew at Burning Man.
This sounds like a fun and challenging job, and is well desrcibed in a recent issue of DV Magazine. My appearance, of course, is a bit more conventional than that of the featured shooters, Tim Laurel. But I do know how to use a camera and a Mac!

My aunt worries when I am out after dark, and I was not about to roll in at 1 a.m., so unfortunately I missed the lighting of the man in Bologna. According to my almost 94 year old aunt, she remembers going to see the burning man when she was a very little girl, so the tradition must be at least 90 years old.

Both Burning Man in Bologna and in Black Rock were about 40 feet high, and there is a thorough clean up after the event. I went to the Piazza Maggiore at noon on New Year's Day, hoping to get a photo of the burnt and charred remnants. Was I surprised when there wasn't a trace that anything had happened! The piazza was spotless, the layer of sand under the Burning Man was removed, with the stones underneath showing no sign of a fire. You had to look pretty hard to even detect the sand that was covering the stones only a few hours before.

In a similar fashion, Burning Man in Black Rock is a Leave No Trace Event

I aim to do a bit of research on the history of Burning Man in Black Rock, to see if it has its roots in any festivals similar to the one in Bologna, or if it was conceived independently. There certainly seems to be a symbolic connection, though I may not take it as far as a Jungian archetype. How long have the Bolognese have been burning their man, and does this tradition exists in other European cities and countries?

To the right is the Burning Man 2006 poster for Black Rock, designed by Dominic Tinio.

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