Burning Man's 2014 theme: Caravansary

The annual arts festival says its 2014 theme will be "a bazaar of the bizarre." And for the first time since 1997, the Man will rise from the desert floor.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
2 min read
The 2014 Burning Man theme is 'Caravansary.' Burning Man

Burning Man has announced its 2014 theme: "Caravansary," and that The Man is returning to its roots on the desert floor.

The counterculture arts festival's theme changes each year, with past events focusing on things like Fertility, The Seven Ages of Man, the Green Man, and many others. Many artists choose to build their projects around the themes, while others ignore it altogether.

In a blog post, organizers of the annual counterculture arts festival wrote that:

This year we will create a caravansary that occupies the crossroads of a dreamland: a bazaar of the bizarre wherein treasures of every sort, from every land and age, flow in and out to be flaunted, lost, exploited and discovered. This is not a tourist destination, but a home for travelers who come here bearing gifts. Amid the twisting and the turnings of its souk, participants will come upon an inexhaustible array of teeming goods and unexpected services. Anyone may pose as 'merchant' here, and anyone may play a 'customer', but nothing in this strange emporium shall have a purchase price -- no quid, no pro, no quo -- no trade at all will be allowed in this ambiguous arcade. According to a rule of desert hospitality, the only thing of value in this 'marketplace' will be one's interaction with a fellow human being.

This, of course, is in keeping with a key tenet of Burning Man philosophy: No commerce. While ice and coffee are both for sale at the event, nothing else can be bought for money. Burning Man is a gift economy, meaning that even barter is frowned upon. Instead, participants are meant to give freely and have no expectations of anything in return. The joy is in the giving.

For the first time since 1997, Burning Man's signature art piece, The Man, will sit directly on the Black Rock Desert floor, rather than on a platform. Burning Man

What may be of even more interest to longtime burners is that for 2014, the Man, the giant wooden effigy that sits in the middle of the huge desert space the event takes up in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, will for the first time since 1997 be placed directly on the ground. Since then it has been on increasingly higher platforms, and many have complained that it has become unreachable, both physically and psychologically.

An artists rendering of this year's Man shows people wandering around its base, so that should not be a problem this year.

Also today, Burning Man announced that it is partnering with San Francisco-based Ticketfly for ticket services. That job is always a challenging one. Two years ago, Burning Man suffered one of its worst-ever crises when that year's ticket system, a lottery, resulted in many longtime burners and artists not being able to get tickets. In the end, the Burning Man organization sold 10,000 additional tickets directly to those people, who were deemed essential to the event's continuity and success.