// 2012, Personal work

Burning Mill at Magneet Festival

I have wanted to return to the Burning Man festival (Nevada, US) since 2001 – so this year I decided instead to bring the Burning Man spirit to the Netherlands. I proposed the idea to the crowd-sourced Magneet Festival and for the duration of the festival (four weekends) we had a Burning Mill, a Tree of Light and a wonderful theme camp that was Art, Event and Festival Co-creation all in one.

To classify this project as a social campaign is being creative about labeling, but this project deserves it. The Burning Mill is an awareness event, an extension of the Burning Man branding values, a social media and close-and-personal communication experiment on the ethos and philosophy of Burning Man.

Burning Man core values, being adopted by festivals and social movements around the world:

Radical inclusion, gifting, decommodofication, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy.

The Man goes up in flames in front of a crowd of thousands and symbolises the temporary state of everything, starting fresh, the combustion of old ideas and birth of new ones, a symbol of radical self-expression.

I decided to give this year’s Burning Man theme (Fertility 2.0) a uniquely Dutch interpretation: the ubiquitous Windmill, which has turned otherwise unusable land into fertile soil across the Netherlands. With help from friends and volunteers, we built the windmill, set up a desert-like social camp and brought in a ‘Knufelcaravan’ (Hug Caravan).

People could interact with the Windmill for the first two weeks by writing a dream, a thought, a wish, or a message they wanted to ’send to the Universe’ once we burned the windmill in a symbolic and spectacular ritual involving fire, music and acrobatics. They could also receive, pick-up and pass around ‘knufelknufels’ from the Hug Caravan and find out more about the Burning Man principles.

The Burning Mill camp was a success. Visitors interacted, played, laughed and became at ease – and turned up in a massive crowd the night of the Burn; a heartfelt, emotional ritual of cleansing by fire.

The next weekend we brought the Tree of Light, a bark tree we planted on the site where the windmill had stood, and mixed the ashes of the windmill with the soil of the tree. From the ashes grows new life, and we made ribbons available for people to write the name of loved ones, those who stayed and those who left – and those who were just born, to send them this renewed energy in symbolic gesture.

Once again the ritual of planting the tree and writing names (and hanging tiny clogs for babies born in 2012) proved to be touching and beautiful, making an impact in all those involved.

We finished the Festival by creating a shading structure around the Tree that glowed at night (with two blacklight cannons) and making available white sheets where people could paint with fluoro-reflective paint. It was also a massive success; give people a chance to paint with glow-in-the-dark paint, and they will take it. On the sheets, on themselves, on their clothes.

I believe this project brought something special to everyone who participated, and to Magneet Festival itself: a participatory event, a happening, a social space where the audience became the players rather than consumers – and where everyone had a chance to walk away with a new perspective on life.

For more pictures, please visit http://burningmill2012.wordpress.com

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