Ruining what we can only imagine would have been the greatest fucking week of the coronavirus’ massively disruptive life, the organizers of Burning Man have formally announced tonight that their collective living space/art project/viral incubator will not go into operation this year. That’s right: For the first time in 42 years, pilgrims will not congregate to form Black Rock City in the Nevada desert this year, cultivating a sense of human connection, a deeper feeling of spiritual oneness, and also just a tremendous amount of human piss and shit.
But never fear, collective sparkleponies, darkwads, and shirtcockers: Burning Man will still exist, switching itself over to—and this is a direct quote from the event’s web site—”The Multiverse,” where its organizers are hoping to build a “Virtual Black Rock City” online. There’s even a site up for it already, although it’s mostly a survey right now of the various forms the event might take, including invitations for users to host interactive events, lead workshops, and, amazingly, “Bring my Burn2 camp out of Second Life,” because did you know that Second Life already hosts a virtual Burning Man festival every year? Wonders, they never do seem to cease.
Meanwhile, there is, unfortunately, also the nasty matter of commodification to think about: Although Burning Man is committed to refunding ticket prices for anyone who asks for them, they’re also asking for anyone who can afford to to donate that money to the organization’s governing Foundation. Like most festivals, Burning Man is extremely dependent on any given year’s ticket revenue to keep the lights on, so the loss of the 2020 festival is going to lead to some grim times ahead on the playa, including “substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures” in order to keep the annual event alive.