One of the most controversial arts celebrations in the world takes place in the middle of the desert every year. Attendance for the weekend isn't cheap. Admission runs from $300-$360 per person. It's nasty, dirty, gritty with an abundance of drugs, nudity and ... art. Over 199 pieces not including the artistry evident in the Burning Man cars and Burning Man costumes.
With the wretchedly poor economy (and we all know artists are some of the lowest on the income totem pole) why would attendance be up? Over 50,000 showed up to celebrate the unconventional from all over the world. In fact, Africa is starting a Burning Man event as well. Why?
My theory: because as our societies become more repressed we need an outlet and a place where we can gather with the like-minded. Here you have an event that exemplifies freedom of expression. So OF COURSE it is going to draw the artists, as well as those that celebrate their right to think, feel, and enjoy freely - without the hypocritical constraints and standards society imposes. Not everyone in society is content to be told you shall or you shall not. So often it's the artists that push back.
The giant effigy that is burned at the end of the event is said to be symbolic of a letting go - releasing of worries, materialism, social misery. I disagree. I think it's a giant fuck-you finger setting the night on fire - reminding society that while it can dictate it can't control. Not the thoughts and hearts of a people needing the freedom to express.
Attendance up? Yeah - I think more people are crossing that line over to the fuck-you side as cultures become more and more rigid and dictatorial. Excuse me while I go out back and build an effigy to burn...