With the announcement of “Metamorphoses” as next year’s theme, a vision of Burning Man 2019 begins to emerge from the dusty remains of BRC. The theme was unveiled in the Burning Man Journal and while I find the idea fascinating and filled with possibilities, it’s nonetheless reminiscent of two earlier themes – Evolution and Rites of Passage — both of which featured imagery consistent with nascent butterflies and historical alterations in the natural world.
The introduction of next year’s theme may not seem like a big deal, but in fact, it affects the Burner community like a giant starter’s gun, alerting everyone that it’s time to begin working on the upcoming Burn. Many of the major art projects for Burning Man are based on the theme; art cars are built that represent it, and events are planned by various camp reflecting their interpretation of the word. Hence, unveiling the theme is the true beginning of Burning Man 2019.
For us, it’s a definitive starting point for the planning process and turns “thinking about” Burning Man into an action plan. What are we going to do at our camp next year? Are we going to design a new flag? How are we going to assign out the different jobs? What costumes would we like to bring? What did we forget last year that we need to add to our packing list?
In my time at Burning Man, the theme has sometimes been revealed earlier and sometimes later than this one. When I first came, next year’s theme was announced at the end of the current Burn. Then it wasn’t and we had to wait for Larry Harvey to decide. Or, at least, that’s what most of us thought was happening. It’s part of the lore of Burning Man that Larry chose each year’s theme himself and he did it when the spirit moved him. That may or may not be true, but much of Burning Man mythology revolves around Larry.
I was actually surprised at how early the new theme was revealed. Perhaps now that Larry has passed away the team leading Burning Man decided to act more quickly, thus providing additional prep time. Or maybe not. Maybe this theme was already in the hopper and ready to go, which means Larry’s spirit continues to guide us.
Here’s the thing. If the Metamorphoses theme inspires you, then take advantage of that inspiration and do something with it. Perhaps it speaks to you so strongly that you will decide to make this your first Burn, or return after a long absence. Perhaps it will inspire you to create art for the 2019 Burn. After all, metamorphoses is one of the most image-eliciting words in the English languages. It always makes me think about the caterpillar-to-butterfly miracle and the personal change in my life because of Burning Man.
Whatever the effect of seeing the new theme is on others, it impacts me in a very particular way by re-igniting my passion for Burning Man and letting me know that the on-ramp to Black Rock City has re-opened.