This year, about 70,000 people visited Black Rock City, the temporary town that emerges in the middle of the Nevada desert every year for the annual festival. So what happens when nine days of sex, drugs, and “art” end?
A new video by Shalaco, the San Francisco-based photographer whose mini-documentaries of the event have offered a fascinating glimpse into other aspects of its production before, delves into the process of cleaning up and trying to restore the desert to its original condition.
As he entails, there’s a big difference between packing out all of your trash and leaving the dry lake bed untouched. Even while the construction crews and the owners of the hundreds of camps that form the city do a good job at taking everything apart, countless tiny pieces of trash, hardware, and other material are left behind. To take care of it, a cleaning crew descends upon the site to rake over 125 million square feet of sand and salt. Using actual rakes, they recover everything from pieces of glass to batteries to unrecognizable odds and ends with no apparent use. The entire cleaning process takes two weeks of literally combing the desert.
The cleanup certainly doesn’t look as fun as building the city and some of its wild structures, but you have to hand it to Shalaco and his friends. Their passion for the festival is tangible, and their mission to return nature to its previous state is commendable. On the other hand, perhaps the most responsible way to organize a festival of this scale would be to do it in an urban area that’s prepared for it–and leave nature alone.