What the Flume video says about Burning Man’s anti-phone attitude

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What the Flume video says about Burning Man’s anti-phone attitude

Words by Jonti Ridley

What happens at Burning Man no longer stays at Burning Man.

The last ‘anti-tech’ festival may be seeing it’s no-phone culture die before its eyes, and it’s all because of ass-eating.

To those who haven’t been on the internet this week, Aussie DJ Flume quickly went viral after a video emerged of the artist seemingly performing a butt-focused sex act during his Burning Man set. We won’t include the video here cause it’s not exactly PG, but Google exists so please help yourself.

Flume’s suspected girlfriend, and also rumoured recipient of the analingus featured in the video, shared the clip to her Instagram stories. Budding actress and model Paige Elkington, who has not confirmed or denied her participation in the video, quickly removed the video from her page after a slew of viewers condemned her for ‘ruining Burning Man’.

It’s understood, up until recently, what happens at Burning Man stays at Burning Man. But how realistic is this when everyone has an HD supercomputer in their back pocket? Plus can any festival the queen herself (Paris Hilton) visits be truly private?

Burning Man originally kicked off in the ‘80s, and is described to be a communal desert experience meets art installation meets drug-fuelled extravaganza. Honestly, it sounds like a hoot. First and foremost, it isn’t a ‘music festival’, despite featuring a number of musical acts throughout. Taking place in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, the festival turns the dried-out lake into a nearly entirely self-sufficient commune for the week – earning the title of the Black Rock City (BRC for short). Arial photos of the set up are incredibly impressive, and the art installations are otherworldly.

Up until recently, ‘outsiders’ rarely got an insight into the goings-on at BRC. The festival’s steampunk aesthetic is often taken one step further by the unspoken rule of little to no technology allowed. In recent years, however, more and more punters are divulging their Burning Man adventures through text or photos. This includes a Burning Man subreddit, multiple Twitter threads and a steady flow of Instagram stories.

Elkington was called out for besmirching the BM name and culture by sharing the video, but this isn’t the first Burning Man story to go viral. Last year, a man fell off one of the installations causing the piece to be closed off once it was confirmed he had sustained an injury. The year before, a festivalgoer committed suicide by running through the flames of another exhibit.

It’s understandable that diehard devotees are annoyed at the changing landscape of the event. For many, this is a rare opportunity for them to completely disconnect and be their truest selves without exposure or ridicule. The threat of having tiny cameras suddenly recording your every move is no doubt unsettling, but it’s becoming unrealistic to expect any festival or event to be entirely phone-free. For better or for worse, this Flume debacle may mean the festival needs to embrace the outside world in moderation or risk a full-on invasion of clout chasers and their GoPros. Unless it’s already too late.