Maybe you were at the Burning Man Festival last week, or maybe you'd never go in a million years (that alkaline dust is no joke!). Either way, we highly recommend debriefing with a photo and video recap, straight from the playa.

This year, the installations ranged from new contributions to old standards, and all were assuredly weird. For instance, Duane Flatmo brought back his fire-spouting, 25-foot-tall metal octopus, and El Pulpo Mecanico delivered the usual antics. The Pier, which earned some fame last year, debuted new tricks as Pier 2, ending in a wrecked ship filled with fake relics -- kind of like the Burning Man version of a Disney World attraction. Then there was the conversation starter of the week: Burn Wall Street, a non-partisan demonstration in which a re-imagining of the New York skyline -- including the "Merrill Lynched" building -- burned spectacularly to the ground.

Our personal favorite installation though, was the brand new Mayan TRIcycle, where each wheel represents a different calendar. Not only did the multi-wheeled contraption look like a giant hamster wheel for humans, it was designed to comfort people who think the world is going to end on December 21, 2012. How can one resist such a perfect storm of unorthodoxy?

CLICK through for the best installations from this year, with explanations from the creators:

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  • Pier 2

    "A mighty shipwreck towers over The Pier. As participants explore the three levels of the ship's interior (Hull, Crew Deck, Main Deck) the story of its inhabitants will come to life. Hand-written journals will present unique perspectives; maps and trinkets will speak of grand adventure; and personal heirlooms will reveal the inner motivations of the crew." -- <a href="http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1705373243/pier-2-burning-man-2012" target="_hplink">From the Pier Group's Kickstarter page</a>

  • The Universe Revolves Around You

    "The idea is to create a plaything, an object that allows YOU to interact with rolling mass equivalent to a loaded railroad freight car. In this case, the load is big slabs of stone, spinning boulders and a lot of humans." -- <a href="http://www.zacharycoffin.com/work/the-universe-revolves-around-you/" target="_hplink">From the website of "Universe" artist Zachary Coffin</a>

  • The Mayan TRIcycle

    "My ultimate goal is to help others understand how the Mayan Calendar works and to help alleviate the fears that many have that the world as we know it is going to end on December 21st when the calendar 'ends'. I believe that the cycle is just turning over, much like the odometer in your car does. To visually show this, I am building the Mayan TRIcycle. The 260-day Tzolkin Calendar will be a 13' tall wheel, driven/rotated by humans running inside the wheel. The 365-day Haab Calendar will be a 24' tall wheel that the Tzolkin calendar wheel is cradled in. Together the two wheels will rotate and will advance the Long Count "Odometer"." -- <a href="http://www.indiegogo.com/MayanTricycle" target="_hplink">From the Indiegogo page of Bob Marzewski, "Tricycle" artist</a>

  • Waterboy

    "Waterboy is a self contained liquid-suspention environment. The unit is designed to support one individual submerged in a warm distilled liquid bath. Respirator and audio communication technology are added to allow longer submersion times." -- <a href="http://www.marquecornblatt.com/art/burn/" target="_hplink">From the website of "Waterboy" creator Marque Cornblatt</a>

  • Burn Wall Street

    "Burn Wall Street ("BWS") is a very political piece that stems from a neutral point of view...BWS is asking these disparate groups [Tea Partiers and Occupy Wall Streeters] to put down their Bibles and their Communist Manifestos in order to unite, share ideas and come up with actual solutions from a rational perspective." -- <a href="http://burnwallstreet.net/about/" target="_hplink">From the website of "BWS" artist Otto Von Danger</a>

  • El Pulpo Mecanico

    "The "El Pulpo" is a combination of art and technology melded together. We built this knowing that it would be fun to watch as the giant cam spun up through the center moving the tentacles and eyes in and out while fire spewed from the tentacles and head. No hydraulics or computers were used in this contraption. We built the sculpture primarily out of recycled and used junk found at our local scrap yard." -- <a href="http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1930020978/el-pulpo-mecanico-the-giant-flaming-octopus-rides" target="_hplink">From the website of "El Pulpo" creator Duane Flatmo</a>



While wrecked ships and burning corporate offices make for excellent portrait subjects, the most photogenic of the installations was arguably the Temple, the festival's pièce de résistance. Longtime Burner David Best returned with what some are calling his best temple design yet. Factor in wacky face masks, the literal burning man, and a whole lot of dust, and the scene looks apocalyptic in the happiest possible way.

We're collecting all the best images from 2012's burn below. Upload your photos below for a chance to be featured!

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  • The Man burns on the playa at Burning Man on the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nev. on Friday August 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Andy Barron, Reno Gazette Journal)

  • People walk toward the temple at Burning Man near Gerlach, Nev., on the Black Rock Desert on Friday Aug. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

  • A man with a creature mask walks the playa at Burning Man on the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nev. on Friday Aug. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

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    Artist Kirsten Berg cleans her art work on the playa at Burning Man on the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nev. on Friday Aug. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

  • An old wooden yacht art car rolls through the playa at Burning Man on the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nev. on Friday Aug. 31, 2012 on Friday Aug. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

  • A woman walks toward the man on a dust afternoon at Burning Man on the Black Rock Desert on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

  • People gather around an art intallation at Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nev. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

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    People gather at the temple on Wednesday morning at Burning Man on the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nev. on Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

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    An art piece named La Llorona rests on the playa at Burning Man on Wednesday morning Aug. 29, 2012 near Gerlach, Nev. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

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    A band play music on top of a bus at Burning Man near Gerlach, Nev. on Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

Correction: In an earlier version of the article, we referred to 'la playa' instead of 'the playa.' We apologize for the error, burners.


Could Burning Man be our next great myth? Marc Lamont Hill is joined by Mike Whitmore, Joana Guevara-Smiley, Reverend Paul Raushenbush and Rachel Tennenbaum to discuss.

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