The NOW! Festival — It’s Like Bread, Sliced

This came across our radar, and we’d be hard-pressed to imagine a faster/easier/better way to bring Burning Man principles into your local community — and if the folks who came up with this aren’t Burners, we’d be utterly shocked (albeit pleasantly surprised).

It’s called NOW! festival. Here’s how it works: they pick two weeks a year and encourage people to come up with free and nearly free awesome experiences that serve to “co-create the best possible version of our community for one extraordinary week.” Sound familiar? Thought it might.

Tetherball, people. There's TETHERBALL!
Tetherball, people. There’s TETHERBALL!

So people list their ideas on the website, and the listings are as much an advertisement as an inspiration to others to get off their duffs and create something as well (we’re digging the “Me Too” button).

The list of events reads like Black Rock City’s What Where When guide, only less completely insane. Somebody’s offering a concierge service outside the DMV, another’s hosting a ukelele jam. There’s a tetherball competition, a conversation about healthy eating, and a mobile bike repair station. And of course there’s a “Psychic Friends Pop-Up Healing Station” and a “Midnight Pajama Silent Disco”. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Basically, it’s great stuff that makes any neighborhood a better place to be, pulled together by people who want their neighborhood to be a better place.

It’s happening in San Francisco’s Panhandle neighborhood this week, so check it out if you’re in the area.

And for God’s sake people, please create one of these in your home town!! They’ve got a handy How To guide and a FAQ for all your questionings.

We tip our hat to these fine folks making great things happen.

R-Evolution Has Begun!

I have been writing about The Bliss Project, created by artist Marco Cochrane and his crew, since 2010. The project includes three sculptures intended to demand a change in perspective … to be catalysts for social change. They are intended to challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge that has developed around the female body — which has been used for power and control — to see the human being. They are intended to de-objectify women and inspire people to take action to end violence against women, thus allowing everyone to live fully and thrive.

The Pantograph – a medieval-era enlargement tool
The Pantograph – a medieval-era enlargement tool (Photo by Jay R Houghton)

I had never seen sculpture being created like I did when I was there to see them assembling Bliss Dance for the first time. Bliss Dance pushes the limits of scale and engineering, and is as ambitious as she is breathtaking. So I loved watching the crew’s precision and grace as they assembled this incredible sculpture. They acted together on the assumption that it would all fit together once they got it to Black Rock City.

In 2013 I was lucky to be in the Bliss Dance Studio the day they were lighting up Truth is Beauty, the second sculpture in the series.

R-Evolution is the third and final sculpture in the series. R-Evolution continues with the theme of a woman expressing her humanity. At 48-feet tall, R-Evolution will debut at Burning Man 2015. When I visited the studio in 2014, Marco and Deja (the model for all three sculptures) were there. Marco used a Pantograph — a medieval-era enlargement tool — to create a 15-foot clay version of R-Evolution by hand from a ¾ life-size original, using classical sculpting techniques.

Welding R-Evolution (Photo by Jay R Houghton)
Welding R-Evolution (Photo by Jay R Houghton)

The next step was to begin the second phase enlargement to her final metal form — the metalwork for the second half of R-Evolution is well underway. They need to complete the sculpture; paint her for rust protection; design, build and install the lighting; place the mesh skin and construct the base — all before Burning Man 2015. And you probably already know that the Man burns in 137 days.

If you’d like to follow along and watch the progress of R-Evolution check out her Facebook Page.

The Derry Temple — A Small Step in the Same Direction

Temple at sunset (Photo by Josh Lease)
Temple at sunset (Photo by Josh Lease)

“Aye, about 30 of us sat through a presentation about Temple. Most said they would participate. One other guy and myself showed up to the next meeting, and only I ended up actually working on the project. But see here, a thing I’ve learned is some steps you have to take on your own.”

Cookie is from the Top of the Hill neighborhood in Derry, the same neighborhood where the Temple stands overlooking the river Foyle and the city of Derry-Londonderry. He first heard about Temple the same way many people did, in a community meeting. Artichoke Trust engaged and worked with over 40 local community groups in an effort to ensure everyone knew that Temple was for everyone, not just one community, but for all of Derry and beyond. The Top of the Hill is part of the greater Waterside neighborhood, a Protestant area, which sits on the opposite side of the river Foyle from the City Side, a Catholic area, but Top of the Hill is traditionally Catholic. Confused yet?

Peace Wall in Derry (Photo by Josh Lease)
Peace Wall in Derry (Photo by Josh Lease)

These are the types of divides that go back a long long way in Northern Ireland, and were fuel for the fire of violence and division during the Troubles; a time when sectarianism was aligned with political and national allegiances. Soldiers in the street, bombings, and paramilitary groups were the norm. The peace accords in 1998 brought an official end to the Troubles, and it left Northern Ireland to try to pick up the pieces and get on after nearly 40 years of civil conflict.

Top of Hill Republican Bonfire (Photo by unknown)
Top of Hill Republican Bonfire (Photo by unknown)

With the Troubles still fresh in the minds of the older generations in Ireland and around the world, it has been easy for the press to focus on Temple as a project about, and in response to the Troubles. It’s true, reconciliation and community healing related to the conflict is still desperately needed. Over 3,500 people lost their lives to the Troubles, so everywhere you look in Temple echoes of the Troubles can be seen. Not only does the community carry scars of the Troubles, but so does the City of Derry-Londonderry. The name has a hyphen to avoid conflict. Sectarian murals dot the city and Peace Walls — 25 foot iron, brick, and steel walls built to separate Catholic and Protestant communities — still stand in the city center. Even Temple’s location brings up thoughts of the sectarian bonfires, because in the very spot the Temple stands was the normal location of a very large annual sectarian bonfire that’s usually followed by violent marches and rioting.

(Photo by Josh Lease)
(Photo by Josh Lease)

At 18, Cookie never knew the Troubles. He was just about 1 when the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ was signed. He and his friends have grown up in a town and a community desperate to move on, but still divided by religion, by violence, by walls, and even by a river. The Troubles may be over on paper, but his generation has grown up hearing the stories, seeing the bonfires, and having to deal with the economic and social damage left in the wake. Derry boasts a very high unemployment rate and one of the highest suicide rates in Ireland. Suicide since the end of the conflict has risen over 67% and the number of victims of suicide since the peace agreements will soon surpass those of the Troubles. It is so prevalent in Derry there is a special volunteer only rescue crew that specializes in suicides. The night of the burn, a local friend working on the project told me that someone he knew had committed suicide the night before. This is what the media did not focus on; everyone in Derry and around knows loss and hardship, and Temple was for them too.

Temple Interior (Photo by Josh Lease)
Temple Interior (Photo by Josh Lease)

It was no wonder to me when Cookie said he had considered joining the military. It wasn’t because he was looking for adventure, he was looking for a strong community. “I don’t have to think about doing that anymore though,” he said — he found that community in the Temple Crew. He didn’t know what Temple would bring, but he took that small step on his own to see what Temple could be for him. In that step he found a community, and as it turns out, a job after the project is over. He had been looking for a job for over two years. He also now has his sights on making his way to Black Rock City too, working on a large project of course.

Temple at Night (Photo by Josh Lease)
Temple at Night (Photo by Josh Lease)

Cookie’s comment “some steps you have to take on your own” stuck with me over the week. Spending time at Temple, I watched people arrive by the thousands. There were many concerns voiced about the project and its chosen location. “No one will come” were words of worry voiced many times to organizers. But they did, over 60,000 in a week, and each one took that step on their own. Perhaps they didn’t even realize they were taking a step.

School children arriving at Temple (Photo by Josh Lease)
School children arriving at Temple (Photo by Josh Lease)

Temple was a joyous meeting place for entire families. It was routinely packed so full you could not get inside. An entire elementary school came to visit Temple one day. Song and dance broke out frequently. On the last day Temple was open, over 28,000 people came to see it, to spend time inside it, to leave what they sometimes didn’t know they came to leave. As a volunteer Temple Guardian I handed out dozens of pens to people who, once there, realized that Temple was for them too and they had a contribution to make.

Temple burned in front of over 20,000 people from all over Ireland, the UK, and Europe. A member of the security team told me it was not only the largest gathering he had ever known of in Derry, but most amazingly it was totally peaceful. Temple has redefined what art born in the desert can mean for the world. Before I left Derry I heard calls for other Temples in Derry, in Belfast, and in other cities across the world, because Temple changed Derry. It has shown that art can unite communities after times of deep divide, that fire can be a source of healing instead of intimidation, and amazingly what can happen when so many take a small step in the same direction.

(Photo by Josh Lease)
(Photo by Josh Lease)


Announcing the 2015 Global Art Grantees!

Congratulations to the 2015 grantees!

Burning Man is proud to announce the new cohort of Global Art Grant recipients! Over the last 14 years, the grants committee (formerly operating under the Black Rock Arts Foundation) has refined its funding priorities, criteria, outreach and methods of selection, enabling the most inventive, fresh, and unique projects to rise to the top.

Bakawan by Studio Enkanto / Leeroy New, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Studio Enkanto)
Bakawan by Studio Enkanto / Leeroy New, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Studio Enkanto)

This program has always prioritized funding projects that bring people together in unexpected ways, that encourage exchange of skill, knowledge and inspiration, and that benefit the community at large. This crop of grantees is sure to meet these aims with flying colors! The Burning Man Arts crew is delighted at the range of innovative designs, unusual employment of media and materials, and extreme emphasis on collaboration these projects exhibit.

As you know, 2015 has been a year of growth and expansion for Burning Man. Last summer, when Black Rock Arts Foundation’s existing programs were combined with Burning Man’s Art Department to create the Burning Man Arts program, the grants committee was finally able to increase funding to projects worldwide. This year, the committee awarded more funding to more projects than any year previous: $100,000 total to 18 projects. This is one step closer to our vision of making inclusive, collaborative, and transformative public art accessible and available to everyone!

Art on Ice by Art Shanty Projects, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Art Shanty Projects)
Art on Ice by Art Shanty Projects, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Art Shanty Projects)

Many congratulations to the new grantees, and welcome to the Burning Man Arts family!

Check out these amazing public art projects that are happening all over the world, all year-long. From site-specific galleries on a frozen lake to a floating sculptural island in the Philippines, these projects are sure to enchant and inspire you. They are sharing Burning Man’s core values with a diverse range of communities, bringing interactive art experiences to people in their everyday lives, moving way beyond the boundaries of economic and social standing and access to traditional arts venues. Art is for everyone!


Just Being Honest

by Eden

On Wednesday around noon, I decided it was time to walk out to the Temple and just stay there for a while. I wanted to walk instead of riding my bike so that I could use the slow, deliberate journey as a way to settle into a calm, quiet mindset. On my way, I started to let the thoughts that I wanted to acknowledge at the Temple that day drift through my head. I enjoyed the sun on my body and the gentle, dusty wind in my skirt and in my hair.

When I arrived, I slowly made my way around the building and between the others who were there too. I walked until a spot to sit and write called out to me. I had a few things that I wanted to say, but I knew what had to be first – my last relationship, and the disappointment and the hanging on that I still hadn’t yet been able to shake. I hoped that I had come to the Temple to write something self-empowering; something that, once I had written it, would let me leave with a light heart, a heart that had finally let it all go. Or that I would write an announcement of some sort about moving on, starting right now – a declaration of my independence from the past. I sat down in the dust, breathed in, and thought for a moment. I put my sharpie to the wood and the whole thing appeared haltingly, in between long pauses where I just sat and cried, letting flow all of the tears that I have not cried for a long while. This is what came out: (more…)

Global Leadership for a world of amateurs

DW5A0153I’ve crashed about half of the Burning Man Global Leadership Conferences (including back when it was the “Regional Network Conferences) and can not think of any higher praise than this: as a person who frequently tries to come up with new things to say about Burning Man, I always leave thinking “Wow, there’s so much to talk about.”

But sitting in on a few (just a few) of the presentations and round-tables the other weekend, I was often less struck by what was said than by the way it was said.

For all that Burners are in no way lacking in aesthetic and technical know-how, the GLC is about as far away from a TED conference as you can get: it’s so far from slick it’s dusty. Presentations frequently have all the sophistication of colored markers on white paper, and the state of the discourse is often basic compared to what’s out there.

I meant all this in a good way.

One of the smartest things I think I ever wrote about Burning Man is that it is “for amateurs” – that Burning Man is so amazing in large part because it is full of ordinary people trying to push their capacities to do new things, rather than a professional class of “producers” and “entertainers” doing what they know how to do over and over and over again. It is this fact, this eternal amateurism in the best sense, that keeps Burning Man an engine of possibility rather than a slickly produced Vegas show.

Attending the panel on community outreach through art highlighted this distinction for me. There was plenty there worth writing about for on its own terms (which I hope to get around to later), but for the moment I’m going to highlight just a small piece of it to make a point: (more…)

Burners Without Borders to Become Program of Burning Man Project

Burners Without BordersSan Francisco, Calif., April 13, 2015 — Burning Man announced today that Burners Without Borders — a grassroots group that supports community organizing and disaster relief worldwide — will transition June 1 to become the cornerstone of Burning Man’s Civic Engagement initiatives.

“We’re very excited to bring Burners Without Borders into the Burning Man fold,” said Burning Man co-founder Harley Dubois. “This incredible group has an outstanding track record of facilitating grassroots volunteerism that truly represents what Burning Man is all about. This functional reorganization allows Burning Man culture to flourish through the civic efforts of Burners everywhere, in their local communities.”

BWB came into being after Hurricane Katrina when Burning Man participants left the event to help with the disaster cleanup effort. The organization has a 10-year history of supporting disaster relief and local grassroots volunteer initiatives around the world through its annual grants program and direct on-the-ground assistance. It’s expected this transition will have no major immediate effect on existing projects, grants or grant applications. “We want to thank the community for its unwavering support of BWB over the past decade — we are continually inspired by the impact this community makes every day,” said Carmen Mauk, Burners Without Borders’ Executive Director. “I am looking forward to the future where we can continue to grow and thrive.”

BWB’s international projects include relief efforts in Pisco, Peru after that city was hit by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in 2007, relief efforts in the remote Tohoku Prefecture of Japan following the Fukushima disaster, delivering relief supplies to Haiti, supporting communities in the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda, and providing relief to New Jersey communities not receiving adequate assistance following Hurricane Sandy.

About Burning Man
Burning Man Project is a 501(c)3 public benefit corporation whose mission is to facilitate and extend the culture that has issued from the Burning Man event into the larger world. Black Rock City is the seminal manifestation of the 10 Principles-based culture known as Burning Man. The gathering, which last year included participants from all 50 states and 40 countries around the world, happens the last week of August in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. For more information, visit

About Burners Without Borders
Burners Without Borders (BWB) was born in Biloxi, Mississippi during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort where Burning Man participants had instinctively gathered to fill in where government relief efforts were falling short. Since then, BWB has emerged as a grassroots, volunteer-driven, community leadership organization whose goal is to unlock the creativity of local communities to solve problems that bring about meaningful change. Supporting volunteers from around the world in innovative disaster relief solutions and community resiliency projects, BWB is known for the unbridled creativity they bring to every civic project they do. To get involved, visit the Burners Without Borders website.


New Burning Man Laser Policy

Pew pew
Pew pew.

While the list of things you can do at Burning Man is about as long as your imagination, the list of things you can’t do at Burning Man is very, very short. But things on that very short list are the things that can either outright kill you (weapons, speeding vehicles, serving iffy food) or screw up the environment (burning stuff right on the playa floor, visiting the hot springs during the event).

Why is the list so short? Because radical self-reliance, that’s why. We firmly believe that people should exercise their own personal responsibility when it comes to their entertainment and personal safety. The Burning Man organization has long resisted establishing rules when we could instead establish community guidelines that would accomplish the same thing. We believe in acculturation and education over creating a rule when something needs fixing — Leave No Trace is a great example.

But sometimes you have to make a rule, because it’s the right thing to do. And this is one of those times.

At the 2014 Burn, a member of our Black Rock Rangers reported that somebody in the crowd scanned her face with a laser, and that as a result she was blinded in one eye and partially blinded in the other. We didn’t know of any other incidents like this one in the 30 years of our event, but once her story went out on the airwaves, we started hearing from other folks who’d been hit by lasers but had not reported anything to us.

Laser show over BRC, 2011 (Photo by Mark Peterson)
Laser show over BRC, 2011 (Photo by Mark Peterson)

When handheld lasers first came onto the scene, they were expensive and not very powerful. In recent years, they have become stronger and more easily accessible. Lasers are now so powerful that even the handheld ones can do permanent damage to somebody standing 10 miles away. And that, by any definition, by any standard, is a weapon. And dangerous weapons — ones that can permanently and irreparably injure somebody standing literally on the other side of Black Rock City — really have no place at Burning Man.

So this is one of those times. Starting in 2015, handheld lasers will be prohibited in Black Rock City. Mounted lasers are only permitted on art pieces, Mutant Vehicles and in theme camps if they comply with specific restrictions.

To learn more, visit our Lasers page on the Burning Man website.