Voices of Burning Man features a wide diversity of perspectives on Burning Man culture, including official announcements,
cultural commentary and participant views.
You're encouraged to add your voice to the spirited and civil dialog around the ideas and issues that affect the Burning Man community.
We’ve never met – at least I don’t think – and so I don’t know whether you’re true believing Burners who are just trying to make a buck sharing something you love without thinking it through or opportunists trying to strip-mine our culture and sell the raw materials to the highest bidder. Could go either way, and I prefer not to think the worst about people, no matter how often it’s justified.
And hey, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, right? I think pretty much everyone who has been inspired by Burning Man has wondered “How can I make THIS what I do in the world? Can I make Burning Man economically productive for me?”
It’s a completely reasonable question. Why wouldn’t you think it? Decommodification is a principle, but paying rent is a necessity. The question of how to make Burning Man a sustainable part of one’s life is one that Burners around the world are grappling with, experimenting with different models, and I think they’re at the vanguard of Burning Man’s next big step.
But some approaches … most particularly selling Burning Man merchandise … aren’t going to work. And most of the schemes I’ve seen to offer “Burning Man Experiences” aren’t going to work either.
But not so much because of the money thing.
I want to explain why, not so that I can yell at you for trying, but because maybe if we get on the same page about what the problem here is, you can come up with an approach that will work. So the dynamicism and energy you’re obviously bringing to this effort – starting a business is challenging – can be harnessed in service of the community you’re trying to introduce people to. And so that those people can be better introduced to our community.
Because right now there’s a serious problem with what it looks like you’re trying to do, and it’s not actually decommodification. Well, maybe that too, but there’s a much bigger, much more serious, problem here. That’s the one I want to talk about. (more…)
From the very beginning, I had friends who went to Burning Man. They always said “Sarah, you and Max have got to go! These are Your People!” But what with kids in school and vacations that had to be scheduled a year in advance, it wasn’t until 2000 that we managed it. It turned out to be every bit as much Home for us as our friends had thought it would be. That first year we biked around in awe at the abundant smorgasbord of creativity served up by people unafraid to explore and be themselves — we knew we’d be back every year to share in the adventure!
The next year, our youngest, 13 at the time, wanted to go too. An old soul, I wasn’t worried about what he might see or experience — he was always wise beyond his years — but I wasn’t up for being “Mom” at Burning Man. So I got a ticket for his tutor and she was his chaperone for the week. Running into the boy in camp I might say, “If your mother were here, she’d remind you to put on more sunscreen and make sure your water bottle is full before you head out.” He’s been a Burner ever since. The year after that, the boy’s best friend wanted to go, but his parents didn’t want him to go without them, so we all camped together along with their friends Boyscout and his wife. The year after that, our older son, my sister and her husband, and Boyscout’s parents from Kentucky joined us, too.
So I guess I wasn’t that surprised when in 2004, during our pit-stop in Reno on our way to the Playa, I got a call from my parents saying, “Can you buy us tickets at the gate and we’ll meet you there?!” (more…)
Our heroic partners at Artichoke have released a 12-minute documentary about their Temple project in Northern Ireland, in collaboration with David Best, creator of the Temple at Burning Man. It’s the crowning achievement of an incredibly successful, groundbreaking and moving project.
Do you miss stories? I mean real stories with characters and heroic journeys and magic that works. Stories without screens or controls or cinematic cut scenes. Modern life is pretty impoverished in the stories department, which is actually a great reason to be a Burner. Burning Man gives life that sense of a mythic arc, and our Burning Man experiences are inseparable from the stories we tell about them.
Festivals Concierge Services, part of a larger European-focused concierge company called The Key, offers VIP-priced packages for events and festivals around the world, which is great for them. They also want to offer them for Burning Man, but that’s not going to happen.
We believe strongly that paying upfront for a prescribed, curated experience that doesn’t require individual effort misses the mark and erodes Burning Man culture, and it’s absolutely not okay to sell people “the Burning Man experience” as a vacation package. This is precisely the kind of service we hope to eliminate from Black Rock City: one that essentially offers participation and “self-expression” in a box.
Read on to learn about our interactions with Festivals Concierge Services, the actions we’re taking to stop what they’d like to do in Black Rock City, and how you can help.
We first learned of Festivals Concierge Services (FCS) in the summer of 2014 when we received reports about their website — burningmanvip.net — which was selling concierge services involving Black Rock City. We reached out concerning their unapproved uses of Burning Man’s intellectual property (IP) and offer of unauthorized services. Festivals Concierge Services changed the website as we requested, and they claimed that they were not offering any services at or to the 2014 Burning Man event in Nevada.
We next heard about Festivals Concierge Services in March 2015 when we received reports about the “Art on Playa Foundation,” an organization that Festivals Concierge Services started, purportedly to help their wealthy clients provide financial support to Burning Man artists. We saw that the Art on Playa website was using our logo and other IP, and causing confusion among artists and other participants about our involvement with them (we had none). So we reached out to Festivals Concierge Services again, explained our principles and policies again, and asked them to stop using our IP on their websites. Once again, they agreed to comply with our requests.
Sadly, we can’t say we were totally surprised when we learned that Festivals Concierge Services recently added a new “Burning Man concierge” page to its website. They have since changed the leading graphic — bearing a garish, computer-generated private jet flying over Black Rock City — to read “Black Rock City” instead of “Burning Man,” but FCS still uses the Burning Man name liberally (for example, at press time, FCS lists Burning Man as one of its “Products” on its Facebook info page). The page makes unauthorized use of Burning Man’s IP and claims to offer concierge services at our 2015 event (everything from transportation and tickets to Mutant Vehicle rentals and on-site theme camp management). This is all completely unauthorized by the Burning Man organization. Our community also took notice, and offered their pointed opinions protesting these activities in a Facebook thread that was deleted by Festival Concierge Services on 5/20/15.
We have contacted Festivals Concierge Services yet again, reminding them that they can’t offer “Burning Man concierge services” or use our IP to promote their business. We’re also taking a number of other steps to protect our principles and our stance on this issue:
Notifying applicants to our Outside Services (OSS) and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs that if we learn they are doing business or subcontracting with concierges services (such as FCS) or their clients, we will deny access to the OSS and ACS programs.
Revisiting and revising the overall OSS program structure so companies like this can’t exploit the system (this process began after the 2014 event).
Notifying BLM that FCS will not have a contract with Burning Man and should not receive a BLM Special Recreation Permit to operate its concierge business on public land.
Coordinating with DMV and Placement to ask Mutant Vehicle operators and theme camp organizers not to provide services or camping to FCS or their clients.
Working with our Ticketing Team to prevent FCS staff from acquiring event tickets for resale to their clients.
Communicating with YOU, our community, to keep you informed about these activities, and to solicit your help with combating the packaging and sale of our culture now and in the future.
We welcome your questions and comments below. If you’re aware of any other companies using Burning Man’s intellectual property to sell “VIP Burning Man experiences” or the like, send a report to ip here: ip (at) burningman.org.
A shaman named Rafiki gave me my playa name. He dropped it into my lap, a casual jewel, and then ducked away. It was a tiny and huge moment all at once. It happened, and then it was over. I swung in its wake, letting the shape of the name settle around me like a cloak.
Going into the experience of Burning Man, I had been curious about playa names, wanting to hear their origin stories. I was delighted when folks I met introduced themselves as “Laser Wolf” “Huggles” and “Gummi Bear”. How did one get a playa name? I asked. Could you name yourself or did it come from some sort of elder? Could your friends make it up or did it have to descend in some kind of epic moment of glory? (more…)
The list of 2015 Black Rock City Honorarium art installations — reflecting a total of $1.2 million in art grants awarded through Burning Man Arts — is now live, so you can go peruse the art-chitecture that will adorn our temporary city in just a few months’ time. Some popular playa favorites will be returning, and some new ones will be made. Here are some sights I saw on my first stroll through the list.
The Bismuth Bivouac, “a playful pavilion celebrating the orthogonal geometries that exist in natural Bismuth crystals.” Have you ever looked at bismuth? It is 100% as gnarly as this installation.
Flux Foundation (2009-2010 Black Rock City Honoraria), is on a roll! Although their Bloom! exhibition at the Philadelphia Zoo opened not too long ago, Flux Foundation is already working on their next project, Lacuna, which was just awarded a grant from our Global Art Grants program. Congratulations to the Flux crew!
Lacuna is a public art space and library created out of 50,000 books donated by the Internet Archive. Furthermore, visitors will be able to remove the books from the walls. As Lacuna’s website says:
“By removing, reorganizing, and replacing books, the walls inside Lacuna will shift, and it’s this process where we’ll see that each person’s interaction with Lacuna becomes an integral, valued part of the collective story and experience of Lacuna.”
Although more and more books are being digitized, there’s something very satisfying and pleasurable about holding an actual book made out of paper. Lacuna celebrates this by bringing our attention to the very materials of the book by fully immersing us in them. This creates an experience that is both immediate, as we are present with those materials in the moment, as well as associative, as the encounter allows us to tap into memories of libraries, and feelings (such as nostalgia) those memories may elicit.