Temple of Transition: It’s Big and It’s Happening

This is Chris “Kiwi” Hankins, leader of the 2011 Temple crew, with a scale model of the Temple of Transition. Those of you who visited the Megatropolis installation in 2010 will recognize its colorful silhouette, which should give you a point of reference. Yes, that’s to scale.

Another point of reference: three times the height of Marco Cochrane’s “Bliss Dance”.

This year, a largely international Temple crew will construct a circle of six structures: five 58-foot-high outer temples, and a 120-foot-high inner temple. The temples will be connected with 60-foot-long walkways. The entire installation will have a diameter of 200 feet, and will be taller than the Man.

To build something on this scale, as Burners well know, you need an impassioned leader. Enter Kiwi, an experienced builder who’s been constructing the Man at Kiwiburn (New Zealand’s regional burn) for several years, and who has also lent a hand to build Black Rock City as part of the Department of Public Works.

Kiwi’s latest achievement is Megatropolis, which he and the International Arts Megacrew built last year.

“Before we were even finished building Megatropolis, I was already thinking ‘what are we gonna build next?'” Kiwi says. Later, as Megatropolis burned, a friend turned to him and asked, “What do you think?”

“I think I want to do the Temple,” Kiwi replied.


Passing Through

Photo: mkgraph

How do you know when you’re grown up?

The question may strike you as trivial, but let it sit for a moment. There are clear answers to it in some parts of the world, but the part from which I hail is quite vague on this point.

All the rights of passage in my life so far have been either dully underwhelming (my Bar Mitzvah? my driver’s license? my 18th birthday?), or they’ve been sudden, shocking, and rushed (graduation, first apartment, income taxes). None left me with a sense of having transformed in any believable way. When I have felt initiated, it has typically been into something unwelcome. (Oh, boy. Now I’m a taxpayer.)

Photo: Dave Millar

America doesn’t really have formal initiations. We have prescribed achievements, hoops to jump through, but they don’t come with any kind of clarity or assurance. Our institutions offer us degrees or licenses or certificates, but it’s still up to us to figure out for ourselves what good they are.

When I think of my ideal, romanticized rite of passage I wish I’d had, I wish for two things: some kind of shared experience, in which my community recognizes the occasion together, and some set of values or principles that become mine to live by afterward, so I know what to do.

Whether I imagine some solitary wilderness trial, or a purging, cleansing ritual, or some kind of quest, or some transmission from the elders, whatever exotic, nostalgic rite comes to mind, I want this communal recognition that something BIG has happened, and I want a way to understand what it means.


The “Gift Economy” isn’t an economy at all, but that’s no excuse for your terrible, terrible gift

How many gifts can you spot in this economy?

I had to impose heavily on a friend of a friend at this year’s Lightning in a Bottle. Fluids, an outlet to charge my cell phone, space for a nap … I was a pest. I apologized to him profusely, saying I hated to exploit his hospitality so much.


He gave me a puzzled look. “Well you’re a Burner, aren’t you?”

I nodded. “Yes. Yes I am.”

He shrugged. “Well then, all you have to say is: WHERE’S MY FUCKING GIFT, ASSHOLE?”

It’s funny because it’s pathetically true.

For all the good that it was supposed to accomplish, Burning Man’s “gift economy” frequently turns otherwise decent people into a plague of locusts with hair extensions and a sense of entitlement.

Some are just incompetent campers like me who never manage to get “self-reliance” right (I have to keep my produce cold?). But others genuinely believe they are entitled to your food, booze, and those crappy little plastic images of the “Man” you covered in glitter to make it “art” and are handing out like it’s something people might want.

If so many people think they can come to the desert without bringing sufficient water because somebody will “gift” it to them; if so many people think handing out glow-sticks with the word “Love” stenciled on them counts as “gifting” in a meaningful way, the whole notion of a “gift economy” may have gone horribly wrong.

But then the notion of the Burning Man “gift economy” might not have been so well thought out in the first place.

City of Gods

The act of declaring yourself an artist is a bold one.

You are saying, “I consciously alter my environment. I shape the world. I create.”

This is in direct opposition to our socialization.
We are expected to walk a well-worn path of consuming.   Our role is to passively consume media, products, & ideas.

So many of our societal systems are designed for us to be passive. No ruler or corporation wants to deal with active decision makers.

Unfortunately, artists do not fit well in a society that prefers passivity.
(side note: I would argue that “artists” are not a type of person, but simply the state that EVERY person gets to when they are actively living.)

So is there anywhere where the artist (or state of being an artist) is welcome and at home?

I’m Naked!

Having been raised in a strict religious environment, I spent the great majority of my life inside of a very small box, never being allowed freedom of expression because it was “too evil”. I had to come to burningman alone, with family and friends telling me that it would be a very dangerous enironment of drug crazed violence. In spite of the warnings, something deep inside me was crying out, “I want freedom of expression!”

As I prepared to leave, I kept asking myself one question, “What is inside of me that wants to come out?” Strangely enough, the picture that came to my mind was me wearing a dark mini-skirt with white nylons! I had never done cross dressing in my entire life, but the thought was strangely exhilarating! Also I wanted to be Naked in public, a complete opposite of my religious background. So I packed everything into my small Honda Civic, (keeping it simple with pup-tent, canned food and a small stove) and began my long journey into the heart of the Nevada dessert.

I arrived at about 5 a.m., dead tired, was barely able to put up my tent in the dark before crashing. Next thing I knew, it was a burning hot day with freedom in the air! I stepped outside the tent, and told myself, “OK, now is the time to express yourself by getting Naked!” And I froze. I couldn’t do it! It was far too embarrassing. Then I said, “OK, now is the time to wear a dress!” Once again, I couldn’t do it! What will people think? They will throw stones at me like they did in the Bible!

So I spent the first 4 days wearing very conservative clothing, watching the courage of others in following whatever came out of their hearts. Good, wonderful people everywhere courageously living their truth! Their courage rubbed off on me, so finally I walked to the edge of the desert where I could be alone, dropped all my clothing (symbolizing the shackles of false belief) and started walking toward The Man! Every step closer to the Man was one step closer to living my entire life by the Heart.

Naked on the outside represented Naked on the inside, no more hiding my authentic self! I was accepted by all, even cheered on by some! No stones! On the last night (burning of the Temple), I wore my black mini-skirt and white nylons, felt totally exhilerated, once again completely accepted by the most loving people on the planet! Speak your Truth, Live your Truth! I was dead before burningman. Now I’m living a life of passion in every area. The Man broke the ice around my frozen heart and forever melted it into the dessert sun.

by Zenbruce

Pondering “Leave No Trace”

“Leave No Trace” is one of the 10 Principles of Burning Man. It seems pretty simple. But the LNT mentality can be a significant jump in consciousness for people ingrained with a consumer mindset.

During this week’s HugNation broadcast, I discussed “Leave No Trace” in the wake of my wonderful experience at Lightning In a Bottle.

Let me clarify that I am not intending to be critical of the DoLab or festival attendees. I mean to point out that as our community grows quickly, we need to remember a few things:
1) Have compassion for people in all stages of their conscious evolution.
2) Role model good behavior.
3) Help people understand that a Principle is much more than something we “should* do…. it is something that can elevate your joy and change your life.

(This is more of a “Philosophical” tip. For more on the “How” of Leaving No Trace, consult BurningMan.com & The Survival Guide.)

**NOTE: I AM NOT AN OFFICIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF BURNING MAN. I am merely a 17-year Participant with a passion for the event, people, and principles of Burning Man. Views expressed aren’t necessarily those of the Burning Man organization.” **

Spire of Fire Coming to Reno Nevada

Spire of Fire is the [BRAF]’s fourth installation at our public art venue in Reno, Nevada, and will be on display June 20 – Nov. 15, 2011, on the corner of Sierra Street and Island Avenue, on the bank of the Truckee River in downtown Reno.  Previously exhibited at Burning Man in 2010, Spire of Fire, by artists Steve Atkins and Eric Smith, is unique in its materials, (stainless steel and propane fueled fire) scale (48’ tall x 30’) and artistic vision.

Join us to celebrate this ongoing collaboration with the Reno community!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The River Walk
Sierra St. at Island Ave
Reno, NV
5:00 pm – 10:00 pm

– Dj’s spinning from 5:00 – 10:00 pm

– Hula Hoop Jam from 5:00 – 8:00 pm

Controlled Burn and Friends spin fire 8:30 – 10:00

– Artwork’s fire effects alight! 8:30 – 10:00

– Wine and Beer will be sold as a BRAF fundraiser, courtesy of Wild River Grill

– and be sure to catch all the activities on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings during Artown in Reno

. Free fun for the family!

To Read More about the Spire of Fire CLICK HERE

photo: Leo Sauerman

The Black Rock Arts Foundation Collaborates with Levi Strauss a Co. Community Day

The [BRAF] helped Levi Strauss & Co. with their May 5th Community Day, during which Levi’s employees in San Francisco leave their regular office responsibilities behind and volunteer at Bay Area non-profits.  BRAF was given a special role this year, supporting the company’s efforts to be better caretakers of the planet and reduce both water consumption and material waste in their manufacturing and ordering processes.

Over a dozen BRAF volunteers sculpted a literal “mountain” out of samples and scraps of Levi’s and Dockers that are produced each year to help demonstrate the scale of waste, the importance of reducing and re-using such items and

BRAF Executive Director Tomas McCabe photo: Eli Peterson

to encourage recycling usable samples vs. throwing them away. The mountain, which was installed at Levi’s Plaza was impressive, but represented just 10% of the some 71,000 articles of clothing samples generated each year that are otherwise unusable for Levi’s but perfectly good for other uses. BRAF was thrilled to be part of a project that is helping a major manufacturer in America to use creativity and art to inspire its employees to reduce, reuse and recycle. Everyone was so inspired and an absolute pleasure to work with!