Burning Man is not a “Music Festival,” or even a “festival”

Looks cool, but it isn’t us. (Photo by Gorod – SKY)

It’s amazing what people don’t know about Burning Man.

Exhibit A:  this past weekend I was visiting some friends of mine, and when one of them found out I’m involved with Burning Man she asked “Are there any women there?”

Exhibit B:  This week Yahoo listed Burning Man as an “essential” music festival.  We’re number 3, after Bonnaroo and Bumbershoot (making me suspicious that they just listed them in alphabetical order), but ahead of Lollapalooza … which is apparently still a thing … and Orion.

Granted, the piece does acknowledge that Burning Man is “more like a makeshift city than a festival.”  But it’s also pretty clear that the author hasn’t been there.  Also, is it just me, or do music festivals all sound like they’re named after obscure Gilbert & Sullivan characters?

Exhibit C:  Every year Media Mecca gets dozens of requests from publications asking “who’s playing” at Burning Man this year.  Nothing we ever do seems to persuade them that we wouldn’t know.  Honestly, I think we ought to start telling them “Your mother” and demanding they print it. (more…)

Bee Here Now!

Rendering by Andrew Johnstone

Every year since 2001, the Man has stood atop an elaborate base designed to reflect the spirit of that year’s art theme — and each one has included some kind of interactive element.  This year, the art theme is Fertility 2.0, contemplating the tendency of any being or living system to create abundant life.

As such, the Man will be perched atop a dramatic pavilion reminiscent of the Pantheon of ancient Rome, under which will stand an intricate 38′-tall sculpture representing a flower’s pistil. In case your memory of high school biology has eroded as much as ours, pistil (from the Latin pistillum meaning pestle) describes each discrete unit of the gynoecium, a collective term for the reproductive organs of a flower. (Phew … thanks Wikipedia!) (more…)

The Universe Revolves Around YOU: an interview with Zachary Coffin


I’ve believed Zachary Coffin was part of a select group of great Burning Man artists ever since I first encountered his Temple of Gravity in 2003. He is one of the artists out there who builds something you can’t help but see. You will visit it throughout your week there and you will use as a landmark. He fills up the space because he works on such a huge scale and he fills it with awe. His works on playa include 2001’s Rockspinner, 2003’s Temple of Gravity, 2005’s Colossus and this year, as you’ll read below, he’s bringing us The Universe Revolves around YOU.

Colossus by Zachary Coffin

Zach is an artist who works with really big things and by big things I mean twenty thousand pound spinning and hanging boulders, heavy steel structures that allow you to interact with the weight of freight trains, and the pull of the Moon on the Earth to power Tidal Indicators.  He’s like a bright spark, excited about what he’s doing yet low key about it even though he’s larger than life in many ways. Talking with him about his art you get the feeling you’re talking to an incarnation of some great God of the mountain who is pulling out stones so large that more than one would pulverize a semi with its weight. And he’s building these structures to handle that weight, then loading the whole thing up and bringing them out to Black Rock City to make those stones seem as light as a row of birds on a wire.

He and I sat down over beers across from the Burning Man HQ last week and Zach told me,

“You see a huge boulder. Ever since you were a little kid, you were never able to move that boulder. I can make it possible for you to move that boulder and through that process you can begin to understand what’s possible through engineering and through technology.” He stopped and thought a moment then added, “on a visceral level.”

He has a bit of a twinkle in his eye when he tells you his ideas, like he’s in on something so large you’re only going to get a small glimpse of what lives there, but that glimpse is big enough to blow your mind. I’ve met a fair share of artists and Zach’s one of the sincere ones. He smiles a lot and has a good humor about him and he gives off a genuinely kind vibe.  Update:  There is now a KickStarter campaign for the project. Please donate if you can: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1642032931/universe-revolves-around-you


The Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace

Photo via BurningSky.org

Can you see the impending doom in this photo?

The diver’s fine, of course. It’s that gorgeous city behind her that is endangered. Burning Man may have flourished for 25 years running, but it’s more ephemeral than it seems. At any point, Black Rock City could cease to exist. But thanks to you, me and 50,000 people just like us, it appears year after year. And by following the Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace, we can keep Burning Man alive and on fire for ever.

Burning Man, as you surely know, is a Leave No Trace event. That means it’s everyone’s responsibility to pick up every piece of MOOP — from couches to cigarette butts, lost pairs of pants to abandoned glow sticks. Even if it isn’t yours, if you see it, you pick it up — that’s the way this works.

It works well. We are pretty dang good at it.

Each year, the BLM inspects our site to determine whether we’ve cleaned up after ourselves adequately. And each year, thanks to YOUR efforts and the efforts of the Playa Restoration crew that spends weeks pulling up rebar stakes, we pass. (more…)

Decommodification Special Report

A blatant disregard of some Burning Man principles has recently been reported. That makes this a good time to look at the Principles and the lines we’ve drawn in the sand.

EDIT: This video is a re-upload with unnecessary corporate names omitted.

EDIT #2: I want to thank everyone for the thoughtful discussion in comments.
I realize now that I made some mistakes.
I was naive about some things, and ignorant of others.
I truly believe that the Playa experiences we created were well-aligned with the Principles. But I see now that acknowledgement of any brand, in any way, at any time, in relation to Burning Man – on or off Playa – is problematic.
Hopefully this conversation will help us move forward as a community.

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

Burning Man inspires creativity because it gets past “art”

Nice art. Photo by David Gaya

I heard this story from a woman I met over the weekend, who lives in Hollywood.

One of the many drones who flies around the City of Dreams with the label “writer/actor/producer,” she had finally gotten her shot with a project she’d worked up from scratch and managed to pitch to people who can make things happen.  It came from her heart, and they loved it.  Show runners with standing were on board, and the ink was wet on the contracts.

This was in 2006.  When the writer’s strike hit, everything stopped.

Everyone who had a lifeboat took one.  When the strike was over, all the people who could make things happen were already attached to other projects.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.  Of course she picked herself up and tried again.  That goes with the territory:  tourists are the only people in Hollywood who don’t expect to be regularly shot down like a marriage proposal to a stripper.

She got some more meetings and pitched her story again.  But something had happened.  “Just listening to myself,” she told me, “I could hear that it was different.  There was no more passion in my voice:  I was telling my own story, explaining my own creation, like a stranger.” (more…)

How Not To Burn: Commodifying Burning Man

Some people just don’t get it. It is sad and upsetting for Burners when brands ignore our cultural expectations and try to pull marketing stunts on the playa, and worse yet when they pretend it’s not happening.  Due to diligent staffers and volunteers, we usually find and stop these marketing stunts, and protect our community, before the commodifiers make it into the city.

The scene. Photo by Peg Ortner.

But some slip through.  This year, one company tried literally to bottle up the Burning Man experience, and turned it into a product shoot. They amplified their marketing efforts by co-opting some major publications to publish articles with photographs that violate our core principles and media policies.  They knew what they were doing, but they did it anyway.   We are sharing this story in explicit detail in order to keep the community alert to these transgressions, and to deter others who are eyeing our event as a place to launch or promote products or companies.  Let us be clear: this is not the kind of marketing activity that raises brand value. Our culture just won’t tolerate it, and it often backfires. (Burners, remember this brand, and perhaps you’ll want to weigh this as you choose your next bottle of champagne.) (more…)


It has been a long night.

No one is stirring in camp. It is dark and quiet. As quiet as things get, anyway. The dance still rages on in all directions, but it sounds faint now that you’re home again.

The stars have moved a lot. The wind is chilly. Your legs ache, and your eyes are heavy. Take a slug of water. A few drops spill on the dust. Take another swallow.