U.S. District Judge Denies Pershing County Attempt to Block Burning Man Lawsuit

San Francisco, April 29, 2013 — U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones issued an order Friday denying Pershing County’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Black Rock City, LLC challenging the County’s unconstitutional festival permitting process.

Burning Man organizers sued Pershing County in August 2012 after the County breached a series of agreements it had previously entered into with Black Rock City, LLC, and enacted an unconstitutional ordinance that singles out the Burning Man event.

“The ordinance is nothing more than the county’s thinly veiled attempt to exact more fees or drive the internationally-renowned art event out of Nevada,” said Raymond Allen, Government Relations Manager for Black Rock City, LLC. “Both actions are violations of the First Amendment.” (more…)

FLOAT: Air-Quality-Sensing Kites in Beijing

FLOAT project poster

Every year, the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) — Burning Man’s sister non-profit dedicated to the funding of interactive, participatory and civic art projects around the world, year round — awards grants to support art projects that reflect and forward its mission.

In 2012, one of those grant recipients was FLOAT, “a participatory art/design project using air-quality-sensing kites in Beijing, China. FLOAT had two components; a workshop and a public installation. The workshops gathered local Beijing residents to make kites with an air-quality-sensing module, and the public installation was a group kite flight in parks throughout the city using these kites. The air quality data was fed and geolocated onto a mapping API, and displayed through LED lights. A series of longer term installations throughout the city offered residents ‘air quality stations’ that displayed air quality data in real time, previously recorded data and education about urban health. Through the poetics and playfulness of kite flying, FLOAT sparked dialogue on urban environmental health issues, and gave agency to city dwellers to map, record and engage actively in the monitoring of their environment.”

A scene from “Stars in the Haze”, by Joshua Frank

If you find this ingenious and important project intriguing, we highly recommend you watch “Stars in the Haze”, a fascinating short documentary film about the project, written, shot and edited by Joshua Frank.

You can see a full listing of all of BRAF’s art grant recipients from 2013 and years past here on their website. These grants are made possible by the generous donations of good folks like YOU. If you’d like to help, please donate.


It’s a Cacophony Spring! — “Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society” book release events in May 2013

City Lights Bookstore SF, where modern American literature was born, announces:

Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society LAUNCH PARTY !
Thursday, May 16, 2013, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Boosktore, San Francisco, California


“An evening of irreverent antics

with Kevin Evans, Carrie Galbraith, John Law and friends

celebrating the release of

Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society
Edited by Kevin Evans, Carrie Galbraith and John Law

published by Last Gasp Books

Come one, come all…..at your own risk.

A template for pranksters, artists, adventurers and anyone interested in rampant creativity, Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society is the history of the most influential underground cabal you’ve never heard of. Rising from the ashes of the mysterious and legendary Suicide Club, the Cacophony Society, at its zenith, hosted chapters in over a dozen major cities, and influenced much of what was once called the underground. The Cacophony Society’s epic exploits radically changed the way people live and play in the world. The group inspired Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club and Burning Man and helped start pop culture trends including flash mobs, urban exploration, and culture jamming.”

What has been said about Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society:

Burning Man Featured in Butane-Propane News

Butane-Propane News, April 2013

The April 2013 issue of Butane-Propane News (BPN) (dubbed “The New York Times of the LPG industry”) has a great article by John Needham about flame effects artist Eric Smith, Burning Man Fire Art Safety Team (FAST) Manager DaveX, and this little shindig out in the desert called Burning Man. You might have heard of it?

“Spire of Fire” in downtown Reno, 2011 (photo by Bill Kositzky)

If you saw the beautiful 48′-tall tower of insane flame effects known as “Spire of Fire” either on playa in 2010, in downtown Reno, New York, Las Vegas or elsewhere, then you know Eric’s work (together with Steve Atkins). And if you’ve ever seen fire (e.g. if you had your eyes open) in Black Rock City then you know DaveX’s handiwork … yep, he’s the one who makes it possible for us to burn safely out there.

These guys are not only involved with flame effects and fire safety in Black Rock City, they also travel the country (and beyond) conducting workshops for would-be fire artists, teaching them how to build and use flame effects safely, thus ensuring that more fire artists are being born all the time and people are finding creative outlets for their inner fire bug. Which? Is great, by our standard.

Happy (Theme) Campers

The Vault of Hivin’ (photo by Phoebee McAfee)

The camp fell together by happy accident. At a dinner in 2003, I seated my brother the construction guy next to my BFF the drag a capella singer, hoping their shared love of Burning Man would get them through a meal. Over that meal they conjured The Vault of Hivin’, a bewinged VW beetle towing chalkboards for a spelling bee, and a sound system that blasted the Bee-gees, the B-52’s, and Sting. They decided to collaborate on this vision and camp together, reasoning that the construction gearheads needed artistic vision, and the drag queens needed a ratchet up with implementation. After a decade of sticking together, we are truly a ragtag, multigenerational family of folks who love our annual reinvention fest. Having campmates with wildly diverse skills is a gift – somebody has to remember how to put up the shade structure, and somebody else has to make it blingy but not moopy.

Miajuana! (photo by Ralph Davila)

Our best theme was probably Miajuana! which combined Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling with a Titty Tequila bar festooned with a whole laundry line of the largest and smallest bras we could scavenge (until the big bras all got appropriated as costumes.) Our construction wizards built a regulation-size wrestling ring on two trailers, surrounded by a two-story viewing platform and a repurposed tiki bar. The drag queens pumped lavender mist water on the shockingly large crowds who came, while the gearheads offered goopy-cheese nachos, and tang-and-tequila margaritas; we had colorful ringside commentary and interactive NSFW “burro rides” during intermission. We poured through gallons of booze and bales of chips, but the canned ‘cheez’ and pickled jalapenos never seemed to run out. Wrestlers of both genders showed up with their own multicolored masks. When it rained, it deteriorated into clothing-optional mud wrestling which ended when we all stopped to watch the double rainbow. It took us eight months to develop amnesia over that one. (more…)

What it means to manage an organization in hot pursuit of the ineffable (A report from the Global Leadership Conference)

If he could describe it, he wouldn’t have to paint it.

“We created The Burning Man Project,” founding board member Harley DuBois told 200 of Burning Man’s regional representatives and community leaders.  “And now we’re figuring out what it is.”

This was the common refrain among the main speakers from the Burning Man organization at the Global Leadership Conference.  After 25 years we’ve gotten “here” – and perhaps from this vantage point we can figure out where “here” is.

“What if we were able to take the network you have (as regionals) and the network BRAF has, and the network that BwB has, and connect them in three dimensions?” asked founding board member Marian Goodell.  “What would that look like?  What would that be?  How would that work?”

She didn’t have answers:  she was asking.

More personally, “The six founders are figuring out how we fit in,” DuBois said.  “You’re trying to figure out how you fit in.” (more…)

Pepe Ozan (1940-2013)

Pepe Ozan (photo by Dust & Illusions)

We are deeply saddened by the news of artist Pepe Ozan’s recent death. Pepe was a formidable and passionate artist, sculptor and visionary who contributed greatly to the Burning Man experience. As one of the great creators of Burning Man art over a period spanning decades, Pepe gave tremendously to the event, the community and ultimately to the culture that has grown out of Black Rock City.

“Lingam”, 1993 (photo by Stuart Harvey)

One of Pepe’s lingam sculptures was first burned at Burning Man in 1993, and he created “Pepe’s Tower” each year after that until 2000. In Burning Man’s early years in the Black Rock Desert, the ritual burning of “Pepe’s Tower” on Friday night was traditionally followed by the burning of the Man the next evening. The Friday night ritual became more elaborate each year, and in 1996 it was renamed “The Burning Man Opera”.

“Le Nystere de Papa Loko” opera, 1999 (Photo by Tom Pendergast)

Pepe’s elaborate operas included “The Arrival of Empress Zoe” (1996), “The Daughters of Ishtar” (1997), “The Temple of Rudra” (1998), “Le Mystere De Papa Loko” (1999), “The Thaur-Taurs of Atlan” (2000), and “Ark of the Nereids” (2002), which featured a 35′-long mobile sculpture / musical instrument in the form of a Spanish Galleon crossed with a mythical aquatic creature. These epic performances, remembered fondly by so many in our community, would feature over 2,000 dancers and performers – in a true demonstration of radical inclusion, any and all Burners were invited to participate. (more…)

We’re no better than anybody else, you jackass

Humility isn’t a principle, but it’s still a virtue.

The session on “outreach to subcultures” at the Global Leadership Conference was winding down when the Kid-Who-Cares-More-Than-You in the front row raised his hand to ask the panelists a question.

It went something like this (I’m paraphrasing from memory):

“We’re hearing about all these really successful regional groups that are doing amazing community work, but I’m worried because I know that they’re also being approached to partner by corporate groups and religious groups that don’t live by our values, who are way off politically, and I’m wondering what we do to protect ourselves – to create a firewall that makes it clear that we’re not open to these partnerships.  What do we do?”

I generally don’t get angry in discussions about Burning Man, even if we’re arguing.  The worst that usually happens is I’ll mutter “fucking burners” under my breath, or tell one of my friends at Media Mecca how I hate us all because … well, I mean, look at us.  Bunch of freaks.  But that’s it.  Otherwise not worth getting mad over.  Not when there’s a friendly bunch of freaks to play with.

But that?  What the kid-who-cares-more-than-you asked?  I spent the next 10 minutes trying to find a dueling pistol.  Because that?  That thing he said?  THAT pisses me off something fierce.

I didn’t get to do anything about it.  I wasn’t wearing my rapier that day and the session ended two minutes later, before I got a chance to respond.  But as the crowd was filing out of the room the lovely regional leader sitting next to me, who just happened to be a clinical psychologist, told me “Go ahead and say it.  Whatever it is, you really need to get it out.”

She’s right.  I do.  Because while ranting may be the lowest form of radical self-expression, sometimes you just gotta slum.

So let me ask His Dreadlocked Majesty, King of White Activists:  where exactly do burners get off looking down our pierced noses at people who want to help?  What exactly makes us so much better than people who take a shower before they gift? (more…)