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Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man is the author (under a clever pseudonym) of “A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City,” which has nothing to do with Burning Man. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com
We Burners of the San Francisco office have a story we like to tell. Burning Man is not just a week in the desert, the story goes. It’s not just the 40 regional Burns around the world, either. Burning Man is a global culture now, living, working, playing and growing year-round in the cities and hinterlands formerly known as the Default World. Here’s a new chapter in that story.
The [freespace] movement expects to launch in 10–13 new cities around the world in June. Each [freespace] is an open building that provides freedom, community, and permission for makers, hackers and artists of all stripes, like an urban version of the “permission engine” we have on the playa. The buildings are donated essentially for free, just to see what people will do with them. Turns out they make art, hold fashion shows, host lectures, and make stuff for Burning Man, and they do it all in decommodified 10 Principles style.
And during this year’s World Cup — arguably the most global cultural phenomenon there is — [freespace] participants will tell the whole world what they’ve been up to.
According to the 2013 Blackrock City Census, 73% of Burning Man attendees say they belong to “No Religion.” Of the remaining Burners, 6% claim to be Jewish, 5% Catholic, 5% “other Christian,” 4% other, 3% Protestant (although isn’t that “other Christian?”), and 2% each for Buddhism, Pastafarianism (although can’t we just call that “Atheism with a shtick?”), and Paganism.
Yet by the same count only 22% of Burners self-identify as Atheists, 49% of Burners say they are “spiritual,” and about as many Burners say they practice prayer/meditation/contemplation as Burners who say they don’t.
So while a majority of Burners clearly aren’t religious, neither have a majority of them abandoned the things that one generally looks to religion to provide. We may not see religion as providing any answers about God, the spiritual aspect of reality, or a sense of connection to the world around us – but neither have we given up on those things. A compelling argument can be made that we are looking for religion by another name.
This is precisely the condition of the world that Terry Eagleton examines in his book “Culture and the Death of God.” This is not a book about whether God exists or religion is “correct” – it is a book asking the question: “what does a culture that for thousands of years put religion at the center of morality, political authority, and epistemology, do when it has secularized?”
We have to ask the question because we still don’t have an answer. As Eagleton notes in the preface: “(D)espite the fact that art, Reason, culture and so on all had a thriving life of their own, they were also called on from time to time to shoulder this ideological burden, one to which they invariably proved unequal. That none of these viceroys for God turned out to be very plausible is part of my story.”
The Global Burning Man Network is alive and thriving in Europe. Through gatherings and participatory projects, the community is coming together in truly amazing ways and we have a few exciting initiatives to spotlight: Barcelona’s Circle of Regional Effigies (CORE) inspired project for Nowhere, Burning Night in Paris, Burning Burg in Germany, Latvia’s first annual regional burn, and Burning Man’s First Annual European Leadership Summit, which happened in February in Berlin.
Barcelona is Burning…
Barcelona is on fire! This past weekend, the Barcelona Burning Bash took place in Southern Catalonia and the Barcelona Burners and their international pals spent time making plans for an exciting community initiative. In the spirit of the CORE projects that brought together regional groups from 2011-2013 at Burning Man, the Barcelona Burner community is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to bring a large-scale, interactive art installation to this year’s Nowhere regional event in Spain, an annual happening that brings together over 1,000 Burners from across the world. The design of the art piece, called “COR Pur Trencat Bategant” (“Pure Broken Beating Hear” in Catalan), is based on the concept of deconstruction as a challenging process for traditional assumptions of certainty, identity and truth. Local artists, designers, techies and creators are teaming up to express the intersection of Burning Man culture with the spirit of Catalonia. The hope is that this year’s project at Nowhere will inspire other groups from across Europe to bring effigies to Nowhere and other regional events.The Barcelona team is now raising money to finalize their powerful vision.
Meanwhile, earlier this month in Germany…
In early May, 30 beloved Burners turned the castle in Lutter, a quaint German village, into a sparkling den of happiness. “Small and beautiful” best describes the cozy annual Burning Burg event. Participants enjoyed a delightful weekend filled with creative workshops, inspirational conversations and colorful activities such as the film screening of Ulrike Peichert’s documentary You Can’t Unburn The Fire. Participants were also able to gain valuable information to help them prepare for Nowhere and Burning Man 2014. Despite the poor weather outside, the spirit within the castle was phenomenal. Castle inhabitants and people from nearby villages also joined in on the festivities on Saturday evening and made the weekend unforgettable.
And we can never forget Paris…
In April, the Burning Man community in France hosted Burning Night in Paris. Nearly 1,300 participants filled the rooms of La Machine Du Moulin Rouge with color and magic. Over 20 DJs and a wide variety of acts performed on 3 stages until the wee hours of the morning, providing the sonic backdrop to a night filled with workshops, interactive machinery, performance and joy. April’s event marked the 13th installment of a truly amazing Burning Night event series that started off with 50 attendees in 2006. Stay tuned as we will soon announce a new team of French Regional Contacts that will help nurture the Burner community across the country.
Our Latvian rock stars…
Between June 21st and 24th our dear rock stars from Latvia are hosting their first regional burn: Degošais Jānis: Uguns Rituāls (Burning John: Ritual of Fire). The event takes place on an industrial hemp farm and coincides with Latvia’s biggest national holiday, Jāņi (pronounced yah-nyee). According to the tradition, on the night of Jāņi, a bonfire must be kept burning from sunset to sunrise. The farther the light from the fire reaches, the farther the sacredness and protection of this magical night reaches too. The night involves a variety of mystic, colorful and extremely inclusive events that bring the joy and fun of a wonderful and healthy new year to all participants. The theme is TRADITIONS, where the traditions and culture of Burning Man will blend with the traditions and culture of Latvia.
Berlin heats up…
We also thought you’d enjoy seeing this fun video that Profiles in Dust crew member Jan Beddegenoodts created to celebrate Burning Man’s first annual European Leadership Summit which took place in Berlin February 7-9, 2014. The weekend-long gathering brought together over 100 Regional Contacts and community leaders from over 30 countries. The Berlin Burners hosted the myriad Summit guests in grand style and put together Burning Bar, a night-long celebration that took place in an old silent movie theater. We can’t wait to see what the Berlin Burners do next! A Burner meetup is planned for this weekend at C-Base, an amazing space station that hosted our Summit kick-off mixer. Yay, Berlin!
It’s clear that Burner culture is thriving across Europe. To get involved in your local regional community and to find out what’s happening, visit regionals.burningman.com.
But horizons are illusions, and there’s always something on the other side.
Wow … I feel like I’m writing a lost verse of “Rainbow Connection.” Somebody get me a banjo. (Burning Man happens to have a highly advanced banjo culture. A theme camp will actually be sending the first banjo into space this September.)
But I digress.
Words may never adequately describe Burning Man, but words are a vital part of the human experience and the artistic impulse, and just because no literary style or culture has emerged doesn’t mean dedicated individual Burners aren’t out pushing the boundaries of the written word at Burning Man.
These are their stories.
Oh crap, now I’m doing an episode of Law & Order. How did this happen? Somebody call forensics!
You see what happens when there isn’t a literary culture? Words scatter across genres.
(Quick Fun Fact: Burning Man is developing one of the most advanced party forensic labs in America, capable of detecting exactly who harshed your buzz up to 30 hours after the incident. The technology is incredible.)
Groovik’s Cube, a reincarnation of a 2009 playa installation, is now on display as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the invention of the Rubik’s Cube in Jersey City. You can actually play the 26-foot-high light-up cube live via webcam from the Groovik’s Cube website. How cool is that?
Mike Tyka and a team of Burners from Seattle built the original Groovik’s Cube in less than five months on an out-of-pocket budget of $20,000. It has about 15,000 components. Since the 2009 Burn, the Cube has been on public display for more than a year.
In November, Burning Man HQ made a major move from Sixth and Market to 660 Alabama Street in the Mission. The new office is a big, open, light-filled space consisting of two open-plan floors and a mezzanine with plenty of wall space on which to display our sizable art collection. (more…)
On April 19, 2014, the Burning Man Project and ArtIsMobilUs collaborated to create the first ever AnyKidCanPaint “Our Earth”, and first three sided ARTwall at Earth Day SF. In addition ArtIsMobilUs provided an Earth Wall for everyone to paint or write what they love about about the earth.
The process for this collaboration started a couple of weeks earlier at a Burning Man Project Volunteer Appreciation Party. During the party the scissors came out and along with celebratory toasts to the volunteers there was much clipping to be done to make animal prints for the kids. (more…)