July 15th, 2014  |  Filed under News

Scaling Infrastructure: Lessons Learned in a Pizza Oven

If you’ve created art or built a theme camp at Burning Man, you know that it’s all about trial, error, complex planning and a fair amount of flying by the seat of your pants. In 2006, my camp, Random Pizza Experience (RPE), was placed on the Esplanade for the first time. For two years, we’d been cooking homemade pizzas in camp and making random deliveries across the playa.

Temple Portrait, 2013. Photo by Mark Hammon.

Temple Portrait, 2013. Photo by Mark Hammon.

We were unprepared for the impact of thousands of Burners flowing through our camp on the Esplanade. We were asked questions small and large all day. Why do you make the dough from scratch? Is this pizza the right size? May I give you a kiss? Why aren’t you open?

What did we know? Enough to get into trouble and not enough to avert small disasters. We simply were not prepared for the crush of Burners that came with Esplanade placement. I’m embarrassed to say that at one time, the Nevada Health Department featured our camp in a presentation on what not to do! But, we were thrilled to see people making music, art and performance together while they were waiting in line for pizza. We tried to focus on our strengths, like connecting people, and not our weaknesses (according to the Health Department).

Scalability is an issue for nearly every aspect of Burning Man. In 1990, the first year in the desert, roughly 90 people showed up. This year we’ll have 70,000. And Burners have taken what they’ve learned in the desert into the world in awe-inspiring ways. We now have more than 220 Regional representatives worldwide, with more than 40 official Burning Man affiliated events on six continents. From artists to civic activists, the world is changing every day because of Burning Man.

Man at SF Decompression, 2011. Photo by Waldemar Horwat.

Man at SF Decompression, 2011. Photo by Waldemar Horwat.

Burning Man Project is facing scaling challenges of its own. Staff and volunteers are working days, nights and weekends to serve a growing community that is active around the world every day and every hour.

Burning Man Project is fundraising to build out an infrastructure to support the worldwide culture of Burning Man. Some Burners are addressing social and environmental problems (Burners Without Borders and Black Rock Solar) while others are bringing civic art to the public (Black Rock Arts Foundation) and some are inventing things that none of us have imagined.

I started volunteering for Burning Man Project in 2012 at BMHQ in San Francisco. Today, I’m in a leadership position helping create infrastructure to support the year-round culture.  We’re creating systems and processes for building and tracking our events, programs and activities in the world. We’re also exploring collaborations with like-minded organizations like [freespace] and Maker Faire -  groups that are teaching us what they’ve learned along the way.

Spire of Fire in Downtown Reno, 2011. Photo by Bill Kositzky.

Spire of Fire in Downtown Reno, 2011. Photo by Bill Kositzky.

We’re a public benefit corporation because our purpose and mission is to support the Burning Man culture out in the world. Income from Burning Man tickets supports the event in the desert but that income isn’t sufficient to support the infrastructure needed for a global movement founded on Burning Man’s Ten Principles. Burning Man staff and volunteers are running fast to keep up with  the growth of this culture year-round and we don’t yet have the resources we need to sustain this level of growth.

Just as the questions of Random Pizza Experience helped us understand our strengths and challenges, we welcome your questions about the future of Burning Man in the world.  Please keep them coming. Each one helps us learn more.

Making pizza dough from scratch takes a little longer but I’m convinced that it tastes better.  And making better pizza is actually scalable – just teach more friends how to do it.

Please join me and Carmen Mauk, Executive Director of Burners Without Borders, for “From the Playa to the Planet,” a conversation about social change at Everywhere (6:15 and Esplanade), on Monday, August 25th, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm.  This is an opportunity for crowd-sourcing solutions to social change challenges and we’d love to see you there!

July 14th, 2014  |  Filed under News

Tragedy at Utah’s Element 11 Regional Burn

bm_logoThis past Saturday, a person lost his life at the Element 11 Arts Festival in Grantsville, Utah. Element 11 is part of the Burning Man Regional Network, a group of organizations officially affiliated with Burning Man. A version of the event, which culminates with the burning of a large wooden effigy, has been held each year since 1998. The victim, who has been identified as a Salt Lake City resident in his thirties, broke through an established safety perimeter and entered the flames of the burning art piece.

This is obviously a terribly difficult and sad event for the global Burning Man community, the dedicated organizers of Element 11, and most especially for those who witnessed it. Our thoughts and prayers today are with the victim’s family and the Utah Burner community.

Many people came together to create a safe and enjoyable event celebrating community, art and creativity. While this is a heavy blow, we’re heartened by the fact that we’ve already seen the Burning Man community reaching out to those affected with offers of support.

For our part, our leadership has been in touch with the leadership of the Utah Regional, and we will be doing everything we can to support the community through this difficult time.

An investigation is currently underway by local law enforcement, and more information will be made available in the coming days and weeks.

Here’s some news coverage of the event:

http://www.ksl.com/?sid=30702034&nid=148
http://www.kutv.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_12550.shtml

And here’s the official statement from the event’s organizers (released Sunday, July 13):

“We acknowledge there was indeed a fatality last night at Element 11 (Utah’s regional). This is a deeply upsetting event with tragic results. Our hearts go out to the Utah community and to the attendees of Element 11. This is a tragic event, and we struggle to respond to it. We ask for your patience while we find the appropriate resources, but please know that we are committed to supporting those affected by this event in the best way we can.”

UPDATE: The victim has been identified as Chris Wallace. His family has set up an online donation campaign, if you’d like to make a contribution to help pay for his funeral and end of life costs.

July 8th, 2014  |  Filed under News

Professional Media Proposals Due July 10

click!

click!

Are you a professional photographer or videographer coming to Burning Man? The deadline for Professional Media Project Proposals is July 10. Proposals can be submitted here, and you must submit a project proposal, be approved, AND check-in at Media Mecca on site in order to distribute any media from the event beyond social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr.

As a reminder: all participants with cameras, regardless of whether they are for personal or professional use agree to abide by the ticketholders terms and conditions for media. This includes always asking for consent to film and giving credit for the art that you capture. Don’t be a creepster!

For more information on our Media Policy, please read our Press Rights & Responsibilities page of our website.

July 7th, 2014  |  Filed under Participate!

The Experience of a 12-Time, 15 Year-Old Burner

Furthering the dialogue about Kids at Burning Man that Caveat resurrected in his post Growing Up Burning, I’d like to present the perspective of a 15 year old Burner who has attended the event 12 times. Her name is Sydney, and she’s no longer attending the Burn while she’s in high school (apparently, it’s a big deal to miss the first week of high school), but has plans to return as soon as she is able.

Sydney in 2002. Photo by her dad, CTP.

Sydney in 2002. Photo by her dad, CTP.

I’ve known Sydney since she was 8 years old, and I’ve always been impressed at how easily she seemed to adapt on playa. She had an ever-rotating cast of friends who were delighted to take her on adventures, entire camps that considered her their mascot, and a camp-family who adored her and tolerated her terrible manicures.

I sat down with her recently (blue hair, cool glasses, brace on her knee from a snowboarding accident) to ask about her experiences growing up a Burner. The following interview is edited for clarity only based on the transcript of our discussion. The words are hers. Questions in bold are mine.

Is there a good time for kids to start going to Burning Man? Should you take them when they’re babies, or wait until they’re a certain age?

I started going when I was 1 year old, and I went all the way until I was 12. For me it was just a normal thing; my brain had adjusted. That’s how I grew up. The more that kids only see the real world before going to Burning Man, they might not take in the deeper meaning of the event and might think it’s just a party in the desert. Meeting all these great people and see all this interesting art … it really affected me.

I think a lot of my art interest comes from Burning Man, all the kinds of art I do. But I’ve also met a bunch of amazing people at Burning Man, and I think that changed me in terms of experiencing lots of things. I’ve done so many things I wouldn’t have been able to do in Oakland.

What are some of the best things you remember doing at Burning Man, that you could only have done at Burning Man?

I really enjoyed volunteering in the Black Rock Boutique. I got to help sort clothes, but I also got to take the clothes I wanted! Getting to see the Man and the Temple burn are really big parts of Burning Man that I’ll always remember. I also got to meet PeeWee Herman.

Growing up at Burning Man and seeing people naked, in costumes, cross-dressing…does that translate to real life at all?

I see pretty much everything as normal. If I see a guy in a skirt, I pretty much don’t think anything except that he chose to wear a skirt that day … like I got up and chose to put on these socks this morning. I’m not going to get judged for wearing these socks, why should he get judged for wearing a skirt?

Does this kind of acceptance you’ve learned at Burning Man help you out in high school, something that is a traditionally difficult time for people?

It makes it easier and harder: I’m really open-minded, but when I see that other people aren’t as open-minded, and I can’t MAKE them be open-minded, it’s frustrating. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not be so open. My friends are also really open, though, and I learn from them and they learn from me. We’ll go up to strangers in Berkeley and just start having a conversation with them — I think that Burning Man has helped me do this. But Burning Man has also made me a bit closed-minded towards “average” people — I’ll look at them and think “ooo, they’re not going to be cool, I have to find the weird, cool people” … but then I imagine the normal people are also thinking the same thing about us. So I talk to them anyway.

We’re open to hanging out with whoever. My friend group has a punk, two hippies, and then my friend and I who aren’t … anything in particular … but we’re all just coming together and having a good time. Our differences don’t matter.

Were there any downsides to growing up at Burning Man?

I was always the weird kid in class when I was 7 … short dyed hair, glasses, braces, I was the underdog. I was bullied for a couple of years for being weird. The bullies didn’t like that. I wouldn’t blame that on Burning Man though, it’s just more my specific experience, and my willingness to be a weird kid.

When you were out exploring Burning Man, were you treated well by strangers?

Everyone was really nice to me. If I was biking along, people would come invite me to do things, I’d just start talking to people in line. People would always ask me about being a kid at Burning Man — I got a lot of attention for it. I felt like the VIP of Burning Man!

Did they seem to enjoy the fact that there were kids at Burning Man?

YES! When I was little, I’d tell them “I’ve been to Burning Man 7 times!” and they’d say things like “it’s my first time! And you’re 7 and you’ve been to Burning Man a lot more than me!” I felt super cool for that. I’d talk to someone who looked like a hard-core Burner and they’d tell me it was their 3rd time, and I’d say “it’s my 12th burn”. I had a lot of confidence for having gone to Burning Man so many times. It was my place.

What about the people who say that Burning Man is not as cool as it used to be?

There’s a lot more people recently who have been going just for the party, and not for the art. It’s an ART FESTIVAL. If you just come to party and get wasted, that’s not what Burning Man is about. If you’re seeing it as a big party … it sort of is, but it’s an ART party. It’s not just for coming to drink.

Is there anything else you’d want to say to people attending Burning Man?

Take risks. Don’t take BIG risks, but take … a good amount of risks. If you’re going to go to Burning Man, be open-minded. Push your boundaries. If you’re not comfortable with something, try it anyway. Explore, experiment, try new things. Get to know yourself.

————-
Sydney is a high school student in Oakland, California.
Brody is a year-round member of the Art Department who likes ponies and is searching for someone to teach her how to chainsaw-carve wooden bears.

July 7th, 2014  |  Filed under Events/Happenings

Precompression at NIMBY in Oakland, CA

The first comment we heard on Sunday morning after Precompression was:

That was the best party I have ever been to. It was gorgeous, there was lots of room and everybody was friendly and having a great time.

Art Cars: Air Pusher, Beezus Christ Super Car, BAAHS

Art Cars: Air Pusher, Beezus Christ Super Car, BAAHS

This year we did something a little different. This event was held at one of our community’s best-loved art making spaces, NIMBY, to support local arts and artists! It was a multi-environment, indoor-outdoor, grease-monkey-to-glam, big art, downhome throwdown of artistically epic proportions! Burning Man and Burners—from old school to new—congregated at NIMBY.

There were Mutant Vehicles and art being created for

precom night group resizedBurning Man 2014 like The Alien Siege Machine and The Kraken. There was live glassworking by NIMBY artists, Maria Del Camino, Opulent Temple, Sugar Cubes, Alex Nolan’s Throw Bot, Grahmahs House, and about a gazillion more Bay Area artist groups showcasing their work and joining forces in support of this memorable night. There were places to gather, various dance floors, multiple live performance stages, and a great diversity of attendees.

precom facepainting resizedIn addition to all of that art and music and community, there was even a place to have your face painted. Gotta love all of that.

You can see more of Michael Fox’s photos of Precompression HERE.

 

 

 

 

And then this happened!

photos: Michael Fox
Video: Tex Allen

July 2nd, 2014  |  Filed under Burning Book Club

Burning Book Club – Chapter 3 – Why do bad things happen to good Burners? (SPOILER ALERT!)

Book Burning(We’re basing this discussion on Terry Eagleton’s “Culture and the Death of God.” Read all the book club entries, including the previous post on Chapter 2.)

Does Burning Man have a problem of evil?

In one of the recent posts in this series I suggested that while Burning Man cannot substitute for religion, it may very well be able to substitute for God – at least “God” as understood by the German Idealists.

But anyone who takes seriously the idea that Burning Man is a healthy experience or progressive social force has to contend with the fact that it can be a serious kick in the teeth – and that’s if it doesn’t kill you.  If one of the questions that haunts religion is “why does God let bad things happen to good people,” what is the Burning Man equivalent?  The people who think of Burning Man only as a giant party or EDM festival have no problem with the idea that bad things can happen to good people at Burning Man … obviously they didn’t hydrate.  But the rest of us have to justify the existence of an experience of harsh experimentation in a deadly environment with limited organization not just as a thing that exists, but as a positive moral force in the universe.

Don’t we?

Read more »

July 2nd, 2014  |  Filed under News

Burning Man Event Health Department Permits & Deadlines for 2014

If you are planning to make and give away food or drinks to the public on the playa including fresh squeezed juice, coffee with dairy, or even snow cones, you need a permit. Here’s the scoop from Ellen Kunz, Environmental Health Specialist with the Nevada State Health Divisions Public Health and Clinical Services Environmental Health Program:

“In order to fight the threat of food-borne illness on the playa, the Nevada State Health Division (NSHD) has requirements for camps preparing food including the need of a health permit and an inspection. You must apply for and be permitted as a Temporary Food Establishment by the NSHD if:

You will be cooking or serving food to large groups of more than 125 FELLOW CAMPERS of your camp on a consistent basis. (If you have a communal kitchen shared by 125 or more campers, but meals are prepared individually, or in smaller quantities than for 125 persons, a permit is not required, however we highly recommend you research and review safe food handling practices, starting with the Nevada State Division of Health information.)
You wish to share, cook or serve food or non-alcoholic beverages to the general Burning Man population (gifting food).
Here are the permit procedures and deadlines:

Complete the ‘Food Permit Application for Burning Man’ found here. (Look for the flame icon at the bottom of the page for the application and other food safety information and guidelines regarding Burning Man.)

If you have already applied for a permit, you should be receiving instructions in the mail soon.

DEADLINES:

Via Mail: We must have sufficient time to be able to process the application and send back a letter of confirmation. So they need to be received at Ellen Kunz’s office in Winnemucca no later than one week before the event – August 15, 2014.

Don’t wait until the last minute. It would be a shame to have to cancel your plans, or even risk being closed at the event. The mailing address is  NSHD – PHCS 475 West Haskell Street Suite 38, Winnemucca, NV 89445.

In Person: No later than THURSDAY AUGUST 22. 4150 Technology Way Suite 100, Carson City, NV. Phone: (775) 687-7550 or 475 West Haskell Street Suite 38 Winnemucca, NV.  Phone (775) 623-6588.

On the application, the event coordinator is ‘Burning Man’. Leave the location blank, unless you know what street and intersection you’ll be at during the event. After mailing the application and $50 USD payment, you must come and pick up your permit at Playa Info in Center Camp from Sunday August 24 through Saturday August 30 (specific hours to be determined and announced).

We do this so that we can get an accurate camp location to do inspections. We are NOT issuing new permits at Playa Info.

IMPORTANT: A number of camps last year did not complete the permit process by picking up their permit at Playa Info and receiving their inspection. Not completing the process is the same as not being permitted. Don’t be shut down. You must pick up your permit and be inspected to be in compliance.

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Please contact Ellen Kunz (775) 623-6588 or email her here: %20ekunz (at) health.nv.gov at ekunz here: ekunz (at) health.nv.gov.”

June 30th, 2014  |  Filed under News

Feathers are MOOP, Right? Well, That Depends on YOU.

Dancer at Sunrise, 2013. Photo by Paulius Musteikis.

Dancer at Sunrise, 2013. Photo by Paulius Musteikis.

You may have heard that Radical Self-Reliance is one of Burning Man’s Ten Principles. And so is Leaving No Trace. When you put them together, it means that whether it’s a costume, or a vehicle, or an art installation, your food, your camp, your bike, your trinkets, or whatever, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING SURE YOUR STUFF DOESN’T BECOME MOOP (aka Matter Out of Place).

And that brings us to the subject of feathers on playa.

Back in the day, folks would show up at Burning Man with cheap feather boas, and they’d inevitably fall to pieces, blow all over the playa, get stuck on the trash fence, blow past it, and generally create a super MOOPy headache for everybody.

Boas still suck, don't bring 'em.

Boas still suck, don’t bring ‘em.

So, to prevent a MOOPocalypse, we’ve long had a warning in the Survival Guide to not bring feathers (primarily this was directed at those cheap boas, since it predates when the headdress and fedora fads kicked in), and even had the Gate crew prohibit them from being brought into Black Rock City.

Now here’s the thing … some feathers are super MOOPy and others, well, aren’t. What we’re saying is this: if you want to wear feathers, that’s fine … but make sure they’re attached in ways that won’t fail, and if you can’t then don’t wear them, because it’s on YOU if they become MOOP. (And that goes for anything you bring to Black Rock City.)

So be smart, use good judgment, and be careful about what you do and don’t bring to (and wear on) the playa. In order to help you make sound judgments, here’s a list of things that are known to be especially MOOPy:

  • wood chips, splinters and sawdust
  • pistachio shells
  • cigarette butts
  • live plants
  • burn barrel ashes
  • feather boas
  • sequins
  • mylar (once it dries out and cracks)
  • firecrackers and fireworks
  • anything that may dry out, break up and/or blow away in the wind
  • loose glitter
  • Astroturf
  • styrofoam coolers
  • plastic bags
  • sheets of paper
  • string
  • disposable drink cups
  • hay bales
  • straw
  • gravel
  • confetti (duh)
  • swimming pools (soaked playa = moop)
  • glass containers (they can shatter)

One last thing … we’re keeping our eye on this ball. If feathers prove to be a MOOP problem in the future, we may be forced to ban them.