Burning Man Project Seeks BWB Program Manager

bwb-logo_transparentIn case you missed the news, Burners Without Borders (BWB) became an official program of Burning Man Project (BMP) on June 1, 2015.

BWB, born in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has a storied history of facilitating global grassroots volunteerism and civic participation in everything from disaster relief to beach clean-ups.

Burning Man Project is now seeking a high caliber Program Manager to administrate Burners Without Borders. Please go here to apply — the application deadline is Monday July 6.

As part of this transition, Carmen Mauk, BWB’s founder and longtime Executive Director, will help onboard the new program manager and then continue her own community outreach efforts, including her most recent work on alternative currencies in Africa. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Carmen for her outstanding work over the years guiding and nurturing BWB to amass an impressive list of accomplishments, from Haiti to Peru, New Jersey and Japan.

 

The Dancetronauts Meet Civic Responsibility

We’ve received a number of questions about the Dancetronauts Mutant Vehicle being asked not to come to Black Rock City in 2015. Here’s some background …

Shark car at the DMV, 2011 (Photo by Philippe Glade)
Shark car at the DMV, 2011 (Photo by Philippe Glade)

We strive to create as few rules as possible in Black Rock City to allow Burning Man participants as much freedom of expression as possible. The few rules we enforce on playa (such as on-playa driving restrictions, sound limits for large-scale sound camps, the recent ban on hand-held lasers, etc.) strike a balance between the various competing interests in the community, creating a foundation for civil society. In the spirit of Civic Responsibility, everybody sacrifices something (gives a gift, if you will) for the benefit of the greater community — which is Communal Effort.

Burning Man has had rules in place for several years regarding sound systems on Mutant Vehicles. The sound policy was created to strike a balance between allowing mobile sound vehicles and respecting artists’ requests for quiet space around their installations, participants looking to camp in quiet areas of Black Rock City and to address reports of hearing damage caused by overly loud systems.

We’ve received a number of complaints from participants about the Dancetronauts vehicle since 2013 — in fact more than any other vehicle on the playa. We requested the Dancetronauts draft a plan for dealing with the issues, and they failed to do so. We informed them their vehicle would not receive a license to operate on the playa for 2015. Dancetronauts have not been ‘banned’ from Burning Man. They’ve been asked to take a year off and make plans as to how they’ll address concerns from the community in the future.

Dr. Yes over at Burn.life wrote a good post on this topic, including some more details.

A Nation of Makers: Burning Man at the White House

At the White House this week, President Obama is hosting makers of all stripes to present the ways they’re welding, programming, sculpting, building and teaching our way into the future. The program is called A Nation of Makers, and it coincides with the National Maker Faire in Washington, D.C. You can watch the kickoff event, featuring presentations and panels on this exciting work, live now:

Last year, on June 18, President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire and challenged “every company, every college, every community, every citizen [to] join us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” This administration sees the maker movement as a national priority.

Over 100 U.S. cities have taken a Maker Cities pledge, developing maker spaces, redesigning education along the lines of participation, STEM and civic participation, and engaging citizens in the co-creation of their cities. This effort will be expanded this year as cities work together in an emerging Open Innovation network to pursue these goals. All of this will be a centerpiece of announcements during the National Week of Making.

That all makes good enough sense, but… Burning Man at the White House? Really??

Messaging by Mac Maker, made of recycled found objects

Messaging by Mac Maker, made of recycled found objects

In fact, organizers of this White House maker stuff tell us that Burning Man comes up often in their work as an example of some of the best aspects of making and the American experience. Burning Man is a federation of wildly diverse groups of people who come together to celebrate that diversity, the powerful and different personal expressions within it, and the shared values underlying all of it.

It’s kind of like a microcosm of the United States that way.

Burning Man and the U.S. share this element of experimenting with unprecedented models of community, which requires constant innovation and reinvention. Since our earliest days on Baker Beach, we’ve seen how that effort starts with the maker spirit. It’s inspiring to see that spirit catching on at the highest levels of government.

Burning Man has been turning up its civic maker efforts lately, too. Burning Man Arts does more than provide grants for art projects in Black Rock City. It reaches out to communities globally that would never come to Burning Man and gives grants to kindred interactive civic art projects to catalyze new communities. And Burners Without Borders sends our culture’s talented makers, builders and fixers into areas stricken by poverty or disaster to provide relief efforts. They help local grassroots movements solve their own problems with sustainable solutions.

So that’s why the White House invited Burning Man to participate in this year’s National Week of Making. We’ve got staff on the ground in D.C. this week, and they’ll be reporting back. Stay tuned.

As Bliss Dances into the Sunset, Truth is Beauty Gets a New Home

It is quite possible that there is nothing we here at Burning Man Arts love more than when our community’s artists and their art thrive in the world. After a successful four-year stay on Treasure Island in San Francisco bay, Marco Cochrane’s Bliss Dance is relocating. Bliss Dance was his first sculpture in The Bliss Project series, the intention of which is to celebrate femininity and encourage self-acceptance and self-love in women.

Last Tuesday, the artist announced that the second work in the series, Truth is Beauty, will be installed in San Leandro, California in late 2016, on a 10-year lease. The appreciation and love for these works doesn’t surprise us – we know that they’re both gorgeous works of art! But we are increasingly encouraged by the public demand for these works. Let’s hope other cities follow suit and seek out collaboration with our community’s artists … and it’s our aim to connect artists with such opportunities.

Debuting at Burning Man in 2010, Bliss Dance left us with wide eyes and jaws dropped. Our community hadn’t seen anything like this 40-foot tall, 9000lb figure celebrating the strength inherent in femininity, and practically demanded that it be shared with the world. The Black Rock Arts Foundation (now Burning Man Arts) couldn’t have agreed more, and collaborated with the artist in a successful fundraising campaign and installation of Bliss Dance on Treasure Island in 2011. Like many of our associated public art installations, Bliss Dance’s residency on Treasure Island was extended beyond its expected stay, and remained on view — to the delight of many — for four years. We were so fortunate to have enjoyed her sparkly, dazzling presence for so long.

Bliss Dance on Treasure Island, San Francisco, 2011. (Photo by Michael Holden)
Bliss Dance on Treasure Island, San Francisco, 2011. (Photo by Michael Holden)

But, alas, the time has come to say goodbye to Bliss. Although we (and everyone we know, it seems) would love to see her dancing in front of that gorgeous San Francisco skyline forever, the sculpture’s stainless steel interior structure was just not designed to withstand long-term exposure to the sea air. Last month Bliss Dance was de-installed from Treasure Island. Cochrane and his team will be restoring and improving the piece’s components, making its lighting effects even more brilliant, and readying it for its next home.

Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane, 2013 (Photo by Dan Adams)
Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane, 2013 (Photo by Dan Adams)

However, for those of us in the Bay Area, we don’t have to wait long to enjoy more of Cochrane’s fine work. Last Tuesday’s announcement of Truth is Beauty’s installation at the San Leandro Tech Campus proves that the public’s interest in Cochrane, and in other artists in our community, is only growing. Truth is Beauty will be the centerpiece of the new San Leandro Tech Campus, a 500,0000 square-foot technology and business center, where thousands of commuters will be able to see it each day from the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system’s San Leandro station.

The sculpture, with its 2,500 L.E.D. lights programmed with near-infinite algorithms of slowly changing color displays, is a perfect monument to how technology contributes to art and civic beautification. Yet another feat of engineering, Truth is Beauty is even taller, more massive, and more intricate than Bliss Dance, standing at 55-feet tall, weighing 13,000lbs, with over 20,000 feet of steel rod and pipe welded together in triangulated geodesic struts, and with over 50,000 single-weld points.

Congratulations to Marco and the Bliss Crew, and thank you for all the wonderful work you’ve created!

More Butts, Fewer Seats!

traffic jam
UGH.

Back when Black Rock City’s population would barely overwhelm an In ‘n’ Out drive-thru, let alone the two-lane highways leading to the Black Rock Desert, the Burning Man Rideshare board was just a handy way for people to catch a ride to the playa.

But with our burgeoning population — and hopes of burgeoning it yet more — ridesharing has become a necessity to ensure the long-term survival of the Burning Man event in Black Rock City (we say “in Black Rock City” because there are 60+ Burning Man events around the world … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here). The environmental impact aside, the reality is our favorite two-laners to nowhere just can’t take the traffic. So the Rideshare board? Very important.

The board was getting seriously long in the tooth and creaky at the knees, so we sent in our crack tech team to beef, clean, and pretty it up, and then add flight sharing into the Black Rock City Airport (or any other airport for that matter … but there we go getting ahead of ourselves again) and other cool features to help you find the ideal seat for your butt.

Rideshare!
Rideshare!

OK so here’s the really cool part: we’re making our Rideshare board available to any Burning Man Regional event to manage their own carpooling efforts. That’s right, we’re taking our sustainability efforts global. Any of the 60+ Burning Man Regional events around the world will be able to facilitate carpooling and flight-sharing using this system (whether they do or not is up to them).

Wait, flight-sharing what? Yes, that’s right. If you’ve got an extra seat to share on your plane, we got that covered too — whichever airport you’re using.

Cool huh? OK so say it with us: More Butts, Fewer Seats!

Now … get in there, and find your ride.

David Best to Build Temple at Patricia’s Green

The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) and Burning Man are pleased to announce the creation of The Temple at Patricia’s Green by renowned artist David Best, to be installed in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. Originally proposed by SFAC, and produced in close collaboration with the Burning Man nonprofit, the new temple will commemorate the 10th anniversary of Best’s Hayes Valley Temple, exhibited at the same location — on Octavia Street at Linden Street — in 2005.

Please join SFAC, Burning Man, and the Hayes Valley community in celebrating this wonderful work of public art at its Opening Reception, June 26, 2015, 11:00 a.m., at Patricia’s Green in San Francisco, California. The artist and special guest speakers will be present.

Burning Man is committed to creating experiences that inspire joy, lift the human spirit, address social problems, and foster a sense of culture, community, and personal engagement.

David Best's recent Temple in Derry-Londonderry, Ireland, 2015 (Photo by Josh Lease)
David Best’s recent Temple in Derry-Londonderry, Ireland, 2015 (Photo by Josh Lease)

“Burning Man is thrilled to be working with David Best and the Arts Commission to make this project possible,” says Burning Man’s Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives Tomas McCabe. “In our ongoing effort to make Burning Man culture accessible to everyone, we’re excited that Hayes Valley and the entire City of San Francisco will once again have an opportunity to co-create a powerful, interactive community art experience.”

The project is made possible with development impact fees from Hayes Valley private developments, which were set aside specifically for artwork in Patricia’s Green, and with additional support from San Francisco Grants for the Arts; the San Francisco Community Challenge Grant / Market Octavia Eastern Neighborhoods Area Plans Grant Program; and Burning Man.

History

The Temple of Grace in Black Rock City by David Best, 2014 (Photo by Scott London)
The Temple of Grace in Black Rock City by David Best, 2014 (Photo by Scott London)

In 2005, Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Arts Commission encouraged the Black Rock Arts Foundation (now a subsidiary of Burning Man) to collaborate with the San Francisco’s Hayes Valley community and David Best to create an interactive “Temple.” The Hayes Valley Temple quickly became a cherished focal point for the community, providing a beautiful space that inspired connection, dialog and civic pride. It demonstrated how artists, city officials and community members can collaborate to create meaningful work specific to the needs of their community, and became the model for Burning Man’s Civic Arts Program.

“David Best’s temple was universally loved and continues to be among the top most memorable temporary art installations the city has ever presented. It just made sense to bring it back for the 10th anniversary of Patricia’s Green,” says Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny.

About the Artist

In addition to his collage, painting, ceramic and mixed media sculptural works (shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Oakland Museum, the San Jose Museum of Art, and diRosa,) David Best is known for his massive, exquisitely decorative temples built and burned at the annual Burning Man event in the Nevada desert.

Artist David Best, 2014 (Photo credit unknown)
Artist David Best, 2014 (Photo credit unknown)

Best’s temples fill a critical societal need, providing the rare opportunity to publicly acknowledge grief and hope concurrently. The structures become a collective tribute to the shared human experiences of contemplation, reflection, sorrow, affection and hope. Most recently, Best collaborated with UK-based charity Artichoke and local community members to create a temple in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

About the Artwork

The Temple at Patricia’s Green will honor the loss of community members and celebrate the community’s dreams and aspirations for the future.

The new temple will be made of wood. On par with his other large-scale works, it is expected to be approximately 15 feet in width and length and approximately 37 feet in height (pending final plans). Best’s temples often feature alcoves and niches conducive to private reflection. Community members are welcome to write the names of, or messages to, lost loved ones, and/or their aspirations and thoughts on the temple’s walls. As people contribute to the piece, the space becomes a communal expression of very personal experiences, creating a new sense of affinity among participating community members.

As David Best says, “When we finish the temple and turn it over to the community, it is an empty building. They bring their mothers, they bring their brothers, they bring their best friends, their weddings and their celebrations to it. And then it becomes something. It has no life until the community brings that life to it.”

With the creation of The Temple at Patricia’s Green, Best will take the concept of community collaboration even further. He proposes an installation period of 10 days, from June 13 to June 21. Spanning two weekends, this will create time for both scheduled and informal opportunities to interact with the public. The new temple will be on display for at least one year.

Kicking Concierge Caboose in Black Rock City

Yes, they really made this. Yes, that's a computer-generated plane.
Yes, they really made this. Yes, that’s a computer-generated plane.

I’ve Got Your “Vacation Package” Right Here

Festivals Concierge Services, part of a larger European-focused concierge company called The Key, offers VIP-priced packages for events and festivals around the world, which is great for them. They also want to offer them for Burning Man, but that’s not going to happen.

We believe strongly that paying upfront for a prescribed, curated experience that doesn’t require individual effort misses the mark and erodes Burning Man culture, and it’s absolutely not okay to sell people “the Burning Man experience” as a vacation package. This is precisely the kind of service we hope to eliminate from Black Rock City: one that essentially offers participation and “self-expression” in a box.

[In case you forgot, we have a comprehensive website section about how we deal with turnkey camping.]

Read on to learn about our interactions with Festivals Concierge Services, the actions we’re taking to stop what they’d like to do in Black Rock City, and how you can help.

History

We first learned of Festivals Concierge Services (FCS) in the summer of 2014 when we received reports about their website — burningmanvip.net — which was selling concierge services involving Black Rock City. We reached out concerning their unapproved uses of Burning Man’s intellectual property (IP) and offer of unauthorized services. Festivals Concierge Services changed the website as we requested, and they claimed that they were not offering any services at or to the 2014 Burning Man event in Nevada.

We next heard about Festivals Concierge Services in March 2015 when we received reports about the “Art on Playa Foundation,” an organization that Festivals Concierge Services started, purportedly to help their wealthy clients provide financial support to Burning Man artists. We saw that the Art on Playa website was using our logo and other IP, and causing confusion among artists and other participants about our involvement with them (we had none). So we reached out to Festivals Concierge Services again, explained our principles and policies again, and asked them to stop using our IP on their websites. Once again, they agreed to comply with our requests.

Sadly, we can’t say we were totally surprised when we learned that Festivals Concierge Services recently added a new “Burning Man concierge” page to its website. They have since changed the leading graphic — bearing a garish, computer-generated private jet flying over Black Rock City — to read “Black Rock City” instead of “Burning Man,” but FCS still uses the Burning Man name liberally (for example, at press time, FCS lists Burning Man as one of its “Products” on its Facebook info page). The page makes unauthorized use of Burning Man’s IP and claims to offer concierge services at our 2015 event (everything from transportation and tickets to Mutant Vehicle rentals and on-site theme camp management). This is all completely unauthorized by the Burning Man organization. Our community also took notice, and offered their pointed opinions protesting these activities in a Facebook thread that was deleted by Festival Concierge Services on 5/20/15.

Taking Action

We have contacted Festivals Concierge Services yet again, reminding them that they can’t offer “Burning Man concierge services” or use our IP to promote their business. We’re also taking a number of other steps to protect our principles and our stance on this issue:

  • Notifying applicants to our Outside Services (OSS) and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs that if we learn they are doing business or subcontracting with concierges services (such as FCS) or their clients, we will deny access to the OSS and ACS programs.
  • Revisiting and revising the overall OSS program structure so companies like this can’t exploit the system (this process began after the 2014 event).
  • Notifying BLM that FCS will not have a contract with Burning Man and should not receive a BLM Special Recreation Permit to operate its concierge business on public land.
  • Coordinating with DMV and Placement to ask Mutant Vehicle operators and theme camp organizers not to provide services or camping to FCS or their clients.
  • Working with our Ticketing Team to prevent FCS staff from acquiring event tickets for resale to their clients.
  • Communicating with YOU, our community, to keep you informed about these activities, and to solicit your help with combating the packaging and sale of our culture now and in the future.

We welcome your questions and comments below. If you’re aware of any other companies using Burning Man’s intellectual property to sell “VIP Burning Man experiences” or the like, send a report to ip here: ip (at) burningman.org.

Green Tortoise: the Exception that Proves the Rule

Green Tortoise bus on playa (Photographer unknown)
Green Tortoise bus on playa (Photographer unknown)

With the influx of concierge companies seeking to capitalize on Burning Man’s popularity, we are taking a hard line with companies that want to provide tourism services and turnkey camping at the event. We don’t believe in spending money to avoid self-reliance in Black Rock City, and it’s absolutely against our principles to sell people “the Burning Man experience” as a vacation package. But there’s a balance to be struck between a “No Spectators” ethos and keeping our culture open to everyone.

We’re reviewing the ways we strike this balance and may make additional changes in the future, but for now, we’re continuing to make an exception to our approach to turnkey camping in the case of the adventure company Green Tortoise, with whom we forged a relationship in the year 2000. It’s worth explaining how in this case, Green Tortoise is the exception that proves the rule.

In the beginning…

In 1998, heavy rain flooded the event site just as Burning Man was coming to an end. With vehicles unable to leave Black Rock City, many Burners were stuck on playa. To make contact with the outside world, they trekked into Gerlach on foot, leaving a muddy mess in the small community (if you’ve ever been on playa when it rains, you know the deal). In response to concerns from the Gerlach community, participants were not allowed to leave during the event in 1999, creating challenges of its own: this time Gerlach lost the economic benefit of Burners frequenting its stores and facilities during the event.

Beginning in 2000, Green Tortoise agreed to provide shuttle service to Gerlach, enabling participants to purchase supplies and make contact with the outside world using the local payphones, while minimizing impacts on the local community. Most importantly for us, Green Tortoise provided a much-needed service for our participants that we couldn’t provide ourselves.

Then and now…

For a while, we gave Green Tortoise a small number of tickets they could resell as part of their compensation for providing shuttle service because, while we were short on money, we had plenty of tickets. Over the years, we grew to know and trust the Burners running the company and their staff and customers made valuable contributions to Burning Man, so we allowed them to expand their presence by offering a trip to Black Rock City, which is a noteworthy exception to our current policies.

For 2015, the Green Tortoise package costs $995 for the week (the event ticket is sold separately). It includes transportation to and from Black Rock City, along with water, shade, and food for cooking meals. Campers must bring and set up their own tents/sleeping accommodations and participate in meal preparation. These are not luxury trips to Burning Man. Green Tortoise encourages participation and has an excellent Leave No Trace record.

Though the need for daily bus trips to town has declined (participants tend to come more fully prepared these days), our relationship with Green Tortoise has continued. The current contract provides Green Tortoise with infrastructure for their camp, and the option to purchase up to 185 tickets (at $390 each) for resale to their customers only. Green Tortoise does not share a portion of its profits with the Burning Man organization; Burning Man does not benefit financially from this relationship in any way.

What Green Tortoise Brings to Burning Man

Green Tortoise campers include first-time Burners and 20-year veterans. They span a wide age range and are primarily backpackers from overseas. The service is particularly appealing for people who travel long distances to participate in Burning Man, as it makes some of the logistics and supply acquisition easier and more affordable. Of the 150 participants who will go to Burning Man in 2015 with Green Tortoise:

  • 69.3% reside outside the U.S.
    • The largest group of international campers are from Australia (24% of all campers), The Netherlands (24%), and the U.K. (11.5%)
    • Other home countries include Colombia, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Argentina, Singapore and the Bahamas.
  • The average age is 37
    • The youngest is 18
    • The oldest is 79

And Green Tortoise campers have made significant contributions to BRC over the years. These include:

Art Projects: Green Tortoise campers have played an integral part in the conception, design, building and implementation of various playa art projects, including a wall of light (multi-colored technology-driven LED display), The Rolling Light Balls project, and pieces for CORE (The Circle of Regional Effigies), including two from Victoria, B.C.: PsychoPhilia (the big head) in 2012 from and Fleur pour les Morts in 2013.

Art Cars: Green Tortoise campers have created three art cars: The Tiki bar (a VW van chopped up and re-fabricated into a tropical-themed, roaming bar), The Cloud (the same chopped-up VW van fabricated to resemble a fluffy, mobile thunderstorm), and the Galapagos Tortoise. All art cars were hop-on, hop-off style and were built with accessibility in mind to encourage any and everyone to ride them.

Regional Contacts: Two Green Tortoise campers have gone on to become Regional Contacts (from New York and Georgia).

BRC Departmental Support: Green Tortoise campers often sign up to volunteer for various departments prior to arriving on playa. Others have become more engaged upon arrival or in subsequent years. Green Tortoise campers have become Black Rock Rangers, BRC nurses, Lamplighters, Center Camp Cafe staff, Earth Guardians, Temple Guardians, and more.

In 2014 alone, Green Tortoise campers:

  • Built and performed on a stage at Green Tortoise camp. This included acoustic guitars and a flute player ensemble, as well as DJs with ambient lounge chill-out music, providing a relaxed atmosphere for anyone to drop in on.
  • Built a sultan-like tent for the Caravansary theme and held meditation sessions.
  • Held free massage sessions by licensed massage therapists.
  • Hung a slew of hand-made birdhouses in random locations.
  • Performed for the public: sang at center camp, drummed at the pre-Burn ceremony and other events, hula danced, fire danced during the Burn ceremony and in other performances using batons, poi and other various flaming crazy-fun props, stilt-danced, and sang sea shanties on several of the pirate-themed ships.
  • Created a BRC Junior Ranger Program (not affiliated with the real BRC Rangers); over 300 participants received booklets describing participation-based tasks. Upon completion of the tasks in the booklet, each of the applicants were awarded patches.
  • Formed the French Fashion Police, complete with aviator glasses, tight shorts, whistles and ticket books, and held “Fashion Friday – a Costume Giveaway” and offered face and/or body painting to whoever passed by.

In short, this is no frou-frou, chichi turnkey camp. It makes significant contributions to BRC that have flourished for many years.

Going Forward

While we appreciate the long relationship we’ve had with Green Tortoise and are continuing to support their efforts in 2015, we’re also working with them to make some changes to how they operate to bring them more in line with Burning Man’s principles. The owners of the company understand and are working with us to address our community’s concerns around turnkey camping, and we may make further changes to this arrangement in the future.