Posts by Jon Mitchell

August 15th, 2014  |  Filed under Environment

Video: The Black Rock Desert and Caravansary

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM Natural Resource Specialist

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM Natural Resource Specialist

The Black Rock Desert is a place unlike any other – a wide expanse of possibility set in the heart of the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. This area is part of nation’s prized National Conservation Lands, a special designation given by the U.S. Government to some of the most scenic, culturally rich, scientifically important and yet least known public lands in the country. We’re lucky to build Black Rock City in this beautiful location, and we should be equally committed to respecting and protecting this special place.

The relationship between Burning Man and the Bureau of Land Management hinges on our mutual care for this exquisite desert. The BLM released a very friendly video showing how they do their part in protecting the land where we build Black Rock City. The video also features the Earth Guardians, the Burners who represent our communal effort to be environmentally responsible and respectful. Check it out:

Jayson Barangan, BLM’s Public Information Officer for Burning Man 2014, wrote in about the recent signing of the Special Recreation Permit (SRP) for the event. “With a 68,000 Burner threshold, this SRP is the biggest and most complex within BLM. Burning Man is a monumental logistical undertaking and through cooperative integration with BRC and multiple agencies and jurisdictions, the world’s largest Leave No Trace (LNT) is able to occur on federal public lands. LNT is one of the founding principles for Burning Man and is in unison with the SRP’s stipulations, whose chief priority is natural and cultural resource protection, as well as public safety.”

He also pointed out how this year’s Caravansary theme fits in beautifully with the heritage of the surrounding lands, which are National Landscape Conservation Lands (NLCS) lands administered by BLM. “There is a very interesting nexus between Burning Man’s theme this year, ‘Caravansary,’ and the Black Rock High Rock Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area (NCA), Jayson writes. “One of the cultural resources contained within the NCA is the Applegate Historic Trail, which is an emigrant trail used by early pioneers. It is the longest stretch of protected and intact emigrant trail in the USA. I think this particular resource dovetails very nicely with this year’s theme. The NCA also contains several designated wilderness areas; 2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.” Once again, Black Rock City is about to become a temporary oasis for this year’s Caravansary, just like the caravansaries of old.

It’s for the sake of this land and its heritage that we leave no trace of Black Rock City after our caravan moves on. If you want to contribute more to this effort, check out the Earth Guardians and consider joining up.

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM Natural Resource Specialist

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM Natural Resource Specialist

June 11th, 2014  |  Filed under Spirituality

Sabbath on the Playa

sukkatshalom

Friday evening of my second Burn, I had one of the holiest meals I can remember. As the stars came out, a big group gathered at camp Sukkat Shalom, lit candles, gave blessings, drank wine, and fried up crispy, savory latkes for each other to eat. It was an ideal way to ground the frenetic energy of the week in preparation for the following night’s burn. The cross-section of Burners interested in gathering to welcome the Sabbath was unlike that of any other on-playa scene. The wine, talk, and song flowed late into the night.

In subsequent years, the scene has been crazy. An overwhelming number of people show up. While I think that’s a great sign, it overloads the camp, and food is scarce. No theme camp’s gift is inexhaustible. But this year, Sukkat Shalom is crowd-funding a blowout Shabbat dinner experience. Here’s why I hope you’ll support it. Disclosure: I know and love lots of the people who run Sukkat Shalom.

The next-level Sukkat Shalom Shabbat dinner will begin under a blinky dome with LEDs that respond to the group’s singing as it welcomes the Sabbath, the holy day of rest and reflection, which ends at sundown on Saturday before the Man burns. The multi-course meal will be served at a Bedouin-style communal table in a subtly designed sound environment. It will be a sacred celebration, but it will also be a full-spectrum stimulus any Burner will love.

Sukkat Shalom is not a religious camp. Its name means “shelter of peace” in Hebrew, which is a thoroughly Jewish concept, but surely it’s one that makes sense to anyone who’s ever been to the Black Rock Desert. The camp calls itself “Jew-ish” (emphasis on “ish,” a term I personally can’t stand), but it does so in the name of inclusivity. It’s a camp run by some Jewish people and some non-Jewish people, and it has no religious requirements or expectations, but it’s framed by some Jewish concepts that apply beautifully on the playa. Shabbat is, in my opinion, the most powerful. Who doesn’t feel the specialness of Saturday at Burning Man?

sukkat2

I think about religion the whole time I’m in Black Rock City. There are so many pieces of religious life there if you’re inclined to look at them that way. The annual trek out there can feel like a pilgrimage. One of the central architectural features of the city is its Temple. Over the course of the week, time is demarcated by a series of ceremonies and offerings, the burns being the biggest examples. The desert itself is a classic site of personal revelation.

But the most powerful part of Burning Man culture is that it’s not prescriptive. These components of the experience are not specific representations of religious ideas. They’re archetypes of them, there for participants to share through their own lenses of meaning, even totally unreligious — or sacrilegious — ones. Just like the Temple is for everyone on the playa, regardless of what it means to them, I think Shabbat can be, too.

So consider supporting Sukkat Shalom’s Shabbat dinner on Indiegogo and help celebrate the sacredness of Friday night at Burning Man.

Images courtesy of Sukkat Shalom

May 28th, 2014  |  Filed under Afield in the World

Global [freespace] Movement to Hack the 2014 World Cup

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.

Read more »

May 19th, 2014  |  Filed under Afield in the World, Culture (Art & Music)

Play the Giant Groovik’s Cube Online Via Webcam

Groovik's Cube

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.

Forget today’s 40th anniversary Rubik’s Cube Google Doodle. That’s just a virtual cube. Go play the 26-foot Groovik’s Cube hanging over people’s heads!

And check out this cool video of the Groovik’s Cube being built:

April 7th, 2014  |  Filed under Events/Happenings

GLC ’14: Here’s What Happened

Photo by Sidney Erthal

Photo by Sidney Erthal

It’s a wrap! The 2014 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference was a heck of a party, but it was also a great meeting of minds. It was a chance for the far-flung leaders of Burning Man regional culture to learn from each other, and that includes the San Francisco Regional, sometimes known as Burning Man HQ. After all these groups compared notes at GLC, there could no longer be any doubt: Burning Man happens everywhere, all the time. The one week in Nevada is just for practice.

We had people on the ground tweeting and blogging about the conference and the sessions that seemed of interest to the wider world. Here’s a round-up of the major messages, so you can share in the learning, and some photos of the beautiful people. Read more »

April 5th, 2014  |  Filed under Events/Happenings

GLC ’14: Don’t Bogart that Sh*t, Dude! Trends in the Sharing Economy

(l-r) Chase, Simonton, Gorenflo, Fenton

(l-r) Chase, Simonton, Gorenflo, Fenton

 

The off-playa world is starting to look a lot like Burning Man, and not always in good ways. Converging economic and environmental pressures are making it harder to get by. But at the same time, more resilient social structures are cropping up to counteract those forces. Out of necessity, we’re starting to share more. That’s a Burnerly principle, but businesses are starting to catch on. Skill sharing, crowd funding, ride sharing, barter systems, all those things are taking off in today’s economy, and Burners couldn’t be better positioned to help and participate.

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April 5th, 2014  |  Filed under Events/Happenings

GLC ’14: Burning Man’s Servant Leaders

glc happy hour

Once GLC participants were well aware that Burner culture is popping off around the world, it was time for an update from HQ. As you’ve probably heard by now, Burning Man became a non-profit this year, and that means major changes to how things operate behind the scenes. A few key Org people stepped up to the GLC podium Saturday morning to explain how that’s all working.

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April 5th, 2014  |  Filed under Events/Happenings

GLC ’14: The Olympics of Art and Expression

raspa

By the morning session of GLC day two, it was clear that something fundamental has shifted in Burner culture. Enough of us were feeling uncomfortable with the term “default world” that it had to be acknowledged from the stage. “Say ‘playa-adjacent world’ instead,” GLC producer Rosie Lila told us, and the room felt relieved.

When Burning Man was one temporary city in the desert, it was an exception. The rest of the world carried on with its default settings, and the playa was the radical departure. But by now, it’s no longer serving us to distinguish between how we are “out there” versus how we are “out here.” In fact, as our GLC presenters show us, “out here” is becoming “out there.” There’s Burning going on year-round, worldwide, so let’s admit it.

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