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.
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.
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.
Burners have a lot to be proud of here at the GLC. After a rousing first morning of high-level talks about the power of Burner art and values, we were treated to a series of presentations by Burners from all over the world about how they pulled off some fantastic feats of civic art. Not only will these works be a part of Burning Man history, they’re useful templates for us to consider when we’re out building the next crazy thing. (more…)
Well, here we are! The eighth annual Burning Man Global Leadership Conference is underway. It’s a gathering of the people who are defining the global future of Burning Man culture, and it’s a whole new world. Sixteen percent of GLC attendees are international. Half of them are here for their first GLC, and another quarter are back for their second. While the average GLC14 attendee has been to Black Rock City four times, three people here have never been, and that’s just fine. They get their Burning Man kicks elsewhere in the world, and that’s what this conference is all about. (And hey, Terry Dovido, here from Boston, has been to Burning Man 20 times, so GLC is all about that, too.)
The GLC is for figuring out how we’re doing in our mission of bringing Burning Man culture to the world at large. It’s driven by the inspiration we find on the playa, but its purpose is to focus that energy on repairing the world. As Stuart Mangrum, the Burning Man Project‘s education director, put it this morning, there are two ways to get more Burning Man into the world: The first is “sister cities,” the regional burns put on around the world by so many of GLC’s stellar attendees, and the second is Burnerly projects back in the off-playa world, and the people at GLC do a lot of that, too. We saw some of the highlights in Friday’s opening session. (more…)
Last Friday, the Life Cube burned in the middle of Las Vegas. The flames carried 35,000 wishes written by the public up into the heavens.
Artist Scott Cohen has built and destroyed The Life Cube Project on the playa for a few years running, and now he’s brought its message into the default world. Anyone who passed by the structure before the burn was able to write down their wishes, and Cohen also brought cards to local elementary schools. DaveX (Burning Man’s Fire Art Safety Team manager) said his favorite of the kids’ wishes was “I want a gold monster truck.” He and a few other veteran Burners were on hand to make sure the Life Cube burned safely — including the inimitable Flash Hopkins, who emceed the proceedings.
There’s a beautiful photo gallery in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and here’s a great piece about the burn on the local news:
One hot Thursday afternoon in Black Rock City, Root and I stopped at Center Camp to catch some shade. We lucked out; the first Jamaican reggae band to ever play Burning Man was on stage, and people were getting down. I danced by the stage while she hung out in the front row. There’s nothing better than the ecstasy on dusty faces when a live band breaks through the week-long fog of indistinguishable DJ sets.
The band finished playing, and we all rejoiced. Wiped out, I sat down next to Root to watch the next act, a couple of lawyers dressed like ancient Egyptians who were there to tell us how to deal with law enforcement on the playa. That sounded useful.
For a while, this talk felt righteous. We were becoming better citizens. But the conversation gradually turned toward philosophical pronouncements, indignant rants, and wild warnings about undercover narcs. “This is a little too us-versus-them for my taste,” Root said to me. “Plus, I’m getting kind of paranoid about there being cops everywhere. Aren’t you?”
I sure was. So we hopped up off our floor cushion, hoisted our packs, and stepped out of Center Camp into the afternoon heat, only to be greeted by an enormous convoy of federal agents in SUVs with their lights flashing, rolling right through the middle of Black Rock City.
I was honored to have my friend Rem join us at camp this year. It was his first burn, although he’d been threatening to visit for a while. I expected him to have a good time, but, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how good. The second I saw him on the playa, it was clear he was a natural.
Now that we’re back in Reality Camp, Rem’s had a chance to file his two-part Burning Man chronicle over at Grantland, and I’m getting all verklempt about how clearly he Got It. I’m going to be pointing first-time Burners to these stories for a long time.