Here’s the thing about art: It turns an ordinary perception into an encounter. In art mode, you aren’t just sensing objects anymore, you’re in a conversation with another creative being. This is how the Homeless Advocacy Art Bus wants to transform the all-too-common perception of homelessness.
This converted school bus will show up in your city and unload a party of performers and poets, some wearing masks, others showing their faces. They’ll open a pop-up gallery of sculptures, writings and drawings made of the stuff of city experiences. These artists are homeless, but they’re no longer invisible. You no longer want to just walk past them. Now you’ll stop, watch, listen and talk. Won’t you get on the bus?
The Homeless Advocacy Art Bus has no Burning Man affiliations whatsoever, but it’s exactly the kind of thing we want to see everywhere. They’re using art to snap people out of complacent states and getting them to confront the reality of homelessness, but doing it with color and story and creative force. The world needs much more of this.
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
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.
Holding the second-largest regional Burn for more than 6,500 participants in Israel’s Negev Desert is no small achievement. We Burners are used to the hot desert climate, but our community in Israel also has another kind of heat to deal with. As you can imagine, in a country with no separation between church and state, a staunchly conservative government and a contentiously divided sociopolitical environment, there’s little room for new movements promoting radical self-expression. However, this year’s Midburn proved that when Burners stick to the Ten Principles and explain them clearly and persuasively, even to reluctant listeners, anything is possible.
In the final week of preparation leading up to the event, Midburn organizers were suddenly presented with a court order to immediately stop building the city. It appeared the police, who believed that Midburn was nothing more than a party, had no intention of permitting the event. To add a layer of complexity to what was already a difficult situation, Israel’s mainstream media covered the police opposition and the court order on television, radio, newspapers and social media. Up until this moment, few in Israel knew about Midburn’s existence, and the majority of those who did lived in Tel Aviv, or, as some refer to it, Tel Aviv Nation (more on this later). When this spark of conflict ignited, however, Israelis across the country became aware of the situation and “Midburn” became a household word. Which, as you can imagine, added to the already immense pressure event organizers were under.
At this point, Midburn’s organizers and participants-to-be were faced with two options. One was to assume the role of indignant Israelis deprived of their basic right of self-expression, which would have meant head-on confrontation with the authorities and increased resistance and opposition. The second was to identify as Burners, for whom the Ten Principles are the highest priority, and to use Civic Responsibility to keep the channels of communication with authorities open and work with them and the media in a civil manner.
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
When it seemed as though the event would not go on, Nir Adan, the CEO of Midburn and a Burning Man Regional Contact, urged the Midburn community to show restraint, despite their great disappointment, hold fast to the Ten Principles and keep the channels of communication open. Watch:
Over the next few days, the Burner community mobilized. Letters of endorsement were gathered, Midburn’s representatives were interviewed on radio, television and social media, volunteers posted updates and calls for support on Facebook (in both Hebrew and English), and volunteer lawyers worked their way up the court system to appeal the initial court order to cease building the city. Thanks to these collaborative efforts, the court order was reversed, construction was resumed, and the police withdrew its opposition, rescinded its initial demands and allowed the event to take place without surveillance or intervention of any kind.
Midburn was granted autonomy and given the responsibility to organize and regulate itself. The Burner community in Israel was warned that if we failed, we would not be given permission to hold the event in 2016. The permit was finally signed at nearly the same time the gates were scheduled to open, and as a result the opening was delayed four hours. Although cars were backed up for six hours on the rocky trail to the city, no horns honked, no one protested, Burners got out of their cars to spray boiling drivers and passengers with cool mist, while others played instruments or distributed Turkish coffee, fruits and sweets to feed, distract and entertain them. The rite of passage ended, all Burners arrived at the city, their eagerness undimmed, and the event was a tremendous success.
Because Civic Responsibility is not just about working respectfully with authorities and municipalities, but also about supporting and integrating with communities, in the weeks leading up to the event, Midburn’s organizers urged participants to purchase supplies in the towns and kibbutzim in the area to help boost their economies and connect with their residents. In a country small enough to traverse on one tank of gas, purchasing supplies from merchants in peripheral, less prosperous areas is not a necessity, but a choice. It was an option many chose with pride and pleasure. As Burners drove toward and away from the site of the event, near the desert kibbutz of Sde Boker, long lines were visible at groceries, restaurants, coffee shops, and gas stations in the surrounding area.
Midburn was a victory for Civic Responsibility on two levels. First by working with the municipalities, police and the court system in a civil and respectful manner, the community won the right not only to conduct the event, but to regulate itself with no external oversight or intervention. Second, in a country divided in large measure politically, economically and culturally into two principal entities: Tel Aviv, a heavily populated, profoundly western, liberal and prosperous urban enclave in the center of the country (virtually a separate nation, to many) and the markedly less affluent, more traditional periphery, it became a matter of pride among the Burners from the Tel Aviv region to help support the businesses and communities in the Negev region by making their purchases there.
The theme of this year’s Midburn was transcendence, and much was transcended: The gap between Burners and an initially hostile police force and court that nearly extinguished the fire before it was lit, and that between Tel Aviv Nation and Israel’s periphery. If only for several days, though we like to think more, Midburn provided a transformational experience to thousands of participants and showed that Israel’s Burner community is part of a global movement dedicated to the core principles of cooperation, communal effort, creativity and giving.
Lastly, you may have heard in the news about Midburn’s Temple burn possibly harming ancient archeological artifacts. The Midburn organizers have been investigating together with the Israel Antiquities Authority, and have issued this statement:
“The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) approached Midburn after the event had already begun, with all proper permits and supervisions already in place, to present some concerns about the impact of our Temple burn. On June 9, we met with the IAA and reached the following conclusions:
Midburn’s production team had gone through all necessary authorities and received all required permits pre-event in order to execute its event. According to the IAA, Midburn had proceeded in good faith throughout the pre-event process and the event itself and co-operated with IAA demands. We addressed every concern to the IAA’s satisfaction.
After investigating the site with the IAA once again after the event, ancient flints were discovered on the hill where the Temple stood and burned. There was no archaeological site pointed out, only a cache of human-made flint objects the size of a matchbox. There was no way anybody but a professional archaeologist could see a potential problem.
IAA knew about and approved of the Temple burn and asked our crew to follow certain instructions, all of which Midburn crews followed accurately. An IAA representative claims there could still be minor damage, which will be revealed only after first rains. We agreed to wait until first rains and then inspect the hill to collaboratively identify any consequences.
Since the IAA is not one of the official permit-granting authorities, we decided that from now on we will open a direct line of communication. Midburn will inform the IAA and coordinate all activities from now on.
Midburn community and production crews will continue to uphold the Ten Principles, one of which is Civic Responsibility. In order to strengthen the connection with the IAA, we are planning a workshop that will teach our community to spot signs of potential ancient human activity, such as these flints.
We are deeply disappointed that Ha’aretz newspaper published incorrect facts about this situation, and we are working with them to clear those errors in the press.
Midburn will continue to follow its vision of spreading Burning Man principles while respecting all cultural and natural value which surrounds us all.”
Our heroic partners at Artichoke have released a 12-minute documentary about their Temple project in Northern Ireland, in collaboration with David Best, creator of the Temple at Burning Man. It’s the crowning achievement of an incredibly successful, groundbreaking and moving project.
It should probably go without saying that we’re all about makers, and the maker movement. Our friends at Maker Faire are kicking some serious maker butt these days, with over 130 Maker Faires now happening around the world annually, inspiring thousands of people to start making, and giving makers the showcase they need and deserve to show off their creations.
The movement got an incredible boost last year when President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire and issued a call to action that “every company, every college, every community, every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” And so here we are, doing just that. The White House recognizes that by “democratizing the tools and skills necessary to design and make just about anything, Maker-related events and activities can inspire more people to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and possibly take their creations to the next level and become entrepreneurs.”
This year, the White House will celebrate a “Week of Making” from June 12-18. The week will coincide with the National Maker Faire in Washington D.C., featuring makers from across the country and participation by a number of federal agencies including the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Small Business Administration, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, Corporation for National and Community Service, Department of Homeland Security and the Smithsonian. Pretty cool.
At last year’s Faire, President Obama met Lindsay Lawlor, who built a 17-foot, talking robotic giraffe named Russell that you might have seen loping around Black Rock City in years past.
As the President put it, “Today’s D.I.Y is tomorrow’s Made in America.” Yeah, he gets it.
This came across our radar, and we’d be hard-pressed to imagine a faster/easier/better way to bring Burning Man principles into your local community — and if the folks who came up with this aren’t Burners, we’d be utterly shocked (albeit pleasantly surprised).
It’s called NOW! festival. Here’s how it works: they pick two weeks a year and encourage people to come up with free and nearly free awesome experiences that serve to “co-create the best possible version of our community for one extraordinary week.” Sound familiar? Thought it might.
So people list their ideas on the website, and the listings are as much an advertisement as an inspiration to others to get off their duffs and create something as well (we’re digging the “Me Too” button).
The list of events reads like Black Rock City’s What Where When guide, only less completely insane. Somebody’s offering a concierge service outside the DMV, another’s hosting a ukelele jam. There’s a tetherball competition, a conversation about healthy eating, and a mobile bike repair station. And of course there’s a “Psychic Friends Pop-Up Healing Station” and a “Midnight Pajama Silent Disco”. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Basically, it’s great stuff that makes any neighborhood a better place to be, pulled together by people who want their neighborhood to be a better place.
It’s happening in San Francisco’s Panhandle neighborhood this week, so check it out if you’re in the area.
And for God’s sake people, please create one of these in your home town!! They’ve got a handy How To guide and a FAQ for all your questionings.
We tip our hat to these fine folks making great things happen.
“Aye, about 30 of us sat through a presentation about Temple. Most said they would participate. One other guy and myself showed up to the next meeting, and only I ended up actually working on the project. But see here, a thing I’ve learned is some steps you have to take on your own.”
Cookie is from the Top of the Hill neighborhood in Derry, the same neighborhood where the Temple stands overlooking the river Foyle and the city of Derry-Londonderry. He first heard about Temple the same way many people did, in a community meeting. Artichoke Trust engaged and worked with over 40 local community groups in an effort to ensure everyone knew that Temple was for everyone, not just one community, but for all of Derry and beyond. The Top of the Hill is part of the greater Waterside neighborhood, a Protestant area, which sits on the opposite side of the river Foyle from the City Side, a Catholic area, but Top of the Hill is traditionally Catholic. Confused yet?
These are the types of divides that go back a long long way in Northern Ireland, and were fuel for the fire of violence and division during the Troubles; a time when sectarianism was aligned with political and national allegiances. Soldiers in the street, bombings, and paramilitary groups were the norm. The peace accords in 1998 brought an official end to the Troubles, and it left Northern Ireland to try to pick up the pieces and get on after nearly 40 years of civil conflict.
With the Troubles still fresh in the minds of the older generations in Ireland and around the world, it has been easy for the press to focus on Temple as a project about, and in response to the Troubles. It’s true, reconciliation and community healing related to the conflict is still desperately needed. Over 3,500 people lost their lives to the Troubles, so everywhere you look in Temple echoes of the Troubles can be seen. Not only does the community carry scars of the Troubles, but so does the City of Derry-Londonderry. The name has a hyphen to avoid conflict. Sectarian murals dot the city and Peace Walls — 25 foot iron, brick, and steel walls built to separate Catholic and Protestant communities — still stand in the city center. Even Temple’s location brings up thoughts of the sectarian bonfires, because in the very spot the Temple stands was the normal location of a very large annual sectarian bonfire that’s usually followed by violent marches and rioting.
At 18, Cookie never knew the Troubles. He was just about 1 when the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ was signed. He and his friends have grown up in a town and a community desperate to move on, but still divided by religion, by violence, by walls, and even by a river. The Troubles may be over on paper, but his generation has grown up hearing the stories, seeing the bonfires, and having to deal with the economic and social damage left in the wake. Derry boasts a very high unemployment rate and one of the highest suicide rates in Ireland. Suicide since the end of the conflict has risen over 67% and the number of victims of suicide since the peace agreements will soon surpass those of the Troubles. It is so prevalent in Derry there is a special volunteer only rescue crew that specializes in suicides. The night of the burn, a local friend working on the project told me that someone he knew had committed suicide the night before. This is what the media did not focus on; everyone in Derry and around knows loss and hardship, and Temple was for them too.
It was no wonder to me when Cookie said he had considered joining the military. It wasn’t because he was looking for adventure, he was looking for a strong community. “I don’t have to think about doing that anymore though,” he said — he found that community in the Temple Crew. He didn’t know what Temple would bring, but he took that small step on his own to see what Temple could be for him. In that step he found a community, and as it turns out, a job after the project is over. He had been looking for a job for over two years. He also now has his sights on making his way to Black Rock City too, working on a large project of course.
Cookie’s comment “some steps you have to take on your own” stuck with me over the week. Spending time at Temple, I watched people arrive by the thousands. There were many concerns voiced about the project and its chosen location. “No one will come” were words of worry voiced many times to organizers. But they did, over 60,000 in a week, and each one took that step on their own. Perhaps they didn’t even realize they were taking a step.
Temple was a joyous meeting place for entire families. It was routinely packed so full you could not get inside. An entire elementary school came to visit Temple one day. Song and dance broke out frequently. On the last day Temple was open, over 28,000 people came to see it, to spend time inside it, to leave what they sometimes didn’t know they came to leave. As a volunteer Temple Guardian I handed out dozens of pens to people who, once there, realized that Temple was for them too and they had a contribution to make.
Temple burned in front of over 20,000 people from all over Ireland, the UK, and Europe. A member of the security team told me it was not only the largest gathering he had ever known of in Derry, but most amazingly it was totally peaceful. Temple has redefined what art born in the desert can mean for the world. Before I left Derry I heard calls for other Temples in Derry, in Belfast, and in other cities across the world, because Temple changed Derry. It has shown that art can unite communities after times of deep divide, that fire can be a source of healing instead of intimidation, and amazingly what can happen when so many take a small step in the same direction.
San Francisco, Calif., April 13, 2015 — Burning Man announced today that Burners Without Borders — a grassroots group that supports community organizing and disaster relief worldwide — will transition June 1 to become the cornerstone of Burning Man’s Civic Engagement initiatives.
“We’re very excited to bring Burners Without Borders into the Burning Man fold,” said Burning Man co-founder Harley Dubois. “This incredible group has an outstanding track record of facilitating grassroots volunteerism that truly represents what Burning Man is all about. This functional reorganization allows Burning Man culture to flourish through the civic efforts of Burners everywhere, in their local communities.”
BWB came into being after Hurricane Katrina when Burning Man participants left the event to help with the disaster cleanup effort. The organization has a 10-year history of supporting disaster relief and local grassroots volunteer initiatives around the world through its annual grants program and direct on-the-ground assistance. It’s expected this transition will have no major immediate effect on existing projects, grants or grant applications. “We want to thank the community for its unwavering support of BWB over the past decade — we are continually inspired by the impact this community makes every day,” said Carmen Mauk, Burners Without Borders’ Executive Director. “I am looking forward to the future where we can continue to grow and thrive.”
BWB’s international projects include relief efforts in Pisco, Peru after that city was hit by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in 2007, relief efforts in the remote Tohoku Prefecture of Japan following the Fukushima disaster, delivering relief supplies to Haiti, supporting communities in the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda, and providing relief to New Jersey communities not receiving adequate assistance following Hurricane Sandy.
About Burning Man Burning Man Project is a 501(c)3 public benefit corporation whose mission is to facilitate and extend the culture that has issued from the Burning Man event into the larger world. Black Rock City is the seminal manifestation of the 10 Principles-based culture known as Burning Man. The gathering, which last year included participants from all 50 states and 40 countries around the world, happens the last week of August in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. For more information, visit www.burningman.org.
About Burners Without Borders Burners Without Borders (BWB) was born in Biloxi, Mississippi during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort where Burning Man participants had instinctively gathered to fill in where government relief efforts were falling short. Since then, BWB has emerged as a grassroots, volunteer-driven, community leadership organization whose goal is to unlock the creativity of local communities to solve problems that bring about meaningful change. Supporting volunteers from around the world in innovative disaster relief solutions and community resiliency projects, BWB is known for the unbridled creativity they bring to every civic project they do. To get involved, visit the Burners Without Borders website.