Caravan Master Al-Ari invites all travelers to enjoy the exotic delights and unattainable wares of the Souk at the Feet of the Man. Un-merchants from five continents will be selling nothing at giveaway prices during our week-long GRAND OPENING / GOING OUT OF BUSINESS celebration.
To enliven the festive atmosphere of the Souk plaza, he extends a special invitation to itinerant jugglers, acrobats, fortune tellers, magicians, seers, fakirs, sadhus, strongmen, sword swallowers, fire eaters, dervishes, human statuary, and dancing sign-shakers to bless us with the gift of performance at all hours of the day and night.
Levitationists, situationists, and contortionists will be greeted warmly in the Souk, as will stilt walkers, plate spinners, sitar players, mechanical snake charmers, hula hoopers, puppeteers, and alien bellydancers. However, the Caravan Master warns that sound systems, cover bands, singer-songwriters, and anyone violating the prohibition on commerce will be chased from the Caravansary like wild dogs.
Performers are asked to check in with the INNKEEPER staff upon arrival at the Souk, and to leave no trace upon departure, but are not required to register in advance. Al-Ari adds that he has a special place in his heart for storytellers and mad poets, and hopes that the 1,001 minutes of the Souk will be graced by thrilling tales of adventure and flights of fancy.
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.
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.
Honoraria and Art of Black Rock City installations have been uploaded to the website and there are some fine looking projects slated for this year’s event. 2014 will sport an Man towering “many stories high, rising directly from the desert floor”, and from the looks of the Art descriptions, it’s clear that we also have some spectacular and mind blowing Art projects in the mix.
We have Pools and Sound Puddles, oases, Resticles and a Vulvatron. There will be silk, towers and minarets and Jessika Welz’ “Celestial Mechanica“, a “kinetic mechanical representation of our own solar system.” There will be camel and wagon trains and even ZZ Fish by Jan DeLano, Wendell DeLano, and Anne Pearce that explores the “determination, transformation, and the cycle of life across the vast oceans of the planet” of salmon migration. “Big Al” by Brennan Steele is an alligator effigy, spawned from the CORE by New Orleans Burners that “pays homage to the spark that brought the NOLA Community together, the inspiring event known as Burning Man”.
Peter Hudson brings his much anticipated new zoetrope, “Eternal Return” that “speculates that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form, an infinite number of times across infinite time and/or infinite space.” The Pier Group, who brought us the Pier in 2011 and Pier2 and La Llorona in 2012, return to the playa with a new project, “Embrace“, “a 7-story tall wooden cathedral-like sculpture of two human figures in an embrace.”
There will even be a volcano, Paha’oha’o by Kahai Tate … “rising thirty feet from the desert floor; the great volcano Paha’oha’o! At night its fiery peak will be visible from miles away as will the screams of those who cast themselves into her cauldron, seeking the joy of flaming transformation.”
Also gracing the playa will be Wormholes and Warps, Pulses, Pavilions and a Parasolvent. “The Lost Nomads of Vulcania” by Joe Mross & Archive Designs, is “a steampunk-inspired gypsy encampment featuring the Teluriz, one of the few remaining Vardo Class Steam Walkers built by the last surviving members of Captain Nemo’s crew.” There is Ice Fishing, an Observatory, some medieval pillory and stocks, and “lumenEssence” by Mauricio Bustos is a “sheltering organism that serves as a waypoint and retreat for weary playa travelers.” It is constructed of 33 30-foot LED illuminated towers of many tentacles.
This year’s Temple will be built by David Best and the Temple Crew. The Temple of Grace will serve as a spiritual and sacred place for memorials and will be “70+’ high, and have a footprint of 80’x80′; it sits in a courtyard approximately 150’x150′. The structure incorporates a central interior dome within a graceful curved body made of wood and steel. It will again have intricately cut wooden panels for the exterior and interior skin. Eight altars will surround the temple inside a low-walled courtyard, creating a large exterior grounds for the community.”
This year — in the spirit of our current world of online funding of big art — BRAF is also facilitating fundraising so that in addition to getting involved building the Art, you can help support your favorite project financially via the Black Rock Arts Foundation. From their site:
The Black Rock Arts Foundation is pleased to offer fiscal sponsorship to a select number of projects produced for exhibition at the Burning Man event in 2014. We hope that this pilot project will help Burning Man artists raise necessary funds for their art by enabling tax-deductible contributions to their projects.
The 13 Honoraria projects under BRAF’s fiscal sponsorship are projects whose cost is not entirely covered by Burning Man or other Art grants. By using the BRAF Fiscal Sponsorship, potential donors can realize additional benefits such as a tax write off, matching donations from donors’ employers, and grants from donor-advised funds that can only be given to recognized 501(c)(3) organizations.
Additionally, if you are interested in reading about last year’s art and reviewing a financial chart of expenditures for Burning Man 2013, including Honorarium Art Grants, check out the just-released 2013 Afterburn.
At this point in time, we live in a world of possibilities. This post barely scratches the surface of what is coming to Black Rock City this year. Right now countless people are creating Art and Theme camps, organizing music and performance, going over City plans and making sure the infrastructure is built. We are devising clever alterations to reality to share at Black Rock City that week that is coming up soon. We are planning and working and pouring ourselves into whatever it is that we will share in this year’s Caravansary, all commingling and cross pollinating; working towards this event we keep returning to because we create it. It is ours.
Take some time to read about the Art this year. It’s a lot of fun when you’re cris-crossing the playa and are suddenly pulled deep into the sphere of something you’ve never experienced in your life, waylaid for minutes to hours and having a blast with it and someone says, “I wonder who built this” or “What is this” and you remember a bit of something you read in June you can share with your fellow wayfarers.
As always, Burning Man will be putting up the extremely enjoyable Art Audio Tours by Anarchist Jim, Evonne Heyning and the whole ARTery team before you leave for Black Rock City that can be downloaded and brought with you while you journey across the playa discovering all the amazing creations on your way.
This time of year, every year, as the sun returns and days grow longer, I am perpetually surprised and overwhelmed by the indubitable flourish of life that rises from a thawing long winter existence that held us cold and gray transfixed in darkness for what seems like so long. All around us rises the essence of resurrection as plants pop, bulbs shoot with flowers blooming, bees buzzing and every living thing is struggling upward towards the sun and suddenly where there was nothing but defeated pulverized grass, crawls extant these growing tendrils of life breaking through everywhere; climbing, exploding with color, painting the earth green and blasting fast across our part of the planet that is once again tilting towards our sun.
With spring sprung and flowers a poppin, whilst sugar demon peeps are peepin all seeping into your Easter EGGstatic consciousness and the vestige of winter sog slop slogging is stopping, I felt our newborn sun creeping warm across my whiskered face and my thoughts turned to reveries of my most resplendent time with some bunnies.
Those Bunnies are the Bunnies of Bunny Jam, and same Bunnies of the Billion Bunny March; a most happy hopping, seriously protesting, floppy eared kind of kindest fuzzy kin.
I’ve written about my love of Santas for I have been a Santa, drunk and boisterous, and of Clowns with whom I have marginally experimented, and I’ve mentioned my encounter with an aught two unholy alliance those unkempt ruffians formed against the Bunnies at Santa’s Black Market. My friend Mr. Evans with his fellow conspirators in thought crime, duly and most wonderfully documented the exploits of a motherload of culture jamming that manifested in the SF Bay Area in their “Tales of the Cacophony Society”, however, one group, the Santas, like all good things after one too many bottles of Pine Sol, began their inevitable slouch towards becoming a tad more of an interloper social menace party and less a group of spontaneous subversives. As the Santa stroll bar hop was hitting its stride a silly hopping kind of phenomenon rose from another holiday and rooted in carrot love, populated by gentle spring time sprung , furry familiars – raised its floppy eared head.
This is the official call for designs for the 2014 Burning Man stickers! Your design could be the one handed out with the materials you receive as you pass through the Greeters Station upon entering Black Rock City. Other designs will be official sticker schwag distributed throughout the year. Help us remember our wonderful home in the desert even when we’re away!
So, don’t hesitate. Participate! Thank you and good luck!
Your designs must use one of the three die sizes:
2.5″ x 5.75” with a 0.125” corner radius
3″ x 3″ square with a 0.062” corner radius
3” Diameter Circle
Whichever type of sticker tickles your fancy (or maybe you’re very ticklish and want to enter several designs), remember there IS a theme, and we like stickers that attempt to use the theme. Read up on the Caravansary theme! Must Include: both the name Burning Man and the year 2014 in your design.
If using 1-3 colors, set up the file to print as PMS
If using 4 or more colors, set up the file to print as CMYK
Round stickers are given priority for winning the coveted “Gate Sticker” spot, going out to ALL Black Rock Citizens. Other sticker sizes are printed out and handed out to volunteers throughout the year.
Submitting Your Art:
Send either a PDF file OR (preferably) the original Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file to stickers here: stickers (at) burningman.com. You must OUTLINE all fonts. Whether sending your design or questions, please put your first and last name in the subject header as well as the phrase “2014 Sticker Submission”.
Monday, May 5. No art is accepted after this date.
I had a great time attending the last two Global Leadership Conferences, hobnobbing among some amazing people who are out spreading Burning Man culture through the world, and getting free drinks.
This year, however, a friend’s wedding and the first leg of the world’s slowest book tour have kept me out of town during the GLC. I’m missing a lot of people I’d like to talk to, and don’t get to see the latest and greatest news about Burning Man in the world for myself. My drinks aren’t free.
It breaks my heart, just a bit.
But it reminds me a situation that would come up surprisingly often when I was the Volunteer Coordinator for Burning Man’s media team. A highly qualified virgin burner would apply, and I’d send them a note, and we’d talk and they’d seem great, and I’d offer them a spot on the team, and then, suddenly, he or she would hit me with an email like this:
I’m so excited to be on Media Mecca and go to Burning Man for the first time this year!
The only thing is – I just got a new job, it’s my dream job really, but they won’t give me the vacation to go to Burning Man until I’ve been working a whole year. Also my grandmother is dying, and is likely to die during Burning Man, and my best friend is having her 30th Birthday party and really wants me to come.
So I can either go to Burning Man; or keep my job, see my Grandmother before she dies, and attend my best friend’s milestone birthday. What do you think I should do?
My response, in tones as gentle as I could muster, was always some version of this: “Don’t be crazy. Do the important life stuff. Burning Man will still be here next year.”
As America convulses and political gridlock is on everyone’s mind, it seems as good a time as any to look closely at the facile relationship between Burning Man and politics.
I caught heat, back in 2011, for saying that Burning Man and Occupy Wall Street actually have very little in common. I think time has vindicated me, but that heat shows that a lot of people see Burning Man as a kind of political movement … or something close to it. They see Burning Man not just as something capable of influencing society, but as a movement capable of taking power – though they might not use that exact phrase.
And sure, watching people work on their art cars, build their structures, prep their costumes … and especially coming and going from Burning Man, it’s hard to shake the idea that Burning Man is a force that will change the world.
But is it a political force? Is Burning Man a political movement?
The answer is: No. Obviously. Fuck you.
But … if you disagree with me about this, you’re in good company. A lot of people do.
Holy wow, what a week! Let it be known: 2013 was one of the greats. I am in awe of the energy and ideas that swirl and pollinate to create Burning Man. I hopped on art cars, I danced at sunrise, I did an afternoon bike tour — all in full clown-face. I was surrounded by friends and new hires for epic days and nights. I even managed to get some sleep. The weather was belissimo and the dust was mild. What. A. Playa.
Some of the best conversations of my life have taken place on the playa. These conversations can be as brief as a call-and-response to honking the horn on my bike (“Dirty clowns make great dust fellows!”) or as long as a sunrise session out at The Office. One topic kept popping up: Have you had many interactions with newbies?
We can all agree that Black Rock City is huge. First-timers are gobsmacked by the scale of it and old-timers are too. The 2013 Burning Man event population was 69,613 (editor’s note: this figure was updated Sept. 14).
It seems like a lot of you were there for the first time. Welcome.
The redux: I first attended Burning Man in 1998 (population: 15,000). I’ve felt like a new-comer and an old broad. I’ve lived on both sides of the curtain –blissed-out in ruby slippers at sunset or setting an alarm clock so I could work the all-day Media Mecca shift. My friends are a mix of old-timers, volunteers, artists, occasional attendees and newer burners. One friend asked, “Are we all in this together?” Another wondered “Who are all these people and why aren’t they talking? Is it because I’m old?” Our greatest concern: Are first-timers having the same random magic playa moments that we are? I’m curious about the answers to these questions. I had a few people run away from my attempts at conversation in the porta-potty line (usually a source of great stranger entertainment).
Join the adventure, don’t just create your own.
The mega-camp is one way Burning Man has evolved with the growing population. This is a different way to attend Burning Man than when many of us started coming. There have always been camps that provide food and shade. But it wasn’t until I started reading blogs and news stories after this year’s event that I understood how prevalent it is to have meals and water and showers and bikes and sleeping arrangements provided. $1000 for a Burning Man experience? It sounds like making a reservation at a resort. I read about someone organizing a camp that almost ran out of water mid-week for 150 people. My first thought was, 150 people came to Burning Man without their own water? The Black Rock Desert is a harsh and sometimes unsafe environment. What about Radical Self-Reliance? The pamphlet that comes with your ticket is called the Survival Guide for a reason. These “turnkey” camps are housing part of the newer population yet they have created a subculture that relies on someone else for survival and fun.
Another Burning Man tenant is Radical Inclusion. Basically: We are all in this together and we respect each others creativity. I may not like your shiny hot pants unicorn costume and you may not be down with my kazoo or beige granny panties, but we can dance side by side and maybe I’ll randomly cruise through your camp with a tray of bacon and we can share a laugh. That is radical inclusion: a laissez faire attitude that is friendly and open and neighborly. If your tent is blowing over, I am going to run over and help. If you’re making margaritas, let me grab my cup. I wonder if the newer burners know the joy of passing out chilled avocado slices to strangers on a hot afternoon. Radical Inclusion is not exclusive dinners or cocktail parties. The artists who build those big, amazing wood-burning bulls or spinning coyotes want you to interact with their art. They didn’t build art for people to gawk; the art is part of a larger community.
I had a weird interaction that made me question how we are acculturating newer burners regarding Radical Inclusion. Is Radical Inclusion being misconstrued as anything-goes behavior? Let me say: If someone doesn’t want to hug you, that is their choice. Being at Burning Man doesn’t mean you get to do what you want. Not everyone wants a hug. You have to take “no” for an answer. What transpired Friday night was a super-bummer and my friends helped me rally, but still: we could have done without that scene. Burning Man is about creating your ideal self and opening up to further possibility and sharing it with the people around you. It isn’t about anarchy or secret clubs or us versus them.
During our eight-hour exodus to the gate, my BFF & I put costumes back on. “We are still at Burning Man!” was our rally cry. People gave us frozen popsicles, food and shade. Candace, also known as Evil Pippi, says she feels like her most authentic self on the playa. If she had her way, we’d still be at Burning Man. As we worked our way through the parking-lot line we asked people about their experience. Most of the people were first- or second- time burners. Some people were friendly, others seemed uncomfortable when we approached. Was that their Burning Man, staying in an RV and not interacting?
In the years I worked for The Man we talked about not hand-holding people through the burn and leading by example. Do it yourself, it’s more fun that way! But 10 years ago we weren’t thinking about a population this large and turnkey camps on this scale. The Jack Rabbit Speaks newsletter, the Survival Guide and the official website are wonderful resources but they aren’t reaching people who don’t even bring their own water. How do we bridge this divide? One friend suggested all turnkey camps register and get a BM101 lesson on arrival. Another suggested we let these burners drive the event into the ground until we’re selling condo plots. Another suggested an acculturation committee. UGH! I love Burning Man and want it to thrive. That’s why I’m reaching out to you, the community.
Dear readers, these are the questions I’m pondering after being off the desert for almost a week. Black Rock City is going through a boom phase. We aren’t a normal city and we need to treat our social experiment with care. I’m hoping to tap into the city’s consciousness for some ideas.
How do we acculturate people who are having such disparate experiences? How do new burners feel about their experience? How do repeat burners feel about this year’s event? Can we get new blood to start volunteering during the event?
Comments are open. Be nice, no spitting.