Stuart Chapman’s “Wheel of Self-Reflection” Demonstrates Bio-Psychic Field

Wheel of Self Reflection, 2015 (Photo courtesy of the Artist)
Wheel of Self Reflection, 2015 (Photo courtesy of the Artist)

Stuart Chapman was a 2014 Black Rock City Honoraria artist, and he’s working on another divination/chakra project!

Curious about the “bio-psychic field” at Burning Man? Last year, Stuart Chapman repurposed a bathroom scale into a qi generator for the root chakras. The Wheel of Life was a “divinatory oracle based on Medieval cosmology [updated] for Life in the 21st Century.”

Chapman plans to collect more anecdotal evidence to demonstrate the strength of the bio-psychic field at Black Rock City with this year’s Wheel of Self Reflection. Wheel of Self Reflection has been outfitted and enhanced with a pyramidal capstone of light that will activate the upper chakras of each seeker. Expanding on last year’s amazing “synchronicity of the fortunes,” Chapman intends to “optimize the meaningful match-up of seeker and oracle” with this installation.

Visit the project’s Facebook page to find out more.

The Aeolian Ride Rides Again!

In 2004, Black Rock Arts Foundation grantee project Aeolian Ride took off on an epic bike ride in Manhattan with inflatable suits! Since then, Aeolian Ride (created by artist Jessica Findley) has transformed the landscape of 20 cities around the world with their whimsical kinetic presence. The ride has a magical effect, transforms everyday streets, and creates a loop of joy between the spectator and the riders.

Aeolian Ride (Photo courtesy of the artist)
Aeolian Ride, 2014 (Photo courtesy of the artist)

What better way is there to celebrate Bike to Work Day than with Aeolian Ride? If you’re in San Ramon on May 14, join the ride at Bishop Ranch!

When: May 14, 2014 from 11:30am – 1:30pm

Where: Bishop Ranch in San Ramon, CA

Cost: FREE (There are a limited number of inflatable suits. Free helmets while supplies last!)

Tickets: RSVP (& Reserve Your Gear) Here

You can also participate by watching the ride, and tag your photos with #aeolianride. Sign up for the newsletter to get the map!

Visit Aeolian Ride’s website to learn more about the project.

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.

What Is A Festival?

I’m sure we’ve all cringed when a friend or co-worker says, “Burning Man? …that’s like Coachella, right?”

But it is hardly their fault. There are now TONS of events that are called “Festivals” and it is hard to understand how they differ.

In this video I talk about the different kinds of Music Festivals, Conferences, Transformational Festivals, and Participatory Gatherings.

NOTE: While I make the case that the participatory nature of Burning Man and sanctioned regionals have a special kind of magic, I did not mean to imply that the others do not have participation.  There is just something incredibly mind-blowing about looking out at the Playa and trying to grok, “So, none of these artists were paid? They created all of this as a gift for US?!”   It shifts something inside us and shatters our models of “audience,” “performer” and “participant.”

Did I miss any categories or important events? Share your thoughts below.

(For a great discussion by some organizers of other Transformational Festivals and how Burning Man influenced them, click here.)

I Wore My Trousers Rolled

by Marty

Writing on the walls of the Temple send final messages to those that are remembered.

Writing on the walls of the Temple send final messages to those that are remembered.

One afternoon I took a picture of us to the temple. It was the picture from that party we had, back in Mount Martha. The picture is blurry. We are blurry. I think I’m holding a drink, but it’s hard to tell. You are standing, your arms pinned back, looking like you have something to say. I’m not really sure.

I stuck it to the temple and wrote on it that line from J. Alfred Prufrock that you love. I changed the words a bit. I hope you don’t mind. The words I chose were a bit more fitting.

I wore my trousers rolled.

People had written to Robin Williams. ‘Genie, you are free’ one said. That one resonated. Of course, I didn’t really know the guy, but I guess it just reminded me of you.

The playa dust kicked up, so I wrapped my headscarf around my face and put on my goggles, which steamed up from each breath. I wandered around the temple, peering close to the pieces of people’s lives, to the intimacy that they had shared, to what had been lost, until the dust and emotion made it too difficult, so I left.

I walked over the wooden planks, and hunted for my bike in the reverent haze. Through the search I couldn’t shake the feeling that what I had done here had wronged you, that I had committed some error of judgement, exposed something that you wanted hidden. If I did, then I apologise, but this loss is mine to grieve, not yours.

In the end, I think, I really just wanted you there, wanted you here, with me, with both of us, for our first burn. And as I rode back to camp, the gears on my bike choked up, and I couldn’t cycle anymore.

Get Your Burning Man Brand LED GlowyFur™ Today!

Participant posing in front of a portapotty. (Photo by Mario Covic)

Participant posing in front of a portapotty. (Photo by Mario Covic)

One of the best things about Burning Man culture is that its participants are also its creators. Burning Man is what its participants do and say and make about it — and that includes creations that reference Burning Man.

Burning Man is unique in the way it encourages participants to incorporate its logo and imagery — including the Man symbol and design, the names Burning Man and Black Rock City, and the shape of Black Rock City — into their creations and offerings to the community. We see these uses most frequently in the season leading up to the event, often as part of fundraising efforts for art projects, theme camps and products offered to Burners.

The challenge comes when those creations conflict with the 10 Principles, and it’s usually an issue related to Decommodification. We don’t support projects that turn Burning Man into a commodified product for sale. We do license the Burning Man identity for certain third-party projects, but we do so very carefully for projects that represent the best of Burning Man culture. An example of this is allowing the use of “Burning Man” in the title of a book of photographs from Black Rock City. But we don’t license Burning Man for use as a commodity. You’ll never see Burning Man Brand LED GlowyFur™ available at your local BoxStore™. When a work crosses that line, we step in to protect the culture from misrepresentation and exploitation.

A recent example is the Burning Man Board Game. The developers reached out to us a year ago, and after extensive review, the developers were told they would not receive permission to use any of Burning Man’s legally protected intellectual property, including the Burning Man and Black Rock City names, the Man logo and the signature shape of the city.

Last month the game appeared as part of a Kickstarter campaign. While our fundraising policy allows the creation of crowd-funded campaigns that directly fund art, theme camps and mutant vehicles, the board game Kickstarter was being used to fund the creation of a product, with only a portion of revenue to be donated to theme camps or playa projects.

There’s an important distinction between using Burning Man’s IP in the appreciation gift one receives for making a donation (which is fine, as long as the guidelines are followed), versus in the product that is being crowdfunded itself. If we were to allow the use of our name and symbols in the product (in this case the board game), then it would open the door for other entrepreneurs to sell Burning Man merchandise under the guise of fundraising. This could set a dangerous precedent in terms of protecting our cultural integrity.

In the case of the board game, the campaign organizer stated the fundraising effort was designed to comport with the 10 Principles in that one portion of the donation would go toward the cost of producing the game and another portion would be donated as a gift to one of several high profile theme camps. However, in keeping with the Decommodification and Gifting Principles, we allow participants to use Burning Man’s intellectual property to fundraise directly for Black Rock City-bound projects, including specific artwork, theme camps, and mutant vehicles. Any other use requires special approval and a licensing agreement from the Burning Man organization.

The Burning Man board game is just one example a project that comes in conflict with the Principles. Others have included an individual selling jewelry with the Man symbol to raise funds for his camp, a high-end concierge service using the Burning Man name and logo to market their services, and companies offering to ship large quantities of their product to Black Rock City to give away for “free on playa” in return for the right to market the experience to the world.

In the vast majority of cases, these kinds of issues are resolved with a phone call. Only very rarely have we been forced to resort to more formal action.

Here’s the thing: We are truly inspired by the creativity of Burners — the range of ideas from our community continues to expand in impressive ways. And on the surface, many of these ideas sound great. But we take the responsibility of protecting Burning Man’s long term cultural integrity seriously, and we have to examine all of the possible outcomes and unintended impacts of a project.

Participants are welcome to gift items that incorporate the Man, the Black Rock City design, etc. to their donors. But that’s different from manufacturing a product at cost and selling it, which is not allowed. For more information about Burning Man’s approach to intellectual property, check out on our website.

Remember: It’s not a gift if there’s a price tag attached to it.

Artist Update: Global Lives Project

Gallery for the Future Exhibit

If you like “day-in-the-life” videos, you’re in for a treat. The Global Lives Project is having its first exhibit (with new footage) in Palo Alto. Highlighting the lives of 20 people from 17 countries around the world, the exhibit features 24-hour long “day-in-the-life” videos.

The Global Lives Project, in its infancy, was funded by the Global Art Grants program in 2007. At that time, Global Lives was a small collective of ambitious, visionary filmmakers and activists. Now a nonprofit organization, Global Lives is comprised of hundreds of volunteers (filmmakers, photographers, engineers, programmers, scholars, etc.). Their growth and commitment to their vision is truly inspiring!

When: May 5, 2014 – September 1, 2015
Where: Window Gallery Open 24/7
Institute for the Future (IFTF) Gallery for the Future
201 Hamilton Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Visit the project’s website to learn more about this exhibit.

School Exhibits

As stated on their website, the Global Lives Project “explore[s] the diversity of human experience through the medium of video, and encourage[s] discussion, reflection, and inquiry about the wide variety of cultures, ethnicities, languages, and religions on this planet.” They have been extremely active in promoting cross-cultural understanding in schools, and recently wrapped up their fifth school exhibit this year at Horace Mann School in New York. The exhibit encouraged students to practice “global empathy,” an act of identifying with people from other cultures and countries.

Past Global Lives Exhibit at Envision Academy in Oakland, CA.
Past Global Lives Exhibit at Envision Academy in Oakland, CA.

Other exhibits took place at Envision Academy in Oakland, CA, Gateway Middle School and Creative Arts Elementary School in San Francisco, CA, Palo Alto High School, and San Francisco State University.

Visit the project’s blog to learn more about the school exhibits.

Global Lives is staying busy spreading their global empathy education program! If you are a teacher or school administrator interested in bringing Global Lives to your school, please contact david here: david (at), and check out their website, for more information about the Global Lives Project.

San Mateo Innovation Week: “Maker Cities: Inspiring Engagement, Dialogue, and Participation”

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.51.12 pmWhat: Maker Cities: Inspiring Engagement, Dialogue, and Participation
Thursday, May 14, 2015 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm (PDT)
Where: Kingfish Restaurant, 201 South B Street, San Mateo, CA 94401

Social media, on-line platforms, and urban prototyping have transformed the ways citizens interact and participate within their communities. Information is more accessible, dialogue is on-going, and expectations for involvement continue to rise. Burning Man and the Davenport Institute join the City of San Mateo during San Mateo Innovation Week to explore the strategies, techniques, and philosophies that inspire citizens to get involved and contribute to making lasting solutions in communities near and far.

This panel features Burning Man co-founder and former City Manager of Black Rock City, Harley Dubois; Ashley Trim, Assistant Director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy; Leslie Pritchett, Public Art Instigator and board member to several arts-based and nonprofit ventures including The Crucible and American Steel Studios; and Gordon Strause, Director of Neighborhood Operations with San Francisco-based Nextdoor. Stuart Mangrum, Education Director for Burning Man will facilitate the discussion.

Refreshments will be provided. Please visit San Mateo Innovation Week 2015 for more information and reserve your space.