Salvaged Steel at a Steal (as in, free!)

Hey Bay Area artists: so, why aren’t you building that giant steel sculpture you’re always talking about? Oh, because you need steel? Well, as you know, the original Bay Bridge is being dismantled, and the Oakland Museum of California has launched a program to pair artists with its steel.

Applications for use of the reclaimed steel are due October 1, 2015, and priority will be given to public art or civic projects, and to projects that reference the original bridge’s historical importance.

Visit the Oakland Museum of California’s website for more information on how to apply. Good luck!

How to Stay in Love at Burning Man

by Ariel Root Wolpe

(Photo by Jenny Beatty)

(Photo by Jenny Beatty)

To Burners coming to Black Rock City for the first time in a romantic relationship,

You already know that Burning Man is a harsh environment — it’s hot as hell, there’s little natural life to be found, and a bad dust storm can wipe you out. But perhaps less known is that Burning Man is tough on relationships, in particular the romantic kind. In fact, the Burning Man website takes this seriously enough to offer a Relationship Survival Guide. But never fear — there are ways you can prepare yourself and your partner to make sure Burning Man is the best possible experience for each of you, your relationship, and for whatever group you are camping with.

Burning Man is like traveling to a different country (even for Americans) — you’re there for a limited time, and you will want to get the full experience, and you might even feel resentment at missing out on the things you want to do. There are many personal experiences to be had on the playa, and journeying alone can be equally as rewarding as exploring together.

We all go to Burning Man with certain expectations. The best thing you can do is share these with your partner honestly and thoroughly. “I want to feel free and go on unscheduled adventures” or “I want to look at lots of art and talk about it with you” needs to be said before you go. One approach is to designate which days you and your partner will meander together and which days you will do your own thing.

As you know, you and your partner are different people, and your desires inevitably conflict at certain times. Being on the same page before you get to the Burn is crucial. This means open, honest conversation beforehand about your needs from each other. Telling your partner “I need you to help me cook a meal every day” or “I need you to help me socialize with this new camp” will go a long way once you get to the Burn.

If you have any anxiety about the Burn, share it. Maybe you are nervous about the gravity of intoxicated people sucking you in, or the hundreds of hot, sweaty Burners biking across the playa. Just tell your partner so they know to be sensitive when certain situations arise.

(Photo by Jonathan Clark)

(Photo by Jonathan Clark)

If you are camping with a large camp, you are entering an intimate, emotionally sensitive community of people. Camps often cook, eat, party and go out together, and this experience creates intense bonds. In camp, your tents will be right next to each other. Everyone is able to hear everything in each other’s tents above a small whisper (this includes overhearing exciting sexcapades!). The camp trusts everyone else to bring conscientious, generous, and fun people into their close quarters, and difficult campmates have a really negative effect on the camp.

If you and your partner are fighting, in consistently bad moods, or have tension between you, it will keep you from connecting with campmates, it will detract from everyone’s experience, and it will reflect poorly on you and whoever brought you into the camp. It’s an intense environment, so if you do feel a squabble arising, keep it super quiet, go your separate ways to cool off, or have your full blown fight away from humanity in deep playa.

You both have to physically, mentally and emotionally plan ahead for the Burn. Make sure you can come together on common expectations and be okay with different needs and desires. You can have a fun, amazing time together if you come in with the right mindset, generous intentions, and with open hearts.

Mark Petersen
Mark Petersen

Ariel Root Wolpe is an artist, musician and rabbinical student living in Los Angeles, California. Her first Burn was in 2013.

Why I Did It: Confession of the 2012 Temple “Free Bird” Disc Jockey

by Forest of Arizona

(Photo by Brooke LaValley)

(Photo by Brooke LaValley)

I am not here to apologize or pardon myself. Instead I’m here to let you know what has bothered a lot of people for over two years: why I played “Free Bird” at the burning of the Temple of Juno.

In his wonderfully written essay, “Building the Temple”, John “Moze” Mosbaugh explains just how seriously Burning Man takes the Temple. Moze states that there is a “sacredness, solemnity, a sense of remembrance, grief and renewal.” This is an essential juxtaposition to the high intensity of the rest of Black Rock City, providing an “emotional nexus” as Temple creator David Best called it.

When I first stepped foot into the Temple of Flux in 2010, I was floored by the energy washing over me. Never, even at a funeral, had I ever felt that magnitude of emotion. The power of the space is very real. Many Burners have arrived at the thought that the Temple should always be a quiet space for remembrance, celebration and contemplation of life and death. I’m totally supportive of that idea. But I want to explain that it wasn’t just a “Play some Skynyrd!” moment that propelled me to blast “Free Bird” during the 2012 Temple burn.

It was more than that. (more…)

Gate, Perimeter & Exodus: You Are Invited

Danger Ranger was the first to draw a line in the dust, and he announced that across that line, everything would be different. Today, there is still a line that separates the default world from Black Rock City, and it’s active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We are Gate, Perimeter & Exodus.

All BRC citizens will have first encountered us, had their car searched and their tickets torn, but so often that memory dissolves before they reach the Greeter stations about two miles farther down Gate road. Some of you reading this may have just remembered that we’re not the same as Greeters. That’s okay, we actually like being able to disappear from your memory like that. Next time though, keep an eye out for us. We’re dressed in black, working tirelessly around the clock so this temporary city can exist, and doing it miles outside the Perimeter, away from the lights, music, cameras, and action.

We are a huge and very busy department, working day and night in some of the most extreme conditions on the planet. To try and summarize what almost two dozen sub-departments are doing is impossible, but whether it’s processing arrivals at Gate, scanning the Perimeter for unannounced guests, pulsing everybody out of the city at the end of the week, or any of the jobs connecting these tasks, we’re doing it before you arrive and still doing it after you leave.

If you’re looking for a different kind of way to get involved in Black Rock City’s future, and you want to help make everyone’s journeys safer, consider volunteering with us.

Though we may sometimes wear the make up, actual clowns need not apply.

We have comprehensive training for every area. Training takes place on playa, during the event.

Work three shifts to earn a department shirt! (Other perks may or may not exist)

You must have visited Burning Man at least once before, and you must have your own ticket to join GP&E.

If you are interested, please:

  1. Log in to
  2. Click “Participations Forms” in the header bar
  3. Click “Volunteer Questionnaire”
  4. Fill out the form, remembering to select Gate, Perimeter & Exodus as where you would like to volunteer

The “Do-acracy” of the Flaming Lotus Girls

My initial encounter with the Flaming Lotus Girls on the playa in 2006 was with Serpent Mother, an awesome 168-foot-long skeletal serpent with propane fire running down her spine coiled around her egg. The flamboyant snake electrified the crowds. Serpent Mother continues to slither through many venues in the western United States, and even overseas, inviting audiences to help direct her fire show as well as her choreography through controls that adjust propane flame effects as well as the movement of the head and jaws. Each appearance is a customized performance created by participants.

Flaming Lotus Girls, or FLG, is a volunteer-based group of artists that began in 2000 as a group of six women and two men who wanted to learn the demanding skills of creating complex, large-scale fire sculptures. They have now grown to over one hundred members, with over half of them women but welcoming all genders.

FLG’s sculptures explore the interesting possibilities of kinetics, robotics, pyrotechnics, and electronic technology. Their beautiful Soma is currently a striking feature on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Soma lights up every night at sunset and has two buttons, and everyone is invited to stop by and push them to see what happens.

Denise and the Flaming Lotus Girls were delighted to answer a few questions regarding their work, and they are very excited to share their experiences with fellow artists and the Burning Man community at large.

What are your hopes for FLG projects when they are designed?

When we start dreaming up new ideas, we consider how it will feel to see the sculpture from afar, how to make it interesting so people will approach it, and what it’ll feel like to be standing inside it. How can we play with it? Will it be as simple as pushing a button? Or can we make it more unusual? Like triggering a sensor by squeezing this felted moss that has conductive thread woven through it. Making a cool interactive space is really important to us. We try to make fun environments.

Tympani Lambada by the Flaming Lotus Girls. 2011 (Photo by Neil Girling)
Tympani Lambada by the Flaming Lotus Girls. 2011 (Photo by Neil Girling)

Typically we have one single artist’s vision driving our design, but we try to incorporate other ideas to flesh it out into an aesthetic style that we all like. We operate under the loose organizational structure of Do-ocracy, which means if you step up and assume the responsibility for some portion of the project, then you can drive the decisions relating to that part.

Ideally, during a build, we’ll have a lot of simpler tasks that can be broken out and taught to fledgling new members. This gives us opportunities to share skills and practice teaching to each other, and it helps maintain our flow of new members. We also like to explore new fire effects and new fabrication materials, so as to broaden our skill set.

Where do you envision FLG projects going beyond Burning Man?

Permanent installations in our communities! We just submitted a proposal to build a sculpture that’ll go at the entrance to the Bayview, the San Francisco neighborhood our metal shop is in. We’re one of three finalists, and we’re pretty excited about that.

Also, world tours! It would be fun to jump onto a festival circuit and bring our work to new crowds all over the country, and beyond! Typically, the music festival gigs pay us enough money that we can make more art, so these events broaden both our fan base and our portfolio.

What have been the challenges in showing FLG work publicly?

There are the usual logistics problems that go with any project. Despite our best efforts, sometimes our repair and maintenance budget ends up being larger than anticipated. Storing our containers is a perpetual cost, and the more art we make the more we have to store and maintain! Fortunately we’ve got some fabulous event planners in our midst who know how to throw outstanding fundraiser parties!

With our semi-permanent installation down at Pier 14, we had a good deal of safety retrofitting to do. Things get broken or vandalized on that piece too, but they’re relatively minor. Dealing with city and port authorities was interesting, and satisfying the ADA regulations while maintaining the look of the piece was another puzzle.

Soma, by Flaming Lotus Girls, and the FLG crew, 2014, San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jason Chinn)
Soma, by Flaming Lotus Girls, and the FLG crew, 2014, San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jason Chinn)

Sometimes we bring our art to challenging environments. In Las Vegas, we have to do all our work at night because it’s too hot to touch metal during the day. In Toronto in January, we heat our fuel tanks, warm our hoses so they’ll bend, use heat guns to cure adhesive. In Texas in May though, our fuel tank pressure is juuuuuust right for big poofing!

How have you overcome these challenges?

One challenge we face all the time is having enough funds to support our projects. But what we lack in money, we can often make up for in people-power. A recent example is when we needed to redo all the electronics in “Soma” to make them waterproof and robust. We didn’t have the funds to buy off-the-shelf commercial circuit boards, so we hand-populated hundreds of boards ourselves. Which was kind of an insane undertaking, but the benefit of this solution was that we taught dozens of folks how to surface mount solder, how to test the boards, how to write new patterns…and these boards all WORK. You can go down to Pier 14 and see them and push the buttons to make their patterns go. For a new FLG to join our group and be taught a new skill, and to have the results of all that labor be right there on display, in our hometown, for everyone to enjoy…that is just such an awesome, tangible success.

How do you connect with opportunities to show FLG work?

BRAF (Black Rock Arts Foundation, now Burning Man Arts) helped us get onto Pier 14, which has been a phenomenal opportunity for us. We’ve brought art to Maker Faire since 2007, and we always pick up a good group of new volunteers there. Bringing art to huge parties like Insomniac events has been a great boost for visibility. Often, event organizers reach out to us to our info here: info (at) email through the website.

AfrikaBurn is a Sign of Things to Come

“The Clan” – AfrikaBurn’s Main Effigy

This part is familiar. I‘d done it before. Many times. 12 gallons of water. 16 oz. of instant coffee. 32 pairs of socks. Four packages of baby wipes. Chapstick. Lotion. Earplugs. A headlamp. A backup headlamp. A backup headlamp for the backup headlamp. Three times as many batteries as I’ll actually use.

I’m no stranger to Black Rock City, but for AfrikaBurn — the largest of more than 60 official Burning Man Regional Events worldwide — I was a newbie.

I’d spent the last 24 hours getting repeatedly lost driving on what had, until this point in my life, been the wrong side of the road. Armed with a cartoonish tourist map exclusively highlighting a particular brand of petrol station, I explored Cape Town in a rental van covered in what any upstanding member of South African society would consider an offensive paint job. In the 24 hours since landing, I’d put a decade of Burning Man experience to the test — acquiring all the gear and just-add-water sundries I couldn’t cram into my two carry on bags, quickly realizing the jet lag wasn’t helping me get a grasp on the currency exchange rate. And here I had thought packing all of my gear into six large tote bins over the course of a month was challenging.


Now it’s go time.

Time for the dawn alarm clock. For last minute packing. For the best laid plans turned fuck-it-just-shove-it-in-there. For the list of things I know I’d forgotten and need to get along the way but never actually get around to writing down. And then the drive. The long drive. The long. hot. dusty. drive. into. the desert. HWY 447 in Nevada is a walk in the park compared to the R355. Your muscles ache from gripping the steering wheel after the second hour of washboard dirt road.


Then I arrived.


Performers Wanted for the Midway Stages!

BM-2015-Carnival-of-MirrorsStep right up to the fabulous Man Pavilion stages for round-the-clock entertainment of all stripes!

Two stages, located approximately 100 feet from the Man at 4:30 and 7:30 and equipped with lights and sound, will run 24/7 during event week. We are looking for seasoned and brand new performers to join us on the Midway; both stages will be curated and scheduled. Performers are encouraged to sign up prior to Burning Man, as time slots will fill up fast. You will not be provided a ticket to Burning Man for performing, you will need to have ticket in hand.

For more information, or to sign up now, email here: stagemanager (at)