Envision, Burning Man, and Beyond: One Worldwide Movement?

There’s something special happening in Costa Rica.

I recently participated in my first Envision festival on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, just outside of the small town of Uvita. Now in its fifth year, Envision came into being in 2011 as a gathering of about 100 people in the nearby town of Dominical. This year, population neared 6,000 and tickets sold out several days before the gates opened.

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Envision event site (Photo by Aerial Media Costa Rica).

For those that planned ahead or were lucky enough to score a last-minute ticket, the experience was well worth the trip.

Envision offers a smorgasbord of sights, sounds and learning opportunities: stellar musical artists, yoga classes, workshops, a series of talks and panels, large-scale works of art, and delicious organic food and bevies. All set in the lush Costa Rican jungle, on a protected wildlife preserve owned by a local family. And yes, there’s a beach.

At Burning Man, we go to great lengths to distinguish ourselves from other ‘festivals’. We don’t allow vending or have corporate sponsorships – Burners are not passive recipients of an experience; they are active co-creators. And we are proud of this. But some events are starting to blur this line, and sometimes in quite powerful ways.

For its part, Envision seeks to encourage people to take stock of themselves – materially, emotionally and spiritually, to think about the impact of their lifestyle on the world around them, and to make very deliberate choices about consumption.

By bringing people together through music, art and sacred movement Envision presents opportunities to celebrate our spirits, heal our bodies and minds, and revitalize our souls to face the challenges and realize the opportunities of our rapidly changing world.” [From the Envision website]

 

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Luna stage design by Tigre, Hoodie, and crew. (Photo by Luke GS)

Envision places a strong emphasis on sustainability and eco-consciousness. With deliberate messaging and design, the festival encourages participants to consider their use and disposal of resources. Single use is decidedly out. Everyone is asked to bring a water bottle and reusable cutlery of their own. Those that don’t can participate in a dish rental program (for a $2 deposit you’re given a plate to use at any of the event’s vendors and return to a dish washing station when you’re done).

I was deeply impressed with the way people at Envision took responsibility for the environment around them, and for the experience had by themselves and others. I didn’t see a single piece of out of place trash on the ground (also called ‘MOOP’ by Envision-ers). I saw people jumping in, helping out, and bringing what they had to offer the collective experience.

While there were goods available for purchase in the tasteful marketplace and food stalls (no huge corporate banners, here), everywhere I turned I witnessed people genuinely enjoying acts of gifting. At times I found myself searching for price listings only to realize the activities didn’t cost any money – these included a face painting booth, a place to immerse yourself in blue clay, and a treehouse slide made of bamboo straight out of some kind of Swiss Family Robinson jungle paradise.

 

Fire performance on the beach (Photo by Andrew Jorgenson)
Fire performance on the beach (Photo by Andrew Jorgensen)

The connections between Envision and Burning Man run deep. One of Envision’s 6 Co-founders, Stephen Brooks, has been attending Burning Man for the past 14 years (his father has been ten times!), and you could see and feel the connection between the two communities everywhere.

Village Stage schedule (Photo by Zac Cirivello)
Village Stage schedule (Photo by Zac Cirivello)

There’s a strong theme camp presence – leadership from Fractal Nation, Sacred Spaces, Abraxas, and others are interwoven into the fabric of Envision. Members of various on-playa departments work as Envision staff and volunteers – DPW, Gate, Rangers, Café, Media Mecca, ESD – they’re all there, putting to use the skills they’ve mastered on the playa. In the Costa Rican jungle.

It’s not a tough sell, really. “Sort of like Burning Man? But on the beach?” Say no more.

Being at Envision gave me the immediate sense of being part of a large family – similar to the sensation I often have on playa, it truly felt as though we were ‘all in it together’ and that the actions of one affected – and mattered – to the many. It is also a decidedly kid-friendly affair. Everywhere I looked, the little ones were laughing and playing, taking in the sights and sounds around them. And, like Burning Man, there was also a strong element of whimsy. People were consistently engaging each other in playful and spontaneous interactions, such as carrying nonsensical signs just for the heck of it.

But Envision isn’t just about having a good time. Like Burning Man’s year-round nonprofit efforts, the intention is clearly to have an impact beyond the event.

The event organizes beach clean-ups, boasts several banks of compostable toilets, and for those who signed up ahead of time, the Polish Ambassador (a favorite artist at Envision and many music festivals) led an Action Day – a hands on opportunity for festival goers to learn about permaculture through participating in a day of community service at a local school.

"Designing our Future" panelists Klaudia Oliver, Daniel Pinchbeck, Burning Man's Megan Miller, Stephen Brooks, Elias Cattan and moderator Katherine Berglund (Photo by Zac Cirivello)
“Designing our Future” panelists Klaudia Oliver, Daniel Pinchbeck, Megan Miller, Stephen Brooks, Elias Cattan and moderator Katherine Berglund (Photo by Zac Cirivello)

And on Saturday of the event I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion titled “Designing our Future” along with Stephen Brooks, Daniel Pinchbeck, Klaudia Oliver and Elias Cattan. I was inspired by the work these incredible activists, authors and thought-leaders doing for our global community.

Burning Man has been referred to as a ‘permission engine’ or a ‘container of possibility’. It gives people opportunities to realize dreams that previously seemed unachievable.

But we are certainly not the only one.

In Costa Rica people are waking up to their own potential. They’re building community, collaborating on powerful projects and enabling each other to accomplish more than they thought possible. They are radically expressing themselves. They are setting aside differences in social and economic status in order to connect human to human. They are tapping into the creative potential of the collective whole. It’s pretty special stuff, really.

Unlike Burning Man, the Envision experience is intentionally curated. While there’s plenty of room for exploration, the speakers and the teachers, the food, the music, and the artists are carefully selected to take people on a journey, to open their eyes to new things and to give them a new lens through which to see themselves and their relationship to the world around them.

While I take great pride in the fact that Burning Man doesn’t book acts or build a ‘main stage’, at Envision I came to have a new respect for events that have more intentional focus. This gives Envision the ability to educate and challenge participants in a particular direction, in contrast to the completely Choose Your Own Adventure experience of Black Rock City. And I truly believe we – the big we – are stronger with both kinds (and all types of personally transformative experiences. We are more together than we are apart.

There is a hunger for this kind of community, for ritual and connection, and for time away from the ever-growing insistence of electronic communications. Different events may have their own unique flavor and focus, but there is strength in this diversity. To build the resilient communities of the future we need all kinds – all skills, all people, all points of entry. Taken together, this ecosystem of events is helping lead us to that brighter future. We have a long way to go, but I see evidence of progress everywhere.

 

Emancipator on the main stage (Photo by Cody Edwards)
Emancipator on the main stage (Photo by Cody Edwards)

As the sun rose on the last morning of Envision, I looked out over the joyous crowd and the gravity of the work we all are doing suddenly washed over me. The impact we are making collectively on thousands, arguably millions of lives. They are waking up. They are reaching out. They are connecting the dots and encouraging each other to dig deeper, reach further, and become more than they thought possible. We are all helping to build what might become a truly global cultural movement.

From Burning Man to Envision, we tip our dusty hats to you.

The Temple of Promise

temple

For four years in a row, the temples of Black Rock City have been palatial, romantic, classical in design. Time’s up. Some members of the 2015 Temple crew worked on the enchantingly abstract, boundary-pushing Temple of Flux five years ago, and they have brought that same fluid, organic inspiration to this year’s design: the Temple of Promise.

templemid

The Temple of Promise is a guide. It’s a calming hand, and it’s a listening ear. Nestled in its center is a grove of trees. It’s no tower or pyramid or other such shape dictated by logic alone. It is no less a temple for its lifelike forms. It is more.

Scattered amidst the flow of the Temple area, wooden sculptures shaped like stones form a soft boundary. The tapering spiral of the main structure provides shelter and quiet. The lobed spire at its opening will tower 97 feet high. The tail of the building curls into a circle around the open-air grove, a container well suited for gatherings. The trees will be bare at the beginning of the week, but participants will leave their messages on strips of white cloth, which they will hang from the trees like the leaves of a weeping willow.

templegrove

In addition to the 2010 Temple of Flux, team members have worked in the past with artist Dan Fox on some of the playa’s most imposing and impressive sculptures ever: the Trojan Horse in 2011, Anubis in 2012, and the Alien Siege Machine in 2014. Others have volunteered on past temples in 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2013. This practice and expertise will serve them well. But it is clear from the design of the Temple of Promise that this team brings with it another complementary power that cannot be learned, only listened to: intuition.

Want to get involved? The team is working on their website and volunteer intake process, but in the meantime, like their Facebook page to stay in the loop.

Raise your hand if you’ve “graduated” from Burning Man

Has this been you?  (Photo by AlphaSpirit)
Has this been you? (Photo by AlphaSpirit)

A few years ago Sondra Carr, the artist who first introduced me to Burning Man, said that she had reached a poignant new milestone: she was done with Burning Man, and ready to move on.

Now most of the people who you hear saying things like this are angry: they say “I am DONE with Burning Man!” and will tell you, at length, that their readiness to move on from Burning Man is entirely Burning Man’s fault, because they’ve got ROADS now, or because too many of THOSE people are here, or because the organization ISN’T LISTENING!”

That is to say, they talk about Burning Man as though the decision to move on from it is the result of a terrible mistake, even an injury, and that in the normal course of events we would all keep doing it for the rest of our lives.

That’s not what Sondra meant. Just the opposite.

She’s not angry at Burning Man. She doesn’t agree with everything the Org has done, but she doesn’t expect to agree with everything anybody does. She has had very good experiences here, a few really terrible experiences, and is ultimately very grateful for Burning Man providing her with the opportunity to engage in tremendous personal and artistic growth.

It’s just that, having grown, she believes it is time to move on. This doesn’t mean never coming back: “I’ll come back if I have a particular art piece that I think should happen there, or if a ticket happens to come my way,” she tells me. But it does mean that going to Burning Man for its own sake is no longer a priority: rather, she needs to refocus her efforts .. and all that growth … on making the magic she discovered at Burning Man happen in the rest of the world.

She sees it as graduating from high school: you don’t stop going to high school because goddamit high school did something terrible to you … you stop going to high school because you are ready for other things. There is no ideal world (except on TV) where people never stop going to high school. It exists for you to be done with it. If it’s done its job well, it will show in the way you live through the rest of your life. (more…)

Burning Man Represents at SXSW 2015

SXSW — maybe you've heard of it?
SXSW — maybe you’ve heard of it?

Ever since SXSW was a small gathering of creative types back in the day, we’ve sent folks from BMHQ down to Austin to participate. Over the years, we’ve hosted (or were on) a number of panels, held some workshops, and did a heck of a lot of connecting with like-minded people. And it’s funny … one of the most common questions we get is why we’re there. Why would Burning Man do SXSW?

Well, during our 25+ years of producing Burning Man, we’ve learned a thing or two about collaborative creation, participation-driven cities, inspiring creativity, creating crucibles for innovation, alternative socioeconomic models — things that we’re as eager to share with the broader creative community as they are to hear it. So for us, it’s as much about skill sharing as learning and community engagement.

So … that said, we’re happy to once again be sending a small contingent from Burning Man HQ to participate in SXSWi this year.

Rosie von Lila has put together a pretty impressive group of panelists to discuss participatory cities on March 14, and Burning Man Founder and CEO Marian Goodell will be on a panel about creating a space for social good on March 15.

We’ve also coordinated a couple Burner meet-ups, one for Austin Burners on March 14, and another for SXSW badge-holders on March 15. Details below … and if you’re in Austin during SXSW, we hope to see you!

Panel: Participatory Cities: Inspiring Access and Action
Austin Convention Center, Room 10AB, 500 E Cesar Chavez St.
Sat, Mar 14, 12:30-1:30pm

Panel: Sandbox Stories, Creating a Space for Social Good
Burning Man Founder & CEO Marian Goodell, panelist
Sun, Mar 15, 9:30-10:30am
Austin City Hall, Council Chambers, 301 W 2nd St

Badge Holder Meetup: SXSW Burning Man Meetup
Sun, Mar 15, 5-6pm
JW Marriott, Room 508, 110 E 2nd St (SXSW badge required)

Public Meetup for Austin Burners and Wannabe Burners (please spread widely!)
Friends in Austin! Please join folks from Burning Man HQ for an informal Austin Burners (and wannabe Burners) meet-up — come say hi and shoot the breeze. We’ll be in the back yard of Justine’s, just far enough away from the SXSW craziness. We’d love to see you!
Saturday, March 14, 5:30 pm
Justine’s Brasserie
4710 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78702
(512) 385-2900

Artist Update: Flux Foundation

2009-2010 Black Rock City Honoraria artist Jess Hobbs, from the ever inventive and productive Flux Foundation, shares with us an update on their latest work, Bloom!

Based at American Steel Studios in Oakland, California, this art collective has produced numerous memorable works for Black Rock City and for many other public community events (check out their portfolio). This recent piece is made of car hoods and bumpers donated from local auto body shops.

We are currently in the final-two-weeks-mad-rush of finishing our new installation Bloom! It was commissioned by the Philadelphia Zoo as part of their SECOND NATURE: Our Endangered World Revealed In Recycled Materials exhibition. The sculpture leaves Oakland for Philadelphia on March 16.

About Bloom!: Perennials epitomize sustainability. A beautiful resource that with a little attention and care can return endlessly. Bloom! is an outrageous, 35′ tall arrangement of flowers, creating a fun and inviting installation, producing both light and shade, and a welcoming space to explore. It is a dancing swirl of mixed recycled materials anchored by oversized leafy stems. The sculpture consists of fifty-four perennial flowers and nine monarch butterflies. A majority of the recycled parts came from our local West Oakland neighborhood. This spectacle is intended to establish a connection between our actions, animals and our shared environment.

Jess Hobbs
Flux Foundation 

If you’re in Philadelphia, pay a visit to the Zoo and see Bloom!

Bloom! by Flux
SECOND NATURE: Our Endangered World Revealed In Recycled Materials exhibition
April 11, 2015 – October 11, 2015
Open daily, during regular Zoo hours, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Philadelphia Zoo
3400 W Girard Ave
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
Adults, $20. Children, $16.


Visit the project’s website to learn more.

In progress detail of Bloom! by Flux Foundation, 2015 (Photo by Jess Hobbs)
In progress detail of Bloom! by Flux Foundation, 2015 (Photo by Jess Hobbs)
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In progress detail of Bloom! by Flux Foundation, 2015 (Photo by Jess Hobbs)

 

Artist Update: Kate Raudenbush

Kate Raudenbush
2010 and 2012 Civic Arts Artist
2008-2012 Black Rock City Honoraria Artist

If you’re in New York this month, don’t miss the chance to see Kate Raudenbush’s solo gallery show, which includes a debut of new work!

Kate Raudenbush is a sculptor and photographer based in New York, and the recipient of several Black Rock Arts Foundation Civic Arts and Black Rock City art grants. The power of her work lies in its ability to raise awareness of important ethical concerns without compromising beauty and aesthetics.

Kate’s sculptures and installations are embodied reflections on many essential themes and issues, ranging from societal values and power dynamics to ecological concerns. Her aesthetic choices are informed by a multitude of cultural influences, myths, and symbols. Through their intricate, geometric, and dream-like qualities, they instill a sense of awe and wonder in viewers, who are invited to meditate on the nature of transformation and evolution of consciousness.

Kate’s sculptures and installations include the following:

  • Future’s Past: 2012 – 2014 Civic Arts Project, San Francisco, California
  • Duel Nature: 2010 Civic Arts Project, Reno, Nevada, and Black Rock City project 2006
  • Star Seed: Black Rock City  project 2012
  • Braindrop: Black Rock City project 2009
  • Altered State: Black Rock City project 2008

Kate’s SeeMe Gallery Solo Show, “Reflections,” opens on Wednesday, March 4th, which also happens to be during the Armory Arts Week. She will be exhibiting new work, as well as a restoration of Stadium of the Self, originally a sculpture at Black Rock City in 2005.

Stadium of the Self by Kate Raudenbush. Photo courtesy the artist. (C) Kate Raudenbush, 2013.
Stadium of the Self by Kate Raudenbush. Photo courtesy the artist. (C) Kate Raudenbush, 2013.

Reception – Mar. 4, 2015
7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
See | Exhibition Space
26-19 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, Queens
New York, NY 11101

SeeMe is a design community that is “bringing creativity back to the real world through prints, experiences, and conversation.” Members can share and discover images through SeeMe’s online platform and iPhone app.

You can follow Kate on SeeME here, or learn more about her work at:

www.kateraudenbush.com.

Call-Out for Burning Man Sticker Designs!

2007 Burning Man sticker by Eggchair Steve
2007 Burning Man sticker by Eggchair Steve

This is the official call for designs for the 2015 Burning Man stickers! Your design could be the one passed 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!

The Details:

Size:

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

Design:

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 Carnival of Mirrors theme!

Must include: both the name Burning Man and the year 2015 in your design.

Colors:

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

Priority:

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 “2015 Sticker Submission”.

Deadline:

Monday, May 18. No art is accepted after this date.

Thank you!

Word Play: The Art of Jeff Schomberg

This video vignette about artist Jeff Schomberg is a fantastic portrayal of an artist whose trajectory of work has been irrefutably changed by Burning Man. Here, Jeff tells us about how Burning Man expanded his concept of public art, and opened up the possibility for his own artistic growth.

In this video, Jeff also talks about his experience of interacting with the Art Support Services at Burning Man, his appreciation for other artists on the playa, and for Burning Man’s art grants.

Jeff began attending Burning Man in 1998, and since has collaborated with artist Laura Kimpton to create numerous works, including 2008’s massive interactive fire and metal installation Celtic Forest, and the many “word” pieces that have become iconic to the vista of our playa (including Mom, Oink, Love, and Believe). He and Laura collaborated with the Black Rock Arts Foundation to bring Celtic Forest to Reno, Nevada, in 2009, and continues to create and share his work in public settings.

This brief window into his creative and production process reveals Jeff’s focused and dedicated work ethic, his esteem for his crew and artistic collaborators, and his conviction about the community-building potential of public art. Thank you, Jeff, for all your work!