It’s a wrap! The 2014 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference was a heck of a party, but it was also a great meeting of minds. It was a chance for the far-flung leaders of Burning Man regional culture to learn from each other, and that includes the San Francisco Regional, sometimes known as Burning Man HQ. After all these groups compared notes at GLC, there could no longer be any doubt: Burning Man happens everywhere, all the time. The one week in Nevada is just for practice.
We had people on the ground tweeting and blogging about the conference and the sessions that seemed of interest to the wider world. Here’s a round-up of the major messages, so you can share in the learning, and some photos of the beautiful people. (more…)
The off-playa world is starting to look a lot like Burning Man, and not always in good ways. Converging economic and environmental pressures are making it harder to get by. But at the same time, more resilient social structures are cropping up to counteract those forces. Out of necessity, we’re starting to share more. That’s a Burnerly principle, but businesses are starting to catch on. Skill sharing, crowd funding, ride sharing, barter systems, all those things are taking off in today’s economy, and Burners couldn’t be better positioned to help and participate.
Once GLC participants were well aware that Burner culture is popping off around the world, it was time for an update from HQ. As you’ve probably heard by now, Burning Man became a non-profit this year, and that means major changes to how things operate behind the scenes. A few key Org people stepped up to the GLC podium Saturday morning to explain how that’s all working.
By the morning session of GLC day two, it was clear that something fundamental has shifted in Burner culture. Enough of us were feeling uncomfortable with the term “default world” that it had to be acknowledged from the stage. “Say ‘playa-adjacent world’ instead,” GLC producer Rosie Lila told us, and the room felt relieved.
When Burning Man was one temporary city in the desert, it was an exception. The rest of the world carried on with its default settings, and the playa was the radical departure. But by now, it’s no longer serving us to distinguish between how we are “out there” versus how we are “out here.” In fact, as our GLC presenters show us, “out here” is becoming “out there.” There’s Burning going on year-round, worldwide, so let’s admit it.
The Global Leadership Conference is about a lot of things. That was never more true than what took place on Friday afternoon at the Ignite session, where all the conference attendees sat in an auditorium-like space and listened to one speaker after another talk about what inspired them, what motivated them, what they had learned as they pursued life and the arts.
Brady Forrest The Evolution of Ignite Talks
Brady Forrest introduced the audience to the concept of the Ignite talk: five minutes, with 20 mandatory slides. The format encourages speakers to keep moving and use visuals, and has now been used in 50 Ignite talks around the country. The real point of Ignite, said Brady, is that “anyone can be a rockstar.”
Danielle Leong Corpse Party Bugs
Danielle laid down the ecosystem your body turns into after death. Within 10 days, it teems with maggots, ants, carrion beetles, and then a long beautiful process of increasing putrefaction: putrefaction (when your body bloats), black putrefaction (when your body explodes) and butyric fermentation, when your body starts to smell like cheese. (Danielle did not specify which cheese.) It’s transformation in reverse. Starting with the end at the beginning. (more…)
Burners have a lot to be proud of here at the GLC. After a rousing first morning of high-level talks about the power of Burner art and values, we were treated to a series of presentations by Burners from all over the world about how they pulled off some fantastic feats of civic art. Not only will these works be a part of Burning Man history, they’re useful templates for us to consider when we’re out building the next crazy thing. (more…)
Well, here we are! The eighth annual Burning Man Global Leadership Conference is underway. It’s a gathering of the people who are defining the global future of Burning Man culture, and it’s a whole new world. Sixteen percent of GLC attendees are international. Half of them are here for their first GLC, and another quarter are back for their second. While the average GLC14 attendee has been to Black Rock City four times, three people here have never been, and that’s just fine. They get their Burning Man kicks elsewhere in the world, and that’s what this conference is all about. (And hey, Terry Dovido, here from Boston, has been to Burning Man 20 times, so GLC is all about that, too.)
The GLC is for figuring out how we’re doing in our mission of bringing Burning Man culture to the world at large. It’s driven by the inspiration we find on the playa, but its purpose is to focus that energy on repairing the world. As Stuart Mangrum, the Burning Man Project‘s education director, put it this morning, there are two ways to get more Burning Man into the world: The first is “sister cities,” the regional burns put on around the world by so many of GLC’s stellar attendees, and the second is Burnerly projects back in the off-playa world, and the people at GLC do a lot of that, too. We saw some of the highlights in Friday’s opening session. (more…)
We went to our first Burning Man Global Leadership Conference event last night and of course we were very nervous and uncomfortable, because hey, Global Leadership? We are suspicious and skeptical when it comes to just about every organized movement, and we reached adulthood around the time Jim Jones took his People’s Temple to the jungle, and now here we are talking about Ten Principles and Global Leadership and all the rest of it. So what exactly is going on here? We love Burning Man, love love love, but why would people come to a conference like this? And what grand plan is the Burning Man trying to foist on an unsuspecting public? We had questions, and we muscled up our courage and went seeking answers.
Fortunately, there were cocktails, which helped immensely.
Maybe the first thing you need to know is that it wasn’t always like this. The esteemed and august Global Leadership Conference had humble beginnings. Very humble, as in, some of the founders went to Austin with their hats in their hands, and then they passed the hats around the room.
“We were $200,000 in debt,” Marian Goodell recalled last night on the rooftop of Burning Man headquarters in the ever-so-hip Mission District of San Francisco. “We had never had a human being ask to do something outside of San Francisco.”
The human being who asked to help was George Paap, aka Tiki, who had been staging elaborate tropical parties with flaming volcanoes and fancy umbrella drinks in Austin for some time, and he had found his way to Burning Man in 1997, where he experienced a profound sense of belonging that made him want to do more.
“I had been in a deep depression for two or three years,” he says loudly and jovially now, so jovially that it’s hard to picture him in any subdued state of mind. But he had been struggling, and Burning Man was a solace and an inspiration. So he contacted Harley DuBois with the idea of holding a fund-raiser in Austin.
“Harley sent him a book about Burning Man, and some videos,” Marian said, to help build the interest and explain what Burning Man was about. But not many people came, and only $500 was raised. But that seemingly couldn’t have mattered less. “He sent us an email apologizing,” Marian said, “because only 25 people showed up. But they drove from Dallas and Houston in a rainstorm in November. … And we cried! I’m not kidding, we cried!”
That was 1997. Now, 300 people have gathered in San Francisco, and no one is passing the hat. The conference is heavily subsidized by the Burning Man organization (regional leaders attend for free, and their guests pay $100; they pay their own way to get there, though, and finding a place to stay is up to them). (more…)