Really, what more could you possibly ask for?
In 2007, Burning Man had an art theme that proved to be as life-altering as it was inspiring. The Green Man ideal truly became part and parcel of the Burning Man Project’s core, effectively overhauling how the organization functions, the infrastructure of the event, and the day-to-day lives of the staff… not bad for an art theme. Though we’d made efforts at the departmental level for years, Burning Man’s entire year-round operations went “green” in earnest, wherein the staff upped recycling and composting efforts, and thoroughly re-thought and reduced the environmental impact of Burning Man’s headquarters. On-playa operations also saw dramatic changes, including running the event’s generators on bio-diesel, and powering the Man Pavilion and the Man’s neon with a massive solar array (the panels from which would ultimately be donated to and installed for the Gerlach School and Pershing County Hospital).
Black Rock City was made up of far more participants than ever — 47,097 people living in thousands of camps, occupying 37,500,000 square feet of camping space (20% more than in 2006) — who were drawn to this incredible experience in the desert, and spurred by a theme that gave voice to a paradigm shift that desperately needed to be examined. That voice was expressed through the science, art and creative expression of tens of thousands of participants seeking change in how we relate to the natural environment.
Whether it was the Pavilion beneath the Man, packed full of scientific and educational exhibits, or the outstanding art on the open playa like Dan Das Mann’s incredible Crude Awakening, Mike Ross’s Big Rig Jig and Peter Hudson’s Homoroborous, participants’ contributions — over 300 art installations large and small — spoke loudly and clearly about the importance of environmental awareness. And we include in this tally a large number of environmentally-oriented theme camps as well.
Ultimately though, the best playa exhibitions of all weren’t conceived by a participant, but — ironically — by Mother Nature herself, as she graced Black Rock City with a mind-blowing lunar eclipse, a bona fide double-rainbow, and unseasonably warm evenings, only to remind us of her wrath with intense dust storms that would test the mettle of the heartiest of Burners.
None of this year’s Burning Man experience would have been possible without the dedicated, year round efforts of the various departments that make up the Burning Man Project, including the Administration Team, Communications Team, Playa Safety Team, Technical and Community Service Departments, who continued to improve their processes while running impressively tight ships, to a one. Each faced an important task in scaling up their operations to accommodate and acculturate our expanding population in 2007, and each department responded with experience and skill.
Throughout 2007, the elements that make up Burning Man’s “Outreach Network” truly came into their own, generating considerable excitement throughout the community. The Regionals team worked to further grow the Burning Man Regional Network, expanding it to reach more deeply into five continents; as of this writing, there 150 regionals in 100 locations around the globe keeping the flame alive in their local communities, year round. In February, the Regionals team hosted the first (of what will become an annual) Regional Network Summit at Burning Man headquarters, bringing Regional Contacts from around the world together to network, connect, share ideas, be inspired, and improve how they serve their local Burning Man communities.
Burners Without Borders expanded their efforts in 2007 well beyond their origins in Hurricane Katrina relief work. Bringing the Burner gifting mentality to the real world, BWB crews facilitated beach clean-ups around the world, instituted wood reclaiming projects, facilitated the creation of fire pits on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, and helped to build homes for the needy. Meanwhile, they further built out their technical infrastructure to be able to inspire and recruit more Burners interested in volunteering on a BWB crew, or creating one of their own. Burning Man undertook a film project to document that effort; titled “Burn on the Bayou“, it will premiere at the Santa Cruz Film Festival in May 2008, with further regional screenings also planned, aimed at sharing the Burners Without Borders story with the world.
The Black Rock Arts Foundation continued its efforts to fund community-based artwork off-playa. They hosted a series of fundraisers, allowing them to provide grants to a wide range of artists across the country so that they might realize their artistic vision.
One of the key ways these groups were able to grow was by using technology to communicate their message out into the community. This was enhanced through the creation and/or improvement of their respective internal websites and email lists, as well as launching a handful of new blogs, including the Regionals Blog, Enviroblog, and Preparation Blog… with more to come in the future.
Finally, in case 2007 wasn’t memorable enough, we shared the singular experience of seeing the Man burn twice at Black Rock City. The original Man was set ablaze by an arsonist early Tuesday morning of the event, during the lunar eclipse. Then, after the Man Crew worked with countless individuals from numerous departments to build a new Man in record time (two and a half days), right there at the event site for all of the Burning Man community to see, the Man was released in flame… at the appointed hour.