Return to Black Rock City
In May, staff and core collaborators gathered to disclose what’s new and true in the big community experiment that is Black Rock City.
- How Center Camp changed
- Turning down turnkey camping
- The bumper crop of inclusive art
- The hive platform for teaching, learning, and up-leveling leadership
They shared about jobs, classifieds, and the Survival Guide; about behind-the-scenes machines for emergency response, decommodification deals, sustainability solutions, and diversity discussions.
This is a glimpse into what to expect.
Black Rock City Art Theme: Waking Dreams
Desert Arts Preview: June 12th
Playa Events Registration (WhatWhereWhen)
This is How We Hive (HIVE)
Touching Down: a BRC orientation (HIVE)
Return to Black Rock City (HIVE)
MICHAEL VAV: Welcome to Burning Man LIVE. I’m Michael Vav. This podcast usually discusses the impact of Burning Man culture on the world through time. This one, however, is about this summer, and the first (and the giant) Burning Man event called Black Rock City.
Staff and core collaborators gathered in May to disclose what’s new and true for 2022 in the big community experiment.
• How Center Camp changed
• Turning down turnkey camping
• The bumper crop of inclusive art
• The hive platform for teaching, learning, and up-leveling leadership
You’ll hear from a variety of directors and heads of departments about jobs, classifieds, and the Survival Guide; about behind-the-scenes machines for emergency response; decommodification deals, sustainability solutions, and diversity discussions.
This is a glimpse into how it all works.
Let’s jump right in.
SAMMY: Good morning, Black Rock City. My name is Sammy, otherwise known as your friendly neighborhood operational administrator. I am coming at you live from San Francisco, California, in my garden. We are gathered here to talk about producing Black Rock City, knowing that we are all deep inside of the crucible that it is to produce that city from the dust. Today is to serve as an update on where we’re at, and a moment to collect ourselves.
We will hear from Marian, we’ll hear from Charlie, we’ll hear from Ticketing, from Placement, from the former Café, about what they’re up to, Art, Hive, and Burners without Borders. With that, I’ll welcome Marian. The Jackrabbit, herself.
MARIAN: Thanks, Sammy. Is this going to be your first Black Rock City as an organizer?
SAMMY: Absolutely. Yes.
MARIAN: Sammy, you came in at the beginning of the pandemic, right? Hoping to build that Black Rock City 2020. And now here we are.
SAMMY: Here we are.
MARIAN: I’m so glad to have you aboard.
SAMMY: Thank you so much.
MARIAN: You’ve been a rockstar at being patient. I’m here to say good morning to everybody. I can’t believe we’re going back to Black Rock City. Of course, we’re going back to Black Rock City. It’s time to go back to Black Rock City.
And I’m excited about this gathering and this moment because, during the pandemic, we’ve had all these opportunities to change the way which the organization works and which way in which we show up in Black Rock City. And, I think that you will be pleased with some of the information we’re sharing today. Some of it’s going to be the first time you might hear some of this. The goal really for all of us is to get ourselves back to Black Rock City and show up in the best way possible.
One of the things that’s coming up for people, of course, there’s fear. I’ve learned about fear at Black Rock City. For me, it almost existed every year, all the time in some form or another. And it’s a chance to work through that fear and get to be with people, and to just feel the energy that comes with collaborating with people, the way in which what we do in Black Rock City, and what we take back with us affects the culture of the towns and the communities we’re in. One of the most important goals in going back to Black Rock City is really helping heal what’s happening in the world, what’s happening in our communities, our own hearts.
You know, this is not an easy journey, but it is one that we’re here for. That’s why we’re all pulling ourselves back up out of this moment and moving towards Black Rock City. I just want to be present in that moment with us all. This gathering this morning is part of an evolution of what used to be called Staff Meetings. Those were in the Burning Man office. They maxed out at 150 people maybe. Early on in the pandemic when we called one of those meetings on Zoom, we realized how enthusiastic others were to get the information.
And so this is us really experimenting and going beyond the leadership in the organization and really recognizing the leadership of those of you in the art collectives and theme camps and art cars because we’re really all collaborating together. This is sort of a core collaborators convention for a moment.
I’m looking forward to the information that all these wonderful team members and collaborators have brought to the table so that you all can get an idea of where we’re going, what the news is, and where to get information. And so, thank you all for being here.
Charlie, you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. I just want to thank you for your patience. And all the team members that work closely with you have a lot of patience. Everybody’s being super brave, but you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders and you’re doing a fabulous job.
CHARLIE: Marian, thanks for recognizing that people are being brave. It’s a real moment, and a lot of us are in very different places, so thanks for saying that. And I think also just recognizing that there’s a lot of pressure in the system right now; that the wheels start to spin and then suddenly it’s like just all the areas in the tire all at once. And it’s just a lot. And I’m sure that whether we’re running a Theme Camp or trying to rebuild a department or get a pile of volunteers on board, it’s a lot right now. So thanks for recognizing that, and hold tight. Everything’s going to be fine.
I just want to super quickly talk about the pandemic in the room just a little bit. Firstly, and most importantly, we had our staff leadership Ops Summit a couple of weeks ago, so that was like a little small group of leadership folks. And Tool came up with a great comment. He was like, “Don’t let Burning Man be the first time that you go out into the world.” So Tool, thank you for bringing that sentiment.
There were people in that room and it was their first time out in the world and it was okay. And it was, you know, everyone had a different way of dealing with it. So just give yourselves a break, go and get out into the world and do that thing.
It’s important for us to recognize that the world and America, and other places are kind of entering a new phase in relation to the pandemic, and as individuals in the world, I’m not talking about Burners, I’m talking about individuals. We’re being asked, “What do I feel comfortable doing? What is acceptable to me? How can I adjust my behavior so that I’m taking care of my needs?” It’s just important to recognize that that is easier for some than for others. And so I just really want to call out something that Heather said yesterday, that really kind of resonated with me, but – like let’s have 2022 be the year of kindness. Let’s recognize that it’s been a tough couple of years and that emerging from it all is, is challenging in different ways for each of us and attempt ‘22 be the year of kindness.
So we said earlier in the year that we would be doing a health check, and that that would be either proof of vaccination or demonstration of a recent negative test. And I think it’s fair to say right now that the world is changing. We are looking closely at this and we may or may not do this. We are of course thinking deeply through the ramifications of it. What are the things that we need to do if we don’t do it? What are the other things that we could do instead, or should do instead? We’re kind of thinking through all of that right now, but from a common-sense perspective, it would be really hard and potentially doesn’t make a lot of sense to enforce something more rigorous than the real-world experience. So we’re ruminating on that really hard right now. We know we need to land soon, and we will have more information for you all by June, God willing, with the wind behind us.
As Marian said, patience has been a really key part of this year, and a bravery to go with that, kind of moving through the unknown and the uncertainty. So, thank you all for holding your breath diligently for many months now. And, yeah, we’ll be back in touch, soon. That’s all I had to say. I’m super excited and um, I’m going to get out of the way. And then, thank you. Sammy. Back to you.
MARIAN: Sammy, I wanted to just say that I noticed there was a really important question early on and that was, ‘Have we solved the dust problem?’ Charlie, we’ve solved the dust problem, right? It’s totally under control.
CHARLIE: It’s totally under control. We’ll be using the same solution as we’ve used every other year for the last 25 years. So I hope that’s good enough.
SAMMY: And that’s our show, everyone. That’s our show. We solved it. Great. I’m going to welcome KJ with our fabulous education team to come on and help us break this ice.
KJ: Greetings, everyone, Burners far and wide. My name is KJ. I am with Burning Man Project’s Education team. I have worn many hats over the almost 15 years that I’ve been working with Burning Man Project; member of the DPW and People Operations in past iterations, and burning since 2001. Been doing this for half my life. And I’m so excited to be going back this year, for the first time with my new toddler, who was only 16 days old when we managed to scoot him onto the playa in 2019 for 24 hours. I’m gonna be in a new experience, even though it’s going to be my 22nd burn. I’m gonna have a kid there for the first time. That’s going to be exciting.
So let’s like get connected, shake off the figurative dust. I’m going to invite you to participate in what’s called a chatter-fall. We’ve got almost 300 people signed in and I see plenty of people logged in in groups, which is so exciting.
We’re going to use the chat function. I’m going to give you a prompt here in a second, and then you’re going to drop your answers into the chatbox and we’ll just kind of see where everybody’s at.
“Where are you logging in from, where are you calling in from?” I see you dropping it in there! Tokyo. Awesome. Oregon. Tucson, Arizona. Helsinki! I can’t, I can’t read this fast! Dallas, Texas. Oh, I saw Seattle. That’s where I grew up. Truckee. Hello. I’m down in Reno. Fabulous.
The second part is “What are you looking forward to in your own return to Black Rock City?” Hugs. Connection. Sunrise. Art. Looking forward to being part of the problem. Me too! The deep playa. Showing my partner the playa for the first time. You’re going to marry someone on the playa, that’s exciting. Working with everybody. Big art. Fire. Getting unplugged. The mutant vehicles. Volunteering. Chili. Chili’s awesome. Friends, there’s going to be so much good stuff awaiting us. Coming from the four corners of the world to Black Rock City. Art, art, art. Cheating on being a vegan and eating bacon. Bacotarian. Whiskey bacon. Riding bikes. Working and laughing with friends. Howling at the sunset. Sign me up. Thank you all so much for sharing.
All right, Sammy, I’m going to pass it back to you.
SAMMY: That enthusiasm stokes my fire as well. And you all are coming in from all of my favorite places on the planet. So, Yay. Our first official update of the day is from Laura Day, aka Razpberry, aka Good Day, coming at you with an update on the Café.
LAURA: Laura Day, All Day, I’ve got all kinds of fun names. I am the Associate Director of Operations, at your service. In 2019 I was on playa shadowing, so just like Sammy kind of, sort of my first year on playa in my role. I’m super excited to meet all of you. My first Burn was 2009, so coming full circle.
So, as you may have heard, we are trying out a year without selling coffee. Please hold on to rotten tomatoes until the end. There’s reasons. It’s been a few years since we’ve come together to build Black Rock City. And we’ve done a lot of thinking, and a lot of listening about what the community wants the future of Black Rock City to be. We’ve also been thinking about how we show up as global citizens, what’s truly important to us, and how we can show up bigger and better than ever.
The Café has complex operations and significant environmental impacts. With a blank canvas, we get to paint a new landscape together.
This is an opportunity to showcase a tangible example of our commitment to sustainability. Without running a coffee shop, we’ll eliminate an ice truck, a US Foods truck, three coffee vendor trucks, and all the power, water, pumping, and other resources needed to support the coffee shop, the official department camp, and all the vendors. This boils down to about 1300 gallons of fuel savings.
The greywater pump is estimated at about 21,000 gallons, and the trenching for plumbing is very labor-intensive and impactful on the playa.
The impacts of the waste generated by a coffee shop operation is also not insignificant. It’s estimated that 60% of folks took their beverages in a compostable cup, which totals about 26,000 cups in 2019. These are difficult to compost. It’s not like you can just throw them in your compost bin. They have to undergo a specific process to compost them. And it’s just unnecessary consumption, not to mention the packaging of all the supplies, milks, coupons, pogs, and all the other consumables.
All right, now we can focus more on how we want to utilize the space differently. We focus on three themes for the space.
Many of us had transformative experiences at the renegade burn. To me, that was very much Burning Man in its raw and beautiful essence. We heard loud and clear that less is more, and we couldn’t agree more. So we’re opening up the space to the community to curate and choose its new direction. As Larry said, “We build the hive. They bring the honey.”
Another of the main goals is to foster immediacy and participation through interactivity. How can we create new opportunities for connection and engagement? And what does a symbiotic and supportive integration between Burning Man Project and the greater community look like?
Center Camp has always been intended to be a touchpoint for creating community, and that’s the case now more than ever. The world has evolved so much since coffee shops were the headquarters of counter-culture activity. And Black Rock City has evolved from when there was a desperate need for a decent cup of coffee on playa. These days, coffee is gifted by many camps on playa, and most of us brew our own coffee for ourselves and our campmates.
And within the work laid out in Cultural Direction Setting, we’ve been looking to reinforce the Principles wherever possible. There are obvious rubs against the principles of Decommodification, and Radical Self-Reliance, thus, selling coffee has long been controversial. So as we look at a more decentralized approach to how we build Black Rock City, this feels like a great shift to demonstrate our commitment to our culture and prioritize the environment.
I do want to recognize that the coffee shop has long been known as a great gateway to volunteerism in Black Rock City. There are plenty of ways to continue this tradition in new areas of Center Camp and beyond.
Many Black Rock City departments have already reached out to welcome coffee shop crews to their teams. There are 84 coffee shop core crew volunteers. There are 45 opportunities to stay within Center Camp. So, you know, there’s a little bit of a gap there. And many core crew have expressed interest in learning about opportunities and other Black Rock City departments. If you have opportunities to welcome these vibrant and hardworking, wonderful humans, please email email@example.com and we will help make some connections there.
So, what is staying the same? First, you will have the same beautiful structure offering over half an acre or two-thirds of a football field worth of shade during the day and a lovely refuge at night. You can still look to the crown flags as your north star when you’re lost at sea. The two stages will be there as will the wooden floor where the Café once sat, and there will be both scheduled and unscheduled spaces to allow for planned activities and on-the-fly shenanigans. The lounge areas will remain for now, and we will respond to how the community would like to see the space evolve.
So what will be different this year besides no coffee shop? There’ll be expanded space for art, maybe some live painting over the course of the week. Maybe a black light art zone. Lots of open space will be available to support pop-ups and activities, and for theme camps to bring their particular brand of weird from the neighborhoods to Center Camp, highlighting the special magic that happens in the nooks and crannies of the City that sometimes gets overlooked. This will also serve as a space to share conversations, and teach one another about our own unique and brilliant ways.
Don’t worry, Placement is going to make sure coffee is available in the area, with more interactivity in the Center Camp neighborhood than ever.
So consider this your invitation to co-create this new canvas and participate. We want this to be open-sourced and collaborative. We want it to be something that becomes something far greater than you could ever imagine on our own. This is your space. How will you contribute to it? Now is a perfect time to begin brainstorming with your teams and your camps to see how you’d like to put your stamp on Center Camp.
If you have ideas of what the new landscape might look like, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. And there will definitely be a place to sign up in the moment on playa. So with that, back to you, Sammy.
SAMMY: Thank you, Laura. So exciting. I’m going to pass it over to the wonderful Nipps, and the wonderful Pedro, to talk about some job openings we have here at Burning Man Project.
PEDRO: Thanks, Sammy. Hey, Nipps, how are ya?
NIPPS: Hello Pedro, how are you?
PEDRO: Are you still with Fluffers?
NIPPS: Actually, I am the new NVO, Nevada Operations Personnel Manager. Believe that.
PEDRO: Oh, word. Where’s NVO at?
NIPPS: NVO is in Gerlach, Nevada.
PEDRO: Ah, I knew it sounded familiar. You know, I’ve been hearing a lot about Gerlach and NVO. I heard things were about to go off this summer.
NIPPS: They are, they are.
PEDRO: As in off fossil fuels. I heard y’all hiring for an Off Fossil Fuels Manager to help keep our commitment to sustainability.
NIPPS: Oh, yeah, definitely.
PEDRO: Yeah. And then I saw this other job posting for the AP of Social Enterprise, that’s going to be working with what’s happening right now. Aren’t you guys in the middle of the Gerlach Workforce Development Center?
NIPPS: We are. We have classes going on right now, all week long.
PEDRO: That’s amazing. And you know, that Associate Director of Social Enterprise won’t be able to do their job without the partnership of the Associate Director of Real Estate overseeing all of the properties; isn’t that right?
NIPPS: It sure is, and they are already looking beautiful. We need some more help out here.
PEDRO: But I know that’s not it. We still have more jobs.
NIPPS: Oh, yeah. With DPW. My favorite, where I come from. It is going to be heating up this year. HEaT needs equipment operators and Administrative Assistants. The fuel department is looking for a Manager and a Fuel Supervisor to make sure everything keeps rolling.
PEDRO: That is incredible. But I know you got other roles.
NIPPS: Oh my goodness. So many roles. All these people out here are gonna be hungry. So they’re going to need a Commissary Manager, and to keep everything keep moving, we need a new Power Operations Manager.
PEDRO: I heard about that. We need power because we need to get on across to Black Rock City, and to get us there we’re also going to need some drivers, right? Like skilled drivers. I mean, I ride a bike, and I ride a mean bike, and I got my driver’s license, but not like this. This is next level. We need a CDL driver. We need a commercial fuel truck driver, a fuel truck driver, a HEaT truck driver, all these drivers.
NIPPS: Yeah. Those are tons of roles. By the way, do you happen to have a website where everyone can get to these roles and sign up.
PEDRO: Well, we’re posting all of the information. Please come visit the website. Share this information with your friends. Share with our community. We have many other opening roles.
NIPPS: Yes. Thank you so much, Pedro. And thank you, everyone. We really look forward to seeing you here in Gerlach.
PEDRO: Back to you, Sammy.
SAMMY: Thank you so much. That really was amazing. Great job, plus 10.
Y’all sometimes things happen that are unexpected. So I want to welcome Marnee Benson and Tool to talk about what happens in the event of an emergency.
MARNEE: Thanks, Sammy. I’m Marnie Benson, Director of Government Affairs.
TOOL: And I’m Tool. I manage the Black Rock Rangers.
MARNEE: We’re going to answer your burning questions about Tier 1 in Black Rock City. What is it? Who is it? Why is it, and where is it? We’re going to start off with: What is it?
Tier 1 is a group and a process for multi-agency response related to Black Rock City and off-playa incidents. It’s under an Incident Command System (that’s what ICS stands for) which is designed to aid in the management of resources when responding to an incident. This is all a part of a unified command structure where multiple jurisdictions are involved.
We establish a common set of objectives and strategies. The information flow and coordination is improved under this type of structure. And the combined efforts of all the agencies are optimized. Part of what we do is communications with each other, and with off-site agencies, officials, the media, the public, as well as onsite.
During activation incidents we try to meet in person onsite at the EOC when possible — that’s the Emergency Operations Center. Each day out on the playa, starting during build week and ending during strike week, we have daily meetings. The members in Tier 1, we receive notifications for emerging situations, and we’re activated for high-level, more complex incidents. So, some of you might be familiar with some of the incidents that we’ve activated for including a death onsite, a wildland fire closing Highway 447, and a rain event on opening day are all part of our annual operational plan. Tool, over to you.
TOOL: So let’s talk about who the players are. The organizations in the Tier 1 group include Burning Man Operations, the BLM, and Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.
Over on the Burning Man side, it’s basically key people from various departments. That’s Marnee who runs Government Relations; Charlie who’s our Event Operations Director; Tool, that’s me, that manages the Ranger department; Kate manages Emergency Services; Dom for Communications; and our law enforcement advisor. And importantly, because situations are very dynamic, we bring in what we call “subject matter experts” as required. So if something’s going to close Gate Road, we might bring somebody from GPE into the room to come in and have a conversation with us for part of the time.
From the BLM side, we have our authorizing officer, that’s the person that signs our permit every year, and is responsible for overseeing our compliance with the regulations in the area. There’s a BLM law enforcement group. The state office drops in on occasion, somebody from high-level management at BLM who comes in to make sure that they’re doing their job as expected. And then there are logistics folks and civilian operations, which includes people that make sure that we’re complying with commercial regulations and Leave No Trace requirements that are a part of our permit.
Over on the Pershing County side, Sheriff Allen is often there. His designated person is often Sergeant Carmichael who’s usually our point person for managing law enforcement stuff on playa, and then other officers as he sees necessary.
The reason Tier 1’s important is because when things escalate, we need somebody to make sure that all of the things that are needed, show up at the right place at the right time and that communication’s happening across all of these agencies. So Marnee mentioned a couple of the incidents might come up that would activate the Tier 1 group. A rain event is a really good example because it touches everybody.
So one of the first things that happens when we see that rain, like a big rainstorm is coming, is that we need to start communicating with people. The communications team that’s managed by Dom will reach out to BMIR, and they will through the radio try to contact participants, but Rangers on patrol will do the same thing. And we actually engage the Placement team, which has a lot of relationships with camps to make sure that people know to batten down their things, cover your electrical connections, et cetera. But not just that.
We actually reach out to Burners on social media, and other channels to let them know that “Hey, Gate is going to be closing, and you probably want to hang out in Reno tonight and not drive up and end up blocking the highway on the way up there.” And then importantly, over in Marnee’s world, we start engaging with government entities, not just the ones that I mentioned before that are in BRC all the time, but in a scenario like this, we’re talking to Washoe County, the Nevada Department of Transportation, the Paiute Tribe in Nixon, to let them know that all these impacts are gonna come in on that traffic pipeline and possibly slow things down.
And then within BRC, we have to actually get all this machinery going to make sure resources are where they need to be because you may or may not know that if it starts raining, driving gets shut down because we don’t want to wreck all the roads, and also because you’re gonna get stuck. So, we need to make sure that there’s fuel at the places that there need to be. We start pumping the port-a-potties immediately. We get food to where people need to go. And then obviously when the rain happens, we start kind of dealing with whatever fallout comes from that.
The point of our group isn’t to do all of that work. That’s what the department managers are doing. Our job is to make sure that the resources and the communication is happening, so provide kind of air cover for everybody to make sure things are running smoothly.
MARNEE: Yeah, thanks Tool. You know, the communication flow is so critical. So we’re coordinating things as far out as I-80, in the example of the wildland fire, so that folks won’t be coming on 447 and having to turn around, as well as coordinating information onsite, in case people have to reroute or stay in place.
It was really great for us to be able to come together, see the folks who we’ve been working with for years, and welcome new people, and get them oriented to the different players and the different systems and the communications channels that are so critical in these moments when things are moving quickly and the stakes are high.
Tool, unless you’ve got anything else that might be it.
TOOL: You could have been going to Burning Man for decades and never know we exist, and that’s fine because our job is just to make sure that you get to keep right on Burning and doing the things that you need to do while things are happening in the background. It’s just our job to facilitate that. Back to Sammy.
SAMMY: Thank you so much, Tool. Thank you so much, Marnee. I appreciate everything that you to keep us burning.
I’m going to welcome Katie Hazard and Peter to talk about art. What you got for us?
KATIE: Yay! My name is Katie Hazard. I’m the Associate Director of Art Management for Burning Man, which means that I have the honor and the joy of leading the Art Department. I’ve been going to Burning Man since 2000. And you know what was so fun for me was when KJ did that section of what we’re excited about this year. And I kept seeing “art, art, art,” so, that was just a lot of joy to see.
We have potentially more art than ever. We’ve got 88 honoraria projects, which is more than we usually have. As of today, we have 195 registered projects. So that brings us to 283 projects so far.
You can check out the website that lists all those projects with descriptions and images and stuff it’s fun to look through, but the art installation questionnaire closes on June 1st. So at this rate, we normally get around 400 art installations. So we’re on track to have more than ever, which is exciting. One thing to note is that when the art installation form closes on June 1st, the next opportunity people have will be to walk in and register on playa. So that’s still an option there.
So overall big picture, some of the things that our department and organization are focusing on are both sustainability and diversity this year. In terms of sustainability we’re doing more collaborations with groups, we’re really looking closely at people that want to burn their project, making sure that’s appropriate and the right materials. We are funding and supporting more artworks that focus on sustainability.
And then on the diversity front, we have recruited BIPOC staff, volunteers, honoraria reviewers. We’re funding more art from BIPOC and female artists, not just on the crew, but the lead artist, which is really important, and having folks all go through R.I.D.E. workshops and trainings. So, those are two big focus areas for our department this year.
With the honoraria I mentioned already we’ll have more than ever. One of the reasons for that is that in 2020, we had already selected the honoraria, and then you all know what happened: We weren’t able to have the event. 53 of those projects we had selected have been working on it all along and they’re going to be bringing them this year. And then we selected 35 new projects this year. We’ll have 88 total. We usually have around 70 to 75. So this is definitely an increase, which is cool.
Projects that really had a real focus on environmental sustainability: 36% of these honoraria projects had that focus. Then looking at folks of color, 20% of these honoraria projects have a lead artist who was a person of color. And then female artists — and this is the first year we’re tracking this kind of information — and I’m glad to see we have 36% of the lead artists who are female, and we’re looking to keep increasing that too. So that’s a little bit about the numbers.
I’m going to pass it over to my colleague, Peter Platzgummer who’s going to highlight a couple of the projects from this year.
PETER: Thank you, Katie. Hello, Burning Man makers, builders, and organizers. My name is Peter, I’m the Art department’s complex project manager. I was asked to give you a glimpse of three of the currently almost 300 projects that are coming to the playa this year and, as Katie already said, all these projects are on our art installation page with a photo and a description. So check it out.
The first project is called Facing the Fear Beast. The 16-foot-tall and 35-foot-long monumental sculpture by Tigre Mashaal-Livelley. The project is about facing the external and internalized fears that keep us from following our dreams. The huge creature is in mid-strike and is faced by a child representing our spark of life. The ones who have been to the playa in 2017 might remember The Solacii, their three-headed sculpture that represented the past present, and future, which is currently shown in Santa Fe.
Number two. Lekha Washington’s The Apocalypse is breathtaking. Lekha was originally from Mumbai, India is probably well remembered because of all the people in 2018 who thought they finally turned crazy when seeing the second moon in the night sky. I certainly did. The Apocalypse is going to be stunning. Somewhere by the Temple, a delicate Japanese-inspired tree blossoms with gigantic forever-lit candles, ethereal and magical, as they refuse to go out. I can’t wait to see this, and it’s certainly one of the more complex things we at the Art department have to deal with this year, especially with the candles that she’s planning to use.
And number three: Alien Drive-Thru. A piece by lead artist Madeline Fried. She and her team have brought Awful’s Gas & Snack, the crazy gas station from the year 2120, to the playa in 2019. And again, they are bringing a wonderfully immersive installation. Aliens realized that one of the best ways to communicate with humans is to use one of those lit-up food thingies where humans tend to shout loudly into all the time. Unfortunately, they just didn’t get things completely right, and you will probably have some hilarious conversations where some of the aliens who are sitting in their camp at the radio.
And that’s already it. I am handing back to Katie. One reminder before I do that: Art is expensive, especially this year. And if you have ways to do so, please support these artists who are bringing pieces to Burning Man, or at least follow and share them on social media. We actually posted their links to the Instagram. Katie!
KATIE: Thanks, Peter. That was awesome. People were asking about Deserts Arts Preview. Yes, if you would like to learn more about these and many other projects, we’re excited to be hosting Desert Arts Preview on Sunday, June 12th. It’ll be at 1:00 PM Pacific and we’re doing it virtually on Zoom; people are welcome to call in and join from anywhere. Thank you all so much.
SAMMY: Thank you, Katie. Thank you, Peter. Appreciate everything that you’re doing, and so excited to see what everyone’s bringing.
I want to take a moment to talk to y’all about some resources we have. The first one is Spark, Burning Man Spark. This is an online application that is designed to facilitate connections and collaborations within the community, somewhat like a Craigslist, it is live and active and there’s a lot going on.
The other things: The 2022 Survival Guide is set to launch on June 22nd, and the WhatWhereWhen, the much anticipated WhatWhereWhen, will be launching digitally on June 25th. You can also hit the link to Playa Events, which is the WhatWhereWhen’s homepage, to submit for whatever you have going on in your camp.
Right now we’ve got our wonderful Head of Placement and our wonderful Head of Ticketing, Nimbus, and Level, to talk about Ticketing, Placement, all those things going on in their world.
NIMBUS: Hello everyone. I’m Rebecca or Nimbus with a little ticketing update. So the first piece was actually to kind of go over a super high-level schedule of what we are doing this year. We are about halfway through the ticketing cycle. W accomplished a lot. From the outside, this may look like it is a quiet period of ticketing. However, this is actually the time of year when there is all kinds of really complicated ticketing going on internally. It’s actually the most arduous part. I don’t say that in that it’s arduous for ticketing, it’s decentralized, and all of the teams are doing the heavy lifting to take care of their various projects and crew.
So we have already had our FOMO Sale, our Stewards Sale, the Ticket Aid program. The Secure Ticket Exchange Program, STEP, is open. If you know anybody who’s bought a ticket who has an extra, who wants to make sure it gets back to the community, they can find access to STEP in their Burner profile. And then we also had the sale for the people who in 2021 were generous enough to buy “Invitation to the Future” reservations and helped us stay afloat during the pandemic. So, that is everything that we have done thus far.
Now we are about to embark on our internal ticket request system, which is what processes all those gift tickets, all of those directed tickets, all of the staff credentials, all of those WAPs. So many things.
And we also have the Community Action Initiative ticketing starting, and that is a big lift from all of the teams involved: Placement, DMV, Art, and some other very focused groups who are looking at places to put that support.
June. Burner Express Bus plus sale happening. If you know people who need a ticket and are hoping to get a bus ticket, that is a fantastic program where we bundle those things together.
July is when ticket orders start shipping, so if you have people who are anxious about “Where are my tickets?” They’re not going to start shipping until July, so you can tell them it hasn’t gone wrong; they didn’t miss it.
August, we have our OMG sale. Box Office opens Monday, August 22nd. No will-call tickets are available before then. So if any of your people or projects have a will-call ticket, they can’t show up before then. That’s very important to remember. And then we have the Secure Ticket Exchange Program closing, and Black Rock City opening. Yay.
Getting as many varied inputs and different perspectives on-playa to keep everything as vibrant as possible. So that is the overview of how all of these pieces fit together and function holistically as an ecosystem that is really meant to reflect our intentional community. What do we have next, Level?
LEVEL: Hi, everyone. Level, here, Placement Manager for Black Rock City. Thank you, Nimbus. That gives us a great transition to thinking about how is this going to roll out in the community?
If you filled out a Placement Questionnaire this year, or an Art Install Questionnaire, or a DMV Application, you probably noticed some new questions in those forms. The reason we’re asking these questions is trying to assess: How is the community responding to these calls?
I’m just going to talk about the Placement question, which is about camps, but you can always substitute ‘camp’ with ‘artwork’ or ‘mutant vehicle.’ “Describe how your camp will participate and contribute to this effort to make Black Rock City more radically inclusive and diverse.” There’s also another question which is about sustainability: “How will your camp address the challenges of sustainability, reduce your carbon footprint, and/or experiment with innovation around regenerative living?”
We are in fact reviewing these questions as we speak, and if you are a part of a participant community, whether you’re an artist, a mutant vehicle, or a theme camp, you will be hearing from your respective departments soon potentially offering you some tickets. If you have really demonstrated that you’ve committed to these goals at Burning Man Project and our community, we want to reward that. Especially if you’re working to outreach to people who haven’t been to Burning Man, or who are having access issues to Burning Man, we want to help lighten that load.
So how you’ve responded to that is how seriously we’re taking your own commitment to it. If you happen to write just a really quick sentence, that is something we’re looking at. If you actually demonstrated that this is something that you’re really thinking hard about, this is how we’re basically going to be determining if camps and all these groups will be receiving more tickets. So stay tuned. If you have questions about R.I.D.E. tickets specifically, there’s an email address: email@example.com.
I’m going to keep going on with more updates from Placement and the theme camp community because I know many of you are part of that.
We actually had a Camp Symposium last Saturday. Thank you all for spending yet another weekend to think, and talk about, and listen to, Burning Man things. We had about 400 people, and we covered all sorts of topics from “How can we be more sustainable?” “What are camp finances looking like?” “How can you set up a 501c3?” You can rewatch the plenary on Burning Man Project’s Facebook page. If you’re not part of Facebook then we’ll post it on Kindling. Coming soon.
Another big highlight is Cultural Direction Setting. We started this project in 2017. It’s largely driven by the fact that there were challenges that people had been confronting in the Placement process, challenges that people are confronting with theme camps. You know, are we radically self-reliant enough? For over a decade we’ve been talking about plug-and-plays and turnkey camps, and what are we actually doing about it?
And so, Cultural Direction Setting was a way to reset how we want to approach placement and thinking about the future of Black Rock City. There is a cultural vision that’s available through the Burning Man website. It is a really beautiful vision about what we want Burning Man to look and feel like in five to ten years. There’s lots of changes that are coming your way. You’re probably seeing some of that already happened in this year’s process.
So, what are those things?
We have updated placement criteria, and this is specifically for all placed camps, but primarily for theme camps. We are looking at: how unique is your interactivity? Are you bringing something creative and original even if it’s something that’s a common activity? You know, there are lots of bars out there. There’s lots of people putting on workshops. There’s lots of people doing yoga. How are you making it different or interesting or something can spark interest? What we’re trying to do is build a city that is full of interactivity and also a lot of creativity. We are Burning Man, so we’re asking people to rise to that test.
We also have made clear statements around Decommodification and a concept we’re calling payticipation, that you can’t pay your way to do Burning Man. We don’t want people to be buying packaged experiences and we don’t want people paying other people to do the work that they should be doing themselves. I think that there has been a lot of time in this pandemic period to actually think about: how do we approach this in a really thoughtful way, and hopefully turn the conversation around so that people see that there are really concerted efforts across the board, both from Burning Man Project and from theme camps who maybe just didn’t really know how to do it right, and we’re trying to support them to be more decommodified.
You probably already have heard that there’s no delivered housing this year. That means that third-party vendors are not delivering trailers, RVs, building hexayurts for people in advance of arriving to the playa; you do need to bring this all yourself. This goes into part of our efforts to try to be more decommodified. You know, Burning Man started as a camping trip where people showed up and brought all their stuff. We really think that there’s a lot of value in sustaining that culture and helping people really double down on the 10 Principles.
We’re also creating space for new camps. So for the first time in 2022, we’re offering some tickets for new camps. We know that tickets, in general, have just become more and more difficult for people to gather on their own and through the main sale. So what we’re trying to do is find opportunities for camps to be able to say, “Hey, I have a really interesting idea. I want to get placement. I’m meeting all your criteria.” In the past, they had to cobble together those tickets on their own, but we’re trying to help support new camps to be able to access tickets through Placement for the first time this way.
We’re also moving up our process and timeline. I know that that was a little bit of a rude awakening for some people, because they’re like, “Wait a minute, I have forms and they’re due earlier than ever?” By us being able to get information earlier and make our decisions earlier, that’s going to help all of you be able to plan earlier too, right? If you know how much space you have it’s just gonna help with sharing resources with neighbors. We heard that this was a big goal of people to be able to understand who’s around them. Maybe they can share generators. Maybe they can carpool. Maybe you can share storage. So by moving up the timeline we’re able to actually give that information out sooner.
Also, we started a new program this year called HUBS, Humans United for Better Sustainability. It’s basically saying if you know who you want to camp by, you’ve come up with a partnership to share things, Placement wants to prioritize that. We’re actually actively mapping Black Rock City to make sure that we can honor those requests.
I want to end with a little bit of a context-setting for you about how we’re thinking about the future of Black Rock City. We received the most camp questionnaires in 2019 than we ever have. It was around 1800 questionnaires. And we thank all our lovely community for doing that, but you know, about 90% of Black Rock City was placed in 2019. We’ve continued this year to guarantee placement because we know it’s been a rough ride and we’re just trying to ease all back into Black Rock City, but that’s gonna mean 90% ish of Black Rock City is going to be placed once again, and it’s making things ever more competitive because we’re running out of space.
In 2022 we have over 2000 questionnaires that are in, so that’s another increase. What this means for people is a little bit of a reality check. We know that people want to bring awesome things and awesome interactivity and be placed in Black Rock City. I hope you all can recognize that we’re running out of space. If you have ideas and thoughts about how we manage this you’re welcome to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And, there’ll be more conversation about this wider with the community in the coming year.
The last thing I’m going to share is thoughts about the city plan. What we’re trying to do is overall increase the amount of square footage that is available for camps, especially to free up some additional space for open campers. That’s about 10 million more square feet. if you can wrap your mind around how big that is
We’re also doing a few other tweaks to the plan. The double-wide blocks which were between E and G, and had sometimes an F street in the middle of that, have now all been uniform. And so, we’re looking at an E and F street that’s 450 feet deep across the entire city. That frees up more space so that we put big camps in those blocks to have smaller camps in other parts of the city.
So, all in all, this is the new city plan. The street names have been released just a few weeks ago. These are all wonderful artists and things that help us think about Waking Dreams. Thank you for joining this effort in really shifting how we do Placement and how we do Black Rock City. It’s going to be a big lift for all of us, we’re just super excited to see you out there and see how we adapt as a community. So take it back, Sammy.
SAMMY: Thank you, thank you Level. Thank you, Nimbus. Really appreciate everything that you are doing for us. Up next we have KJ and Siobhan talking about Hive.
SIOBHAN: Yes. Yes. Hi everyone. Hello Burners. We’re Siobhan and KJ from Burning Man Project’s education team, and we’re here to give you an update on some of the sweet stuff that you can find in Burning Man Hive.
The goal of the Education team is to find ways to bring Burning Man culture into the world. Hive has been our team’s main project for this, for the past 18 months. There’s a lot waiting for you in Hive. You can engage in discussions, join groups, attend events, and jump into learning opportunities on a wide range of topics. Key areas of interest include environmental sustainability, R.I.D.E., leadership skills, and of course, returning to Black Rock City. And there is so much more.
So once you’re in how can utilize Hive to get the most out of it? We recommend starting with “This is How We Hive,” which is a resource library for the site. If you want to find out how to do something as simple as changing your notifications, to creating a course, hosting a live event or starting a group, you’ll find all of that and more here.
It’s been almost three years since Black Rock City rose from the dust. Those of us who have been in the past have had almost three years to forget how to do what the hell we’re doing. And with every year there’s a new event, there are new Burners planning their very first trip to this unique, beautiful, and deadly environment. So. How are we going to get ourselves ready? Lucky you, we have several resources in Hive to help you do just that.
First, we have Touching Down. That’s an interactive orientation collating the gems from years of in-person orientations hosted by Burning Man Project.
We have the Virgin Burner Guide, which is a group created by a fellow newbie RayC in London, who’s preparing for his first Burn and is keen to share all his learning.
New Burners that are looking for guidance and seasoned Burners with advice to offer can post in the chat called “Ask a Burner,” which is a discussion topic on Hive.
The matchmaker group seeks to connect Burners looking for camps and camps looking for Burners.
BIPOC burners are invited to join the Burners of Color resource group to grow community connection and support for all of us worldwide. And there’s also the multicultural POC neighborhood, a self-organizing group of Burners dedicated to the creation of a vibrant POC neighborhood in Black Rock City 2022.
And of course, volunteerism is a huge part. We recommend the course “Introduction to Volunteer Leadership.” This course has been developed over many years and is utilized by many Black Rock City infrastructure teams. This course focuses on separation and succession, recruiting, matching people to roles, team leadership and motivation, team identity and cohesion, and delegation and mentoring.
KJ: Thank you. Siobhan. If you’re interested in environmental sustainability, there is really so much you can find and dig around, dig into, on Hive. We have a collective called RAT, the Renewables for Artists Team, and they have produced several courses and a lot of different discussions on the topic, and we’re just really excited, the sustainability community has been active on Hive since the beginning. They’re sharing new stuff all the time. Come check it out.
For R.I.D.E. you will find many different courses and groups dedicated to radical inclusion, diversity, and equity, as well as a dedicated discussion topic. The courses cover a really wide range of topics, such as introduction to anti-racism, implicit bias, representation and Burning Man. You can find information about the Burning Man Project R.I.D.E. Stress Test, which is an open resource for all members of the Burning Man community who want to center R.I.D.E. in their projects and groups.
As we’re heading back to Black Rock City we’re going to be brushing up our skills around communication and connection. In addition to our R.I.D.E. courses, we have courses on conflict resolution and de-escalation that was put together by the Black Rock Rangers. We also have courses on emotional intelligence and how to give feedback and how to make decisions. We call these our Core Courses. Together we think this makes up a curriculum that really helps foster leadership and what it means to be a great citizen of the world, not just of Black Rock City.
So, now that you’ve seen some of what Hive has to offer in the realm of learning and connection, our question is, what do you want to make? You can create your own courses. You can host your own groups. You can host live events. You can post. You can get into different conversations. Hive offers a centralized online experience for all Burners. And here is a chance to access resources and offerings from the worldwide Burning Man community, and to give back your own gifts into that community. Let us know what you want to make.
hive.burningman.org. Use your Burner profile to log in for the first time. We’re trying to build the best Hive possible so all of you can bring the honey, as Larry said. If you have questions, you can reach our team at email@example.com.
Thank you for listening. Back to you, Sammy.
SAMMY: Thank you so much, y’all. Great stuff there. For our last piece, I’m welcoming Christopher Breedlove, head of Burners Without Borders to talk about how we can support the emergent situation in Europe.
BREEDLOVE: Hey everybody. Super excited to be on the road to Black Rock City with you all. I’m really excited to come home.
So, there’s a lot of stuff we know happening in Ukraine at the moment. There’s a war and unsurprisingly, it’s a really hard situation, but also unsurprisingly, Burners are showing up to provide support, to support each other, and to make sure that as many of our community members as they can, can figure out how to get the resources they need.
One of the things that I think we’re always trying to do in Burners without Borders is really center the individuals and awesome community members who are truly doing this work. So I’m just going to show you a couple of the projects that are happening.
Vladimir is one of the producers of Magic Forest, which is actually the official regional event in Ukraine. And Vladimir right now is working on doing mutual aid across the country. That means that citizens are helping citizens, no matter what type of disaster it is, whether it’s natural or man-made. Governments are always woefully unprepared to provide all of the resources that we need. So Vladimir is supporting people getting connection with medical supplies, with donations, also with finding housing for people.
Here’s another project called Ambulances for Ukraine. This is somebody named Konstantin. Konstantin is from the T-Car mutant vehicle camp. He decided to take all of the money they had from their art car camp and start funneling that into relief. They’ve taken three vans and retrofitted them into ambulances where they’re delivering medical supplies to the front lines, and then taking people who might be injured back to where they can get care.
This is another Burner. His name is Daveed Walzer. He’s from San Francisco. His daughter is half Ukrainian. And, as soon as this happened, he flew over to Europe and has been helping families relocate. Daveed is working with a series of Burners who are going to Europe and are working to make sure that the people who are leaving their countries are able to find homes that they can land in.
And one last example. If you’ve ever done the foam experience on playa, then you know who the Foamy Homeys are. A couple of years ago they started doing disaster relief work. They’ve created an organization called Grassroots Aids Partnership, or Filling the GAP. They’re sending Burners over, and other community members, with over a hundred pounds of donations in bags. They’re doing direct donation delivery to people along mostly the Polish and Ukrainian border. And they’re also looking for volunteers who can jump in and help.
So there’s a lot of things going on. That’s just a quick snapshot. You can go to burnerswithoutborders.org, and you can find all of these projects and how to get involved.
That’s a lot of stuff. And obviously, war is very heavy. You know, sometimes people have called Burning Man apocalypse training, right? And I think the reason they call it that is because of the physical environment that we’re living in. You get to learn how to build infrastructure and how to work with people in these harsh environments. I also think that apocalypse training goes into the social fabric that we’re creating here. All those projects are because Burners have been practicing building social mycelium with one another through building theme camps, art cars, art projects, Regional events, and so when things like this happen, we’ve already built these relationships.
It’s really just a reminder that as we’re going into Black Rock City and we’re working with our teams, we’re actually, I think, practicing for something much, much larger because all of our communities will see a disaster at one point or another, and I know that if it were the end of the world, the people I would want to be hanging out with is Burners because we know how to do it, we have the infrastructure, and also we know how to have fun while we’re doing it.
When things are really heavy in the world, one of the things that can feel difficult is: What does it mean to celebrate in the face of oppression and adversity? There’s a really amazing book called “Pleasure Activism” by a radical person from Detroit, Adrienne Marie Brown. And one of the things she says is that art and joy in the face of oppression is in fact its own form of rebellion.
When the world gets tough, we can turn our eyes away, or we can keep our hearts and our eyes open to what’s happening, and remembering that art is a way that we can joyfully move through this world that sometimes is very difficult. I think that’s what Burners do best.
Super glad to be with you all today. And Sammy, I’m going to hand it back to you.
SAMMY: Thank you, Breedlove. Such a great note to end this meeting on. I almost made it through a whole meeting without crying, but not quite. That issue hits super close to home for me, and I really appreciate the thought and attention you have placed in talking about it.
That’s a wrap for our show, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today from all over the world. I personally appreciate all the work you’re doing and I can’t wait to get dusty with everyone.
Have a beautiful day, a beautiful evening, a beautiful night, wherever you are, and we’ll see you soon.