Stories Around The Burn Barrel
Miss swapping stories around a fire? Start a show and name it The Burn Barrel. Know people you’d like to know better? Ask for the whole long story, and share it with the world.
Stuart Mangrum talks with Doxie from Detroit, Kay Morrison and Peter Durand about creating their long-form story show to keep us all connected until our next free-form social.
This episode includes stories about:
- Doxie & Burner Exchange: South African artist Braai describes the participant exchange between AfrikaBurn and Michigan’s “Lakes of Fire,” thanks to Chicago Regional Contact Richard “Heyu” Kelly (RIP)
- Rebecca & Jess: Directors of the Flux Foundation share about the Flaming Lotus Girls and their reluctant, triumphant Temple at Black Rock City
- Molly Vikart: The tale of Herman the Dog, Burning Man Project’s Director of Marketing
STUART: All right. All right. Welcome back, invisible friends. Yes, it is truly another episode of Burning Man Live. And I am still Stuart Mangrum. I’m psyched about today’s show because we’re going to introduce you to some super interesting people with some great stories, who have been doing something let’s just say. It’s very adjacent to this program. You may have noticed that our era of quarantine, that seems to have spawned quite a few new podcasts or internet radio shows or vlogs or whatever you want to call it. When somebody records a zoom meeting and puts it up on the web for people to pull down. Some of them were actually quite good, and that’s the case in the show I’m going to turn you on to today, which is called The Burn Barrel.
Now, it was put together by three veteran organizers of the Burning Man Regional Network, all with long pedigrees – all what we would say are – what’s the expression? – “kind of famous at Burning Man,” and located in three different time zones.
We’ve got Peter Durand out on the east coast, Doxy from Detroit and Kay Morrison, who is also a Burning Man Project board member up in fabulous Seattle. So, I’ve got the three of them here in the sudo studio today. Peter doxy and Kay are with me to talk about the show and to share a few of their favorite conversations that they’ve had around the burn barrel.
Hey, welcome guys.
KAY: Hi, Stuart.
DOXIE: Hi, Stuart.
STUART: If each of you could do like just a 30-second “I am, and I do” however you describe yourself to the Burner world.
DOXIE: Hi, I’m doxy from Detroit. I’ve been involved in Burning Man since 2006, and I’m a regional contact, I was a meta regional, and I also work for FAST. I am part of the fire safety art team here to help you burn effigies intentionally.
STUART: Who are you? Peter Durand.
PETER: I’m Peter Durand and I started burning in 2001. It was my first year at Black Rock City. Since then I have gone on to become a Regional Contact, uh, Meta Regional, worked various volunteer roles at the burn and, ones that I’m still active in is at the Artery and on the FAST team.
STUART: Thank you. Great.
KAY: I’m Kay Morrison. I’m in Seattle. I’ve been burning since 2000. I have done a crap ton of things for Burning Man, mostly because I really like meetings. Uh, I’ve been a Regional Contact. I was one of the founding board members for Ignition Northwest, which is a nonprofit in Seattle that manages a bunch of the Burner stuff up here. I’m also a Meta Regional Committee member, which is a group that sits in between the global Regional Network and the Burning Man organization. And I’m also a Burning Man Project board member.
In my spare time when I’m not doing that, I’m also a member of the Iron Monkeys blacksmith collective, and we’ve been building and burning big art on the Playa since 2007.
STUART: Okay. What made you guys decide to do a radio show on the internet in quarantine?
DOXIE: I just want to say for, it was definitely Kay and Peter, and I’m just the third wheel and the luckiest third wheel on the planet.
STUART: That’s funny you say that I’ve heard this described as a show that has that. What is it more people want to get on than have actually listened to?
KAY: The Burn Barrel, the show that more people want to be on than want to listen to. It’s so true.
STUART: Well, how did it start, Kay and Peter?
Peter?: It started in just passing conversations between Kay and myself. As we all know, the world kind of shut down and we started missing our friends. And we said, well, how could we actually end up talking to them? And we said, you know, we could do.
And in talking to them, we could introduce them to the greater world. That was sort of the impetus and the idea to get folks within the burn community, to know the folks that they might’ve heard about or might know of a little bit more than just a passing ‘this is what they do for Burning Man,’ right?
We really want it to connect to people, to the people that are within the community.
KAY: Yeah. We also wanted to focus on people who weren’t the normal folks who get interviewed. So we were looking for the founders. We love the founders. Of course they’re friends of all of ours. But we wanted it to be people who are some of the really important cogs in the wheels.
That’s why we joke about kind of famous at Burning Man. Like it’s maybe a name you’ve heard or you’ve seen an email, but you don’t know their story.
We also decided that this was a completely self-serving project because if no one showed up to listen to our shows, we had a really good excuse to pull on dozens of people who we were interested in admired, curious about and get to talk to them.
So we, it was really a very… I mean, it was a really altruistic project that we were doing for the rest, for the good of the community, a hundred percent, Mmm-hmm.
STUART: And not to mention a chance for the three of you who are in three different time zones to be able to hang out a little bit. Yeah, I get it. I get it. Um, is it true that I was on the show? I heard a rumor that I was. Vav, don’t play that clip.
KAY: Vav, please play that clip.
STUART: The name, “Burn Barrel,” for anyone who has never had the joy of camping in Black Rock City, what is a burn barrel and what is its significance in the title?
DOXIE: For me a burn barrel is where you relax. You hang out with people you care about. You can shoot the shit. You might have a cocktail, you might roast a weenie, but it’s just about hanging out. So I love a burn barrel.
PETER: Yeah. I think that’s an apt description because the show was really about being casual. It wasn’t, we don’t come in with a direct script of here’s what we’re going to talk about and here’s all the stuff. We’re going to , talk about it really is about let’s invite them on and just have a conversation with them as you would around a burn ban.
KAY: Right. And it’s live. So we don’t do any editing to it when we post it. It’s the absolute 100% word for word conversation that we have. So, things happen, people get drunk. You know, it’s a burn barrel. It’s a conver… It’s an opportunity for storytelling and sharing.
DOXIE: And who doesn’t love a good story?
STUART: You guys put together how many episodes of this show?
DOXIE: We’re almost at 30 you guys. So we’ve done about 30 burn barrels. We have some people actually still waiting on deck and some we didn’t record, which makes those extra special because they are just incinerated. You were there, you were there. If you weren’t.
STUART: All right. So, each of you, has selected an excerpt from one of those interviews.
Peter, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the discussion that you had with Jess Hobbs and Rebecca Anders?
PETER: Sure. In this clip we talk to both Jess and Rebecca. The scope of their involvement within Burning Man, right? They’ve been very long-time artists at that time. They’d spent two decades in the burn community, creating their own pieces of art, as well as working with other teams to create. The primary team that they worked with was the Flaming Lotus Girls, then they went on and created pieces by themselves under the flux foundation, That evolved from their creation of the temple of flux in 2010. And then the clip we’re going to find out how, they were really thinking, geez, this may be my last burn. And what we hear from so many artists is, you know, I’m thinking about the partying from Burning Man moving on.” But then an idea captures them and they come back even bigger and badder than they had in the previous years. And what they came back with that year was the Temple of Flux. And that year was 2010. That was a dramatic departure from a lot of the temples that were created, because it did not have a temple like look. What they did was paying homage to the mountains and the valleys that we see in black rock city.
STUART: Outstanding. Alright. Let’s have a listen to Jess and Rebecca at the Burn Barrel.
JESS: The Crucible steel gallery was part of Cell Space, which was an art space in San Francisco. It was a crucible for, um, a lot of Burning Man art, and I was really involved in the gallery and you were more metal shop.,
REBECCA: Jess was on the front end of the building, managing the art gallery and the shows in it. And I was in the back of the building in the metal shop with Dave X and several other nefarious types.
JESS: That’s where Flaming Lotus started.
REBECCA: That’s where Illumination Village came from. We witnessed a lot of really strong and important artwork and also associations That are part of, sort of the home team of San Francisco Burning Man.
JESS: Historically a lot of really interesting stuff connected with Burning Man came out of there. And we were the girls in the back in the metal shop that were tearing it apart and making a lot of mistakes.
PETER: What kind of mistakes?
REBECCA: Well, like, destroying equipment by accident.
JESS: Yeah. Well, I think it was a lot of inexperience, lack of knowledge. But, you know, that’s how you learn. That’s how you figure it out.
REBECCA: There was definitely a celebration of experiment within hopefully safe parameters. Still got my fingers, you know?
JESS: So we moved on to the box shop when Charlie moved on there too, to kind of take that over space. And really built together over the years there. The first thing that I was on the team with you was the head for the Angels of the Apocalypse in 2005.
REBECCA: By 2008 Jess and I were basically directing the project that the Flaming Lotus Girls were doing that year for Burning Man, and realized that we were a very good co-directors and also co-creative thinkers.
Yeah, it was a nice pairing of not only creative energy, but just also responsibility, and wrangling abilities, kitty wrangling abilities.
KAY: How many people was, was the flaming Lotus girls?.
REBECCA: Oh, we wrangled flaming Lotus together for many, for like eight years. Yeah.
JESS: It would fluctuate., you know, there could be like 150 or there could be three.
KAY: Oh, wow. Okay.
JESS: Just depending on project scope and size, it allowed for people to step into the group when they wanted to, and to step away for a couple of years and to be welcomed back. One Flaming Lotus Girl said, “We’re like the mafia, you never leave.”
CAVEAT: It’s amazing the number of organizations within the Burning Man culture whose structure can best be compared to the mafia.
REBECCA: We’re still part of the Flaming Lotus family. I haven’t been actively involved since like 2009, but I’m still part of the diaspora. And so was Jess.
REBECCA: In 2009 we decided to do a weird sort of experimental art piece, which is a strange idea that I’d come up with about making this actively evolving creature called the Fish Bug.
And so we built that in the shipyard, which is where the all power labs was happening in Berkeley.
PREAMBLE: 2009. It’s Sunday. It’s event week. What things started to happen in 2009 at that time?
JESS: Well, it was the end of the week. And sometimes after you’ve done a big project out there, you’re a little contained crus, a little cranky.
JESS: You’re, claiming you will never do it ever, ever again. And like, why do we do this? Making art out here is the dumbest idea in the entire world. And so Rebecca popped in my tent and said “You want to go on and other people’s art tour, an OPA?” which we affectionately call it.
And I said, yeah, I need that. And so we jumped into Don Cain’s vehicle from department of spontaneous combustion, and we started wandered on the playa, and we were being a little crusty and cantankerous.
REBECCA: We were talkin’ shit!
JESS: Yeah, we were talkin’ shit.
KAY: Let’s call it what it is.
JESS: We’re stopping at a few art pieces, and we made our way out. The part that shifted my feelings out there was hitting Dan Glass’s piece. He had built this large-scale Catena doll way, way out there.
REBECCA: Right next to the trash fence.
JESS: Yeah. And was just toiling away out there in the dust. And, , he was telling us how, his mother had passed away and she had been this collector of Katina dolls and in his small New York apartment, they’d been just kind of everywhere and he wanted to figure out a more honorable way to take care of them.
And so for me just seeing his dedication and why he was out there and that he was just really invested, sort of shifted my feelings, maybe elevated me a little bit, got me out of my crusty space.
REBECCA: It was one of those crazy playa experiences, which causes you to stop thinking and just take it in and consider the potency and the power of that emotion and that dedication. It’s a purer channel of listening.
REBECCA: Well, we got away from Dan’s thing, and then we came back towards the city.
And nobody tell, but there was maybe a little bit of shit-talking about the temple. Just a little bit. Not because it was bad, but because we were cranky, tired people.
And we were saying things like, “Well, we can do that.”
And then we were like, “Well, you know, we really could do that.”
CAVEAT: That’s how they get ya!
REBECCA: And then by the time we got away from the temple, we were like “We’re gonna do the Temple! We’re doing it!!”
We were full of fire, and we actually held on to that. We thought, oh, but it’s a building. So we need an architect. And, I was like, I’ve got an architect on tap.. It’s my buddy PK, who was part of the M space Cowboys. And he had roped me in like 8 million times to build his fucking art car or some shit. He was always like: I’ve been voluntold, I guess I have to do it.” So this time I was like, look, fuck, are your mind?
So the four of us sat down, Don Kane, PK, Jess, and myself to work on some ideas.
JESS: We were meeting, we were talking, I was sketching art deco…
REBECCA: I was doing an onion domes. We were looking at stupas. We were looking at making towers with like onion things on the top and we were going to put fire on them.
And also, I think I shared those even with Betty June, because we had tickled or humped the art leg
REBECCA: We kind of put the word in like, “Hey, we’re awesome. We’re going to apply for the temple.” ‘Hump the leg’ is remotely affectionate. But here’s the thing, we changed our mind.
JESS: Yeah. We changed our mind. December came and we’re like, oh, if we’re going to do it, we have to get all the plans together. We don’t really have any architectural renderings. We don’t have anything. So let’s just tell Betty June, you know
REBECCA: We’re not doing it!
JESS: Yeah, we’re not doing it. We’re really sorry, but we haven’t even kind of grounded ourself in a concept for the design yet. We kind of left it there. And then what?
REBECCA: March 15th or something.
JESS: Yeah, mid March, Betty June called both of us, left a message and said, “Um, I know you don’t have a design, but would you..?
REBECCA: Please build our temple. We’re fucked. Well, here’s the thing: David Best was going to do it, which would have preempted us anyway. And then he changed his mind in March, and they were like, “Ut-oh, no temple.”
REBECCA: Well, she called us and said, “Look, we’re kind of up that creek, you know, without you know what. You think you could maybe pull this off? And I personally was like, absolutely not. This is the worst idea ever, because she was like, “We don’t have any kind of time. We don’t really have very much money. And we know you don’t have an idea, but do you think you could do it? And I was like, no!
PREAMBLE: Total Burning Man!
REBECCA: Well, Jess and PK both said yes. She was like, “We don’t get it handed to us every day. When do you get it handed to you? Never. Peter was like, “What have we got to fucking lose?”
Inside of three weeks, we pulled together a design, fundraising, crew, we had architects, we had carpenters, we had a space to build, we had a lead administrator who’s right behind Peter’s right shoulder – the most essential Catie McGee.
So we had like business, we had a potential place. Like we had all the things. And this, like, we pulled it out of our butt!
And we had a design put together within three weeks.
KAY: That’s insane.
PREAMBLE: That is insane.
REBECCA: By this time, end the may? Yeah, by this time, we were building.
JESS: We were already in American Steel.
So Burning Man had only seen sketches of our concepts, and that was really just like some pencil sketches, like some kind of waving the hand ideas.
What was interesting in that kind of intervening space, like talking about ways we celebrate our spirituality – and it wasn’t a church, it wasn’t a building, it was actually rock walls; it was cave walls. It was canyons. It was a very different space.
So as we started kind of thinking about the concept it was really interesting. I had a dream, Rebecca made really beautiful maquettes at these dunes. I did a real quick sketch of dunes. We started thinking about monuments like the Vietnam war Memorial, like subterranean monuments; the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, how you wander through these kinds of edifices, and the idea of like this vast space, but it also had these personal elements that you could connect to.
It was really interesting how we all sort of gravitated towards that idea. We didn’t do a lot of reiteration. We just kind of went, this is it.
REBECCA: We didn’t have time, but also we felt it. So that we got lucky, you know, that we landed on something that we felt so quickly. Ironically it was the architect, the guy who designs buildings, was like, “it doesn’t have to be a building you guys.” Cause we had already agreed that our most respectful tribute to David Best would be to not imitate him at all.
PETER: Right. Yep.
REBECCA: Right? To try and bring the Juju and bring the power without knocking him off.
CAVEAT: That was a radical departure. It was courageous and noted at the time. I mean, absolutely.
REBECCA: Well, he didn’t like it very much at the time. Oh well. Anyway,
CAVEAT: It was a definite departure and a courageous step.
REBECCA: We knew it from go. Jess, may I tell this story of…
REBECCA: Okay. So it all happened really fast. We came up with this concept. We knew it felt good. We knew we were just going to go with it. We didn’t, there was no integration. There was no plan B. There was nothing else. We were just going to drive that car, you know, get your artistic license and drive.
And so we made some drawings and we had some 3d renderings and we had some ground plans. And Jess wrote some really elegant concept stuff. And we sent all these to Burning Man. And we show up for a meeting with Betty, June and Crimson. And we give this sort of presentation., I’ve got the the little Mac hats, you know, we get the printouts and we look, somewhat professional. And, uh, you can tell some people in the room were like ugh. You know, and other people were like, yay, we have some bags.
And so we get through this like presentation and the air and the room was kind of like, I I don’t know
PETER: Who else can we call it this late hour?
REBECCA: The door opens and then there’s Larry. He’s like, 45 minutes late, he hasn’t read any of the emails.
He has no idea what we’re talking about. He hasn’t looked at any of the attachments.
So here comes Larry and he sits down and he’s like, “What’s going on?” You know?
We like really quickly basically pooped out an elevator pitch for Larry.
Here’s some chill, little things that look sort of like the thing, this is it.
Five minutes. We gave him the elevator pitch and he looked at us and said: “Is this really going to upset a lot of people?”
I said, “Larry this is what Burning Man is for.”
And after that, everybody in the room was like: “I guess we’re doing this.”
KAY: That’s fucking awesome.
CAVEAT: I love that so much.
REBECCA: Yeah. He was totally like, “Yeah. I think it probably is what Burning Man is for. Yeah.” Like he wasn’t critiquing us. He was just like, OK, you’re in for a pack of shit.
And we were. People are still upset about it. They either hate it or they love it. I think it’s a mark of successful artwork that people are still upset.
PETER: That’s right!
REBECCA: Well, we aimed for the theme to be harmonious with the place.
JESS: It was Sunday when the gates were about to open and we had finished on Friday., and we were, um, first step will be done on time early, but Sunday we were just kind of doing the final sweep, but putting down the DG, putting out all safety equipment and just kind of dialing it in. And, the BLM Rangers, there was a truck that drove.
What was nice is they drove out to the temple and they admitted to us that they were having an argument in their truck as they were driving.
And they were arguing that, is the light hitting the mountain in a new way? Is there a new sand dune? Is there a new landform that we’re seeing? And they were arguing with each other as they were driving up to our temple. That was one of my personal moments.
REBECCA: Me too.
PETER: You did it, right.
REBECCA: The invitation of Burning Man is so welcoming and so warm that you bloom in that love in a way that you can’t in non-playa places.
JESS: Why else do we go out there and build something in the desert and slave away for hours and days? And ask ourselves at the very end, “why the hell are we doing this?” And then wake up a month later and go, “What are we doing this year?”
REBECCA: And also it’s the only place in the world where you are going to bring art to 70,000 of your new best friends and every fucking one of them is going to tell you this is what I like about it, and congratulations and thank you.
STUART: Okay. So the next clip we have queued up (now for something completely different) is from another part of the world and it has to do with a Burner Exchange program.
Doxy, can you tell us a little bit about the burner exchange program and about the guest whose name is Greg kilowatt? Did I say that right?
DOXIE: You did. Thank you. He goes by the nickname of “Brah.” The burner exchange program was an idea out of the brain of Chicago regional contact. Hey, You. Hey, You retired and he’d spent a good hunk of his life going to like every burn on the planet and he understood the importance of.
Bringing exchange person exchange energy exchange, , he wanted to create opportunities for people to go to other burns so we can learn from each other. His favorite burn was AfrikaBurn and that’s where he wanted to start. So he sent me there in 2015 to learn about that burn and then to develop the program.
It was a huge honor to to follow this program to help shepherd it and with, Hey, You passing away in 2020, we will see if this program moves forward. I have hopes that it will cause we had plans for going to New Zealand next, but I also believe that we can work on regional exchanges as well.
STUART: All right. Well thank you. Let’s go ahead and take a listen.
BRAAI: It’s the first time that I’ve actually seen that my surname is misspelled on zoom as Greg glowed. I can promise you at 3:00 AM there’s fuck all glowing in Cape Town.
Thanks Doxie and Hey you for starting up the program. It’s been amazing.
I went over to Lakes of Fire in 2015, and then ended up at Black Rock city after that. Legend! Yeah. I got stuck in for 12 days at a steampunk saloon, so it was properly good.
The one major thing that I got from the program: I missed the first AfrikaBurn and then went to the second one and I’ve kind of been back every year since.
And the thing is that AfrikaBurn used to exist in this vacuum for me. It was this isolated event. You kind of heard about Burning Man, and you heard about the other Regionals. And even at that stage, you’re kind of hearing about the principles was also young and so new, that AfrikaBurn kind of existed in a vacuum.
And then I saw this thing for the Lakes of Fire exchange, and thought, “I’ve got some art. I’ll take a swing at this. I like travel. Let’s see what happens.“ And then ended up at Lakes of Fire. And it’s the most amazing thing to see, even though the environment is so different, and you’re burning on a lake and it’s like kind of a camping trip style, or whatever, you’re meeting other Burners that love deeply the same kind of shit that you do.
And then, it’s like, let’s go visit the mothership, and went over to Black Rock. And all of a sudden after that yeah, Afrikaburn didn’t exist in a vacuum anymore. The network was tangible, the support was tangible. The community was like a real story. The friendships that have happened from that, and the connections and everything, are still strong.
The following year 2016 I think we had six or eight Burners from Lakes of Fire that came out independently and camped with us.
KAY: Oh, wow.
BRAAI: After that first year, I got really stuck in, with Rob and the crew at DMV, as one does. Scott’s been back a bunch of times. There are a couple of people that have been back once or twice. So yeah, we’ve had a lot of fun. The exchange program has been absolutely foot flat incredible.
KAY: That’s amazing.
BRAAI: So people know about it. We have fun in the middle of the crew. We know how to cause mischief, so again, it gets us causing…
BRAAI: And hopefully, that’s the thing with the exchange and how it started, that this kind of momentum goes. That’s been both the blessing and a kind of curse of this program is learning how to communicate with each other from a regional perspective, because, ultimately we solve problems differently; and that’s been, for me personally, the coolest learning.
You know, we’re getting the guys and girls from your side going “Well, this is how we solve problems over here.” And we’re going, “Okay, cool. Here in Africa, this is how we solve problems over here.” It takes a couple of days for that kind of communication to happen, but when it does, that’s one of the coolest things of the program is learning from each other, from a localized perspective, how to solve problems differently. It’s been spectacular.
DOXIE: And I love how it’s made everybody instantly international artists.
BRAAI: Yeah, absolutely. A hundred… I mean, my artwork, which was something I’m still so happy to ever make happen, I brought that big wooden spider to Lakes of Fire, and that lived at the reserve at Hey You’s pace for awhile. And it actually made it onto the playa at Burning Man. If you’d asked me at the beginning of the year if I’d have an art piece at the mothership on playa come September I would’ve told you you’re fucking loony tunes, man. But truth; there. It was, burned on the ashes of the Man on Sunday morning. Yeah. It was great. It was a really big, full circle moment for me. It was spectacular.
Sorry, I got a little bit sidetracked there, as one does when talking about burns.
KAY: I have no idea what you’re talking about!
PETER: Never happens.
BRAAI: No one has any idea. Perfect. Yeah. Spot on. As you were. Over the six years that we’ve kind of been doing it, it would be amazing to create some kind of a framework that could be shared across all the Regionals.
Like if someone from Nowhere wants to do an exchange from Burning Swan or Burning Seed, or something like that, to have some kind of a framework of, well, these are the learnings. Obviously there’s going to be localized adaptations, but with the selection process, with logistics, with support. To be able to have those kind of basics that could then be shared and gifted across different Regionals.
Knowing what I went through with the exchange program and seeing people come from that side to here and what they get out of it, if that becomes a thing between Regionals across the globe, that for me is the biggest gift for Burner culture that this thing that ever kind of go to, it would be absolutely foot flat incredible.
KAY: HeyYou has been chatting with the panelists. One of the things he said – and HeyYou, we’re so happy to bring you on if you want to speak, but I’m just going to read your comment – says,
“The one point that I want to make is that the exchange changes lives. Duncan was one of the first Africans at ‘Lakes.’ He met someone, married her and now lives in the States.”
That is a massive. Like, oh, ‘I’m going to go and do the stupid Burning Man event,’ and then, everything in your life can change, whether it’s skill-building or whether it’s relationships or seeing more of the world. It is a portal to greater growth.
BRAAI: My life is completely changed because of this program. It’s taken my entire burn experience, number one, to a completely different level that I never thought that it would be, from involvement and everything like that.
And yeah, that was just because of one newsletter with one small little thing that you kind of said yes to. And also while Hey You I know is listening: Mate, I love you. Thank you so, so, so much for getting this thing off the ground.
DOXIE: Thank you for continuing it. I really, I think we’ve done a lot.
BRAAI: I love you guys. Yeah. It really has. A hundred percent. Unbelievable. Really, really cool.
Yeah, I think Rocket, he was doing the Learn the Burns kiosk, which was kind of funny because he did have a tent and everything like that. The kiosk did stand for a while to you, but then it’s the irony of it being called “Learn the Burns” he learned about the wind at AfrikaBurn. And it did take a bit of its toll on the thing.
Andrew’s photographs last year: We finished pouring resin and everything like that down in my basement at my place.
Luckily it worked out really well with Andrew last year because we weren’t sure where we were going to hang all the photographs and all the art.
He actually connected with Isso who’s the head of our art from this side. And he got involved with Nathan, who is one of the big builders and big artists: Probably one of the main guys that’s built big arts out in the desert there. He built subterfuge, which were the big pinnacles, the big kind of cones. It was this massive wooden dome and there was nothing inside it, and it was absolutely perfect for Andrew’s pictures, and it just, it worked out really well.
Some of the other art that came up once or twice I think with the program, we’ve had visa issues and everything like that. So the art that was kind of planned to go over it didn’t make it, so we had to kind of shoot from the hip.
Soul who went over as well, she worked at the reserve at Hey You’s place and made those kind of sound cubes like for wooden frame fabric cubes and shapes that then lets up different colors
DOXIE: She had some problems and it didn’t necessarily come to fruition as she wanted, but then she ended up helping other artists at the event. So it all ended up working out. The art doesn’t necessarily have to succeed. It’s about the experience, and about building, and about learning, and asking for help while you’re there.
BRAAI: Dusty lessons, we’ve got to learn them one way or another.
DOXIE: Please tell us about the mini-crig? Please, please, please…
BRAAI: The mini crim. That’s probably been going for about five years now where the gods and goes at DMV were like, we want to kind of remember the arts, almost like honorarium art projects,
They drew a circle, you know, like you would apply it up in front of camp and they built miniature versions of all the big, iconic art that kind of happened that Africa Boone over the years. So you had things like Lizzie, who’s the walking Tyrannosaurus Rex steel frame on, fire.
So you’ve got a mini Lizzie, you got a mini subterfuge. You got many reflections, all these big art projects. And then we had our Bishop Lune., who’s the head of our kind of official church start the ceremony or from the mini crane.
We do have an official church at, Africa, been at school the free you not to church of the Kuru, or FUCK, for short. He goes around and kind of starts the thing, and it’s a big pomp and ceremony. Really, really cool.
And then I think Sarah or Saara, who is Poland for dealer’s daughter pool is the camp lead for DMV where Rob is. Um, and you are she applied? I think it was the year 2017 And she took a couple of the mini projects over to Lakes of Fire.
That was the kind of art exchange we figured it would be a really cool thing to try and get as many artworks every day as quickly as possible. So it worked out well. S he connected with Doxie and she came back and was just all smiles about everything. She loved it.
Before I leave here, I’ve got one other story for you. Hey, You still came to our camp because we would camp close the DMV. We’d never met each other and borrowed a part of the draw or the battery drill, from me, we’d never met each other. And he ended up hanging out around a fire, a lot that year, but he knew me as Braai. And I knew him as, Hey, You Know, that was 2014. And 2015, the exchange program comes around. I apply, I get it. And the emails start going backwards and forwards. And I’m seeing Richard kiddie and he seeing Greg from rust and dust and we have whole chats, and the whole exchange happens and we organize it and this and that okay, cool. Greg’s going. And Richard’s going to be the place I’m going to stay over there or whatever. And then he comes out. These are cool. I’ll come find you at your camp at, at Africa, Ben, I’m going to be at Africa in 2015. So I’ll come find you. And the next thing here, Hey, you walks up to our camp and he goes, I’m looking for Greg.
And I’m like on Greg. He’s like, oh, Oh, fuck off. Fuck off freely. We’ve known each other for a year off the thing, and hadn’t figured out that I was Greg or he was Richard magic, magic, complete magic, dusty magic, 1000%. .
STUART: Excellent. Thank you. Alright. Kay. Morrison, take us home and explain a little bit of background about our next clip, which is, I believe Molly Vickers and Herman the dog. Is that right?
KAY: That is right. Yeah. This is such a fun clip. Molly is one of those people, I think who really epitomizes “kind of famous of Burning Man.”
Sends out emails so regularly, she talks about how people will meet her on Playa and she’ll introduce herself and be like, “oh your Molly.” So it was great to have her on and hear a bunch of her stories. But this piece in particular is about her dog Herman. I love it so much because it really, the vein of irreverence that runs through the Burning Man culture is one of the things that I just love about us so much
there’s always this desire or aspiration to not take ourselves too fucking seriously. And so this story really hits on that. Um, and it talks about how her dog became Burning Man’s director of marketing.
STUART: All right. Let’s go. Go Herman.
MOLLY:, well, I started going to Burning Man in 1995. Last year., big 25… It’s been a long ride., After a couple of years going to the event, I decided that I used to teach school. So I had summers off and I had a big, long break at Christmas time and decided I wanted to put some of my energy into something that I really cared about.
I did care about teaching school, but this was more personal for me. So I started volunteering. And I started doing a lot of work in the office. I spent a lot of time stuffing survival guides. Working on the thank you card project with back when we had like five boxes of thank you cards instead of, you know, 60. Oh yeah. It was like, I. So I was always in the office.
So, I got picked up by the, uh, ticketing team because I had been volunteering as my daughter, Lulu had as well, with the low-income project And then the admin role came up and I applied for it and I started working for Burning Man. In 2010. My first year of volunteering was 1999. So there was a good, long run of me just being in the office. And, uh, I worked play at info for a years.
KAY: That seems fitting.
MOLLY: Well that led to having lots of answers, I’ve always said that my job really was air traffic control more than anything, because everything would sort of come to me first.
And then I parcel things out and say, you go, here you go. There I’ll order the pens, whatever. Sorry.. And after a year being the admin, they said, how would you like to be the office manager?
And I said, sure. And just went back to my desk and kept doing exactly what I’d been doing.
PETER: Now you could lock up the paperclips.
MOLLY: Yeah, exactly. Now I can order more paper clips. I can tell you where to put the paperclips. Anyway.
KAY: The deep inner workings of how Burning Man keeps running
MOLLY: it’s paperclips, for sure.
MOLLY: Yeah. Anyway,
DOXIE: You’ve always been there. You were always there. You were always polite in the emails and every time I’d come to the office. So I’ve always just been so appreciative of everything that you do. Man, I can’t even imagine what you’ve had to do.
MOLLY: Thank you Doxie. I really appreciate that. It’s nice to get those reflections. It’s been a really interesting ride. And, I have never been bored at work. Ever. Not once. I mean, how could you be?
KAY: I believe that.
MOLLY: Everything changes so quickly, and there’s always a new challenge and a new opportunity and a new person and a new process. And it’s been great.
PETER: We are all fans. You mentioned a dog who actually kind of made their way obviously into Burning Man and made their way up the ranks.
MOLLY: His name is Herman Herman. I’m going to start way before Mr Dogg. As you can imagine, answering the phones for Burning Man gives you a lot of opportunity to talk to a lot of people about a lot of weird things.
My first ridiculous phone call that I ever had to deal with was an Israeli guy who called the office and asked me if he was going to Burning Man, would he have to bring his own sheets?
I know my reaction too, Doxie. I’m like, yeah, It’s out in the middle of nowhere you gotta bring everything. I’m trying to suss out. He’s like, “Oh yeah, I know. I have to bring my food and everything like that, but I didn’t know if I had to bring sheets. Through the course of this conversation, he says to me, well, it says in your literature that it’s a hostile environment and I’m like, , I finally realized he thought there were hostels there and in hostels sometimes.
Oh, my goodness. Yeah.
PETER: Oh, that’s priceless
MOLLY: It took a while because I’m giving him the full spiel. ., I’m thinking, what is this guy talking about?
So he’s probably thinking “What’s she talking about.”
Exactly what it says right here.
It’s a hostile environment.. So there were a lot of phone calls like that.
Another favorite of that. I used to answer the phone burning, man, this is Molly. So I answered the phone late one afternoon when I’m exhausted and frustrated and whatever Burning Man, this is Molly.
I hear wild laughter on the other side of the phone. And then this kid says, “I finally found Molly at Burning Man.”
I was so tired. I just said, “It’s not that hard.”
But oh my God, lots of phone calls of craziness. And then as the years went by and you know, Burning Man got sort of more well-known um, I started getting calls from marketers and people who wanted to partner with, with us and for various reasons, for one thing or another, God only knows what I had a couple of those.
I had one that was a guy that was definitely. You know, going from a script, he had no idea who we were and he was, he was offering us this and he was offering us that, and he was telling us about advertising packages. And I kept saying, no, we don’t do that. No, we don’t do that.. No, thank you.
And finally, he starts sputtering and he goes, how do you get people to go to this thing?
PETER: And bring their own sheets!
MOLLY: No problem with that. And my other favorite marketing call was Virgin America. They had this whole pitch for me about how they wanted to go to Burning Man.
And they wanted all these tickets and they were going to make a movie about Burning Man. And then they were going to show it in their seat-back entertainment because that was just going to provide us all this free advertising and it was just going to be great, and all they needed was tickets.
And I kept saying, “No thank you. We don’t want that. We don’t do that.” And finally the guy on the other end of the phone says, “Well, can you transfer me to someone who has the authority to make that decision and started laughing? I have the authority to make that decision.
I’m like, I’m done. So no, it, it got crazy for a while there we had just, yeah, I don’t know what they don’t understand about Decommodification and the fact that you never see advertising for Burning Man anywhere ever. It’s been shut down repeatedly. Danger Ranger still has a banner that he like ripped down in the lucky store in Reno that Budweiser had had printed up for trying to sell Budweiser with the Burning Man image on it. And he’s just like, Nope.
KAY: Full nope.
MOLLY: Full nope. and I actually talked to shopkeepers and Reno over the years and, we’re okay with them putting up signs in their window that say, get your goggles here kind of thing, you know?
And they can say Burning Man in that context, but it’s not, the same as using our imagery or anything along those lines. So we, we’re not trying to stop anyone from selling their goggles, but, just don’t grab our stuff off the website to sell your goggles. So yeah, we don’t do marketing.
KAY: When you asked the question of, what is it that they don’t understand about? Decommodification? I think the quick answer is fucking everything it’s the way the Burning Man has gotten successful and why so many people want to go is so antithesis to how you promote things, how capitalism works.
And if that’s your job and that’s what you do with your creativity in your life, you can see a million ways to monetize anything., we were just a prime target for that.
MOLLY: Then we’ve got Larry, and LARRY as we all know, was a gentlemen who really enjoyed conversation and he really pretty much came to the office to go to meetings and go to the roof and smoke cigarettes and he’d just sort of land at your desk, and talk to you about whatever came into his head or whatever he was thinking as he got off the elevator. He would often stop at my desk and, just tell me things.
MOLLY: I always enjoyed conversations with Larry. So Larry’s at my desk one day. And Herman has come to work with me every day as long as I’ve had him. He’s eight now. So he slept under my desk every day. He’s always under there in his pillow.
Larry is talking at me, talking with me, talking to me, standing there talking, and the phone rings and it’s a marketer.
All you can hear of course is my side and I’m going, “No. No, thank you. No, we don’t do that. No, that’s not how we operate. No, thank you. No. Goodbye. And I hang up the phone.
Now we don’t say no a whole lot, at Burning Man, we tend to say yes and try to figure out how to help people get to the point that they think they’re trying to get to. In reality, the only talk to like that would be marketers.
So I hang up the phone and Larry looks at me, he’s like, what was that? And I said, oh, it was a marketer. And he like stepped back and looked at me and said, marketers, call us.
I’m like,Yes. Larry, they call us a lot and he says, oh, they’re calling a lot.. Well, we should have a director of marketing, who should be our director of marketing. And then, you can see like the light bulb moment and he’s all, what about Herman? Herman would be perfect director of marketing.
I like look under the desk and won’t get, you want to be a director of marketing. He sounds asleep.,.
But as the marketers continued to call us, ultimately it was decided that Herman needed an extension because we were really tired of dealing with marketers.
And so we would say, yeah, we’ll just transfer you to hermit. And Herman’s extension is DOG.
And there’s literally barking on the voicemail.
Although I think his voicemail is full. He hasn’t emptied it in a while. Um, got to the point where people would call and ask for Herman and we’re like, okay, so the meeting. We gotta transfer you.
It’s, kind of a class. Burning Man office story, you know, there’s plenty of jackass in there and nobody gets hurt.
PETER: Then you have this in with Herman, so of course you…
MOLLY: Well, yeah. It’s true. I mean, Herman’s definitely in my court. I feed him. That’s how Herman became the director of marketing for Burning Man.
PETER: He’s done a damn good job.
KAY: He’s a genius hire.
PETER: I mean, look: tickets sold out shortly thereafter and haven’t stopped since.
MOLLY: Exactly. Yup. He’s done a fine job. There’s no doubt about it. And mostly while he’s asleep.
PETER: That’s the genius.
KAY: It is genius.
STUART: So what does the future have in store for the burn barrel? You guys planning to pick this back up again and do some more of these shows?
KAY: There’s a list. There are people on the list
DOXIE: I see names. I’ve got 1, 2, 3, like at least four names waiting. One says “special guest!”
Peter?: Yeah, I think, we took a hiatus, , because summer came and I think at the time everything was great. We were kind of gearing up to do some fun summer stuff. And I think now that. It’s waning and it has passed. I think it’s time to get back together. Cause I’d hate to spend another winter humbled up in my house without talking to my friends – and finding more friends out there.
I think one of the things is we do this about others, but as we said earlier, selfishly, we get to really have great conversations. , with folks that we admire quite a bit, I mean, how we pick the people as we find them interesting, fascinating to talk to, and we really want to learn about them.
So that was one of the things that I really enjoyed about doing this is having more than 10 minutes to talk to folks like yourself, Stewart,
Hey, great. I see you at the event and it’s sort of in passing and this was the first time we’ve ever been able to sit on and talk to people at length. And so I can’t see going another winter without having enjoyment.
STUART: That is the power of the burn barrel. It does kind of slow down time and give you that time to stretch out and tell some longer stories.I’m a, I’m a huge fan. And so…
KAY: In some ways, Stuart, but also, one of the other things that we joked about when we first started doing the burn barrel was that it was a 42 minute show. It was going to be an hour long show, but we cut out the commercials cause decomodification and shit.
There’s not one single burn barrel that was 42 minutes. And in fact, some of them have moved into the two and a half hour mark. And while it does slow down time and give you that sense of really being in a place with people, it’s amazing how fast a couple hours go by when you’re just telling Burning Man stories on a zoom call.
So I think that really speaks to our need to connect and how we miss that, and how we just have an excellent sense of taste about who to bring onto the show!
Peter?: Yeah. And Kay, you mentioned Burning Man stories, and though they all do have a thread of Burning Man in there. We certainly try to go a little bit wider and find. Stories that aren’t just Burning Man, right? Stories of them.
DOXIE: Make it personal.
STUART: Okay. So all of these exist on the YouTubes, is that right?
Peter?: I really don’t know.
STUART: All of these shows are available on the internet. We’ll make sure that we get a link in the show notes. If you want to sit down and go through the full long-winded, excuse me, long form versions of some of these conversations, we’ll make sure you get a link to that.
STUART: Did I say that? I meant long form, long-form discussions, but… All right. Any other plans coming up for this year? Are we going to have a Burning Man this year or what? What do you think? Burning man 2022? Yes. No?
STUART: All right, I’ll see all you guys out there.
KAY: That’s exciting.
STUART: Thank you so much my lovely guests, Kay Morrison, doxy from Detroit, Peter Durand. I wish you good fortune in the coming years. And, let’s get some more of those burn barrel episodes out, alright?
KAY: Yeah. And how about you come around the old Iron Monkey burn barrel on Playa and we’ll shoot the shit for real real?
STUART: I’m going to take you up on that. Thank you.
KAY: I love it.
STUART: Alright, my friends.
KAY: Thanks, Stuart.
PETER: Thank you.
DOXIE: Thank you, guys.
STUART: That is our show. Make sure you tune into our next episode where our guest host may in fact be burning. Man’s elusive director of. Uh, scruffy little dog named Herman.
This program is, and shall remain a production of the philosophical center of Burning Man project made possible by generous donations from listeners like you and you and you.
So tell a friend, and maybe who knows slip a few bucks through the email@example.com, please. And thank you.
Hey, and why don’t you write us? We don’t get nearly enough cuckoo wacko email. So go ahead and send us one. Okay. LIVE at burningman.org, We would love to hear from you
thanks as always to our producers, Michael Vav, Andy Grace, and for this episode to the fabulous Brody Q Scotland for voicing our introduction
And, uh, oh, oh yeah. Oh yeah. Thanks Larry.