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Aug 27th - Sept 3rd


American Dream



Burning Man 2008
Man atop the Obelisk

  • Red White and Blue neon, with ornamental stars
  • Man stands atop an obelisk emblazoned with flags representing the countries of the world. This was a sixty-six foot high box beam monument.
  • Interior cabling anchored the Man base against the potential 70 MPH winds, to deep foundation blocks.
  • The obelisk contained three levels of viewing platform around a core of stairways.
  • "Obelights" were created by Jack Haye, Claus Brigmann, Jiri Jacknowitz, and Mike Hollibaugh.
  • Burn night was threatened by extended dust storms that abated long enough to Burn, however the Fire Conclave did not have time to perform pre-Burn

Obelisk with cutaway view of interior. Design by Rod Garrett and Larry Harvey. Illustration by Jack Haye and Rod Garrett.

In 2008, leave narrow and exclusive ideologies at home; forget the blue states and the red; let parties, factions and divisive issues fall away, and carefully consider your immediate experience. What has America achieved that you admire? What has it done or failed to do that fills you with dismay? What is laudable? What is ludicrous? Put blame aside, let humor thrive, and dare to contemplate a larger question: What can America, this stumbling, roused, half-conscious giant, still contribute to the world?

Perhaps it's time Americans began to face themselves. Maybe it's also time that they began to listen to other countries of the world. All of us are immigrants to Black Rock City. What can we dream America to be?

Theme: American Dream

The Burning Blog was launched, backfilling posts from existing "Tales From the Playa" and other sources and combining several extant blogs into one consolidated and more actively maintained blog for the Project. New Blog authors were introduced and for the first time ever, the Man Crew documented the build on the Burning Blog (under the Building Black Rock City category). The intent was to strengthen the connection formed between the community and the building of the Man that was re-established in 2007.

We’ve long wanted the Burning Blog to grow into a rich, vibrant source of thought-provoking writing for and about Burning Man the culture — but more than that, we thought, this space could also be used to reflect how that culture perceives and interacts with the world around it, and to nurture that school of thought as a public conversation.
Andie Grace - The all new Burning Blog – a voice for our culture.

Burning Man 2008 - The Temple of Basura Sagrada from Flump666 on Vimeo.

First-time temple builder Shrine (Pasadena, CA) constructed a two-story temple out of recycled materials, entitled "Basura Sagrada" or "Sacred Trash", with creative partner Tucker Teusch from Oregon.

The four main nodes of our "Outreach Network" joined forces on the playa to connect with participants in the dust: Burners Without Borders, the Black Rock Arts Foundation, and Black Rock Solar all banded together along with the Regional Network Center to create a camp called "Everywhere Lane." Located at 6:15 and Esplanade, a small-town America "country lane" theme camp invited participants to come by to meet with Regional Contacts in person, learn about the amazing efforts of BWB and BRS, or make a flag for the BRAF Scrap Eden project.

The location of Black Rock City was moved another half mile northeast from 2007's location as per the Bureau of Land Management's stipulations. In the AfterBurn, the question of that year's rough, soft playa surface was addressed.

Q: What was up with the rough, soft playa surface? Will it be like that next year? Can we move to get away from that spot to smoother playa?

A: Yep, the playa surface this year was pretty brutal. We all saw lots of soft dunes that would catch bike tires and bog down mutant vehicles, combined with what are fondly known as "playa serpents," harder bumps that, when hit at speed, might just vibrate the teeth out of your head. Can anything be done?

First off, we work with the Bureau of Land Management (our landlord, effectively) to determine the event site year to year, and our current permit constrains our location between two sites until 2010. This was our first time in this new location (known in the permit as "Site C"), which was the farthest north we've ever built Black Rock City. In 2009, our event site will be back where it was in 2007 ("Site B").

Playa surface conditions depend largely on how cold it gets during the winter and for how long, together with the amount of rainfall received. More rainfall usually means more solid playa conditions, but even then, the effect varies with a number of environmental factors that are beyond any control. Weather being what it is, we never really know what it's going to be like until we get out there, and ultimately we're at the whim of the elements.

And no, we can't pave the playa. Sorry.

2008 AfterBurn Report

The first Virtual Burn in Second Life in 2003 is called Burning Life, started by Linden Labs employee and 1999s DPW volunteer, Aaron Brashears.

The Lab hired Dusty Udal, an experienced burner, as a contractor and gave her a Linden name tag in order to help reposition the event. Also at this time, Danger Ranger - founder of the real life Black Rock Rangers at Burning Man - got involved and helped with reorganizing the Burning Life Rangers into a more community-based organization, truer to the principles of the RL Rangers. In 2008, 28,000 people from all over the world attended that 10-day event in the virtual world. BURN2 would become the largest virtual reality Regional.

As soon as the 2007 event ended, Burning Man’s year-round staff started work on planning for 2008, while continuing the efforts to foster and grow Burning Man culture around the world.

The Burning Man Regional Network grew to 150 Regional Contacts in 100 locations around the globe, and to train, inspire and support these representatives, Burning Man Headquarters played host to the second annual Regional Leadership Summit in February 2008. Regional Contacts from around the world converged on San Francisco

In reaction to the overcrowding experienced in 2007, and anticipating that upwards of 50,000 people would be gathering in the Black Rock Desert for the 2008 event (it topped out at 49,599), the Burning Man Planning Department expanded the geographical layout of Black Rock City to accommodate this growth, giving everybody a little more breathing room, and lowering the risk of accidents in an inner playa alive with vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.

The “American Dream” art theme for 2008 generated as much inspired creation as it did controversy. As an expression of this thought-provoking theme, The Man stood atop the tallest structure yet, a 60′-tall obelisk bedecked with the flags of all nations (except, notably, the flag of the United States). Participants were able to ascend this obelisk via an interior spiral staircase and pause on their way up at any of three viewing decks, commanding stunning views of Black Rock City.

The Man burned on Saturday night, but the burn was not without its challenges. Heavy white-out dust storms tormented Black Rock City all during the day, and threatened to force the cancellation of the burn, which would have been extremely risky given the amount of fuel and pyrotechnic material that was packed into the structure. Luckily, the storm broke just long enough to provide the pyrotechnic team the opportunity it needed to release the Man — more or less as planned — in pyrotechnic splendor. Unfortunately, the risk of losing the brief window of opportunity to burn the structure forced organizers to cancel the performance of the hundreds of incredible fire performers who are members of Burning Man’s Fire Conclave.

Read more

2008 was full of fire, with more burns than ever before. "Basura Sagrada" was the name of this year’s Temple, carrying on the tradition of burning on Sunday night. "Celtic Forest" returned with two more flaming moats and a 16’-foot tall "Book of the Raven". The Flaming Lotus Girls, with their project entitled "Mutopia", once again created an interactive flaming environment where everyone was encouraged to press buttons, which brought the strange seed pod creation to life in fire.

False Profit Labs brought two flame effects artworks: "Pyrocardium", a helix with 20 computer-controlled flames connected to a stethoscope, allowing participants to make the flames pulse in time to their heartbeat; and "Hydrogen Economy", a clear hexagonal Plexiglas chamber wherein floated hydrogen-filled bubbles that participants could ignite (and explode) from the outside using flaming "dragon sticks". "Shiva Vista" returned with their 16 large propane cannons encircling a stage where fire performers, dancers and musicians performed.

In an effort to spread the benefits of the Burning Man ethos, in late 2007, the Burning Man Project fostered the creation of Black Rock Solar, a non-profit company dedicated to installing low- or no-cost solar power for schools, hospitals, and other public buildings who would not otherwise be able to afford it, while training members of the local communities to install photovoltaic systems. They joined with Burners Without Borders and the Black Rock Arts Foundation in furthering the globalization of Burning Man culture.
  • The American Dream theme represented the first explicitly political theme since 1996 (not including the political nature of the Green Man theme in 2007). It generated significant spirited discussion.
  • The playa was home to over 240 registered art projects, including 37 Burning Man-funded pieces.
  • Heavy dust storms on the night of the burn almost forced its cancellation, but a serendipitous window of opportunity opened, and the Man was quickly burned. Unfortunately, the Fire Conclave (fire dancers) performance was cancelled, as no one knew how long the window of clear weather would hold, and safety was a prime concern.
  • First-time temple builder Shrine (Pasadena, CA) constructed a two-story temple out of recycled materials, entitled "Basura Sagrada" or "Sacred Trash", with creative partner Tucker Teusch from Oregon.
  • City planners removed 2007's three inner blocks (Esplanade through "C"), and the streets ran A-K, adding two longer concentric roads at the back of the city. The distance from the Man to the Esplanade road increased from 2200 to 2700 feet, and the length of the Esplanade grew over 2500 feet longer than 2007.
  • The Center Camp circle was expanded to include 3 concentric rings. Theme camps and service camps were placed on the outside and inside rings, "sandwiching" a middle ring of staff camping. The overall circle extended further out into the open playa than ever before.
  • The location of Black Rock City was moved another half mile northeast from last year's location as per the Bureau of Land Management's stipulations.
  • Grassroots participant efforts "Lawyers for Burners" (after the 2007 event) and the "Law Officer Oversight Program" (prior to the 2009 event) sprung up in the community in response to increased law enforcement activity the year before. Both groups, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, monitored law enforcement behavior on playa.
  • Burning Man created and staffed the "Air Playa Info" informational table at the Reno Airport to help orient and direct the thousands of Burners who flew into Reno.
  • For the first time in history, Burning Man stopped selling tickets at the Box Office onsite, as a way to deter unprepared participants and to monitor population growth.
  • Over 785 camps and villages filed questionnaires requesting placement, and 746 met the criteria and were registered and placed, as part of Black Rock City's urban planning efforts in 2010.
  • The Yellow Bike Program returned for its third year, and was a great success, with fewer bikes going missing and/or being hoarded.
  • A new moon made for very dark playa conditions at night.
  • The playa conditions were the worst seen to date, with massive tracts of dunes that would stop bikes (and sometimes vehicles) in their tracks, and hard rippled "playa serpents".
  • The Artery initiated the "Eyes on Art" project, monitoring art installations at night, looking for safety issues such as insufficient lighting.
  • The Burning Man Regional Network grew to 150 Regional Contacts in 100 locations around the globe, with 75 more applications waiting to be processed. The Burning Man Project hosted the second annual Regional Leadership Summit at Burning Man Headquarters in February '08. Regional Contacts from around the world converged on San Francisco to share information and make connections.
  • A new sister nonprofit was created called "Black Rock Solar" as part of Burning Man's Outreach Network; this nonprofit's mission is to donate free solar power in the state of Nevada to underfunded public buildings (schools, museums, and food banks have already been recipients).
  • The Black Rock Arts Foundation, Black Rock Solar, Burners Without Borders and Burning Man Regional Network joined forces to create a camp called "Everywhere Lane" on the Esplanade next to First Camp, allowing these outreach network organizations to share information with participants about Burning Man's year round culture.
  • The Burning Man Regionals website was updated to better represent Regional Contacts around the world.
  • The Burning Blog was launched, combining several extant blogs into one consolidated and more actively maintained blog for the Project.
There were some BIG changes to our city in 2008. Remove 2007's three inner blocks — Esplanade through "C" — and you have the Esplanade for 2008. After the Esplanade, the streets for 2008 run A-K. Since we've taken the three shortest concentric streets from the inside, we added two longer concentric roads at the back of the city. The distance from the Man to the Esplanade road increased from 2200 to 2700 feet, which also means the length of the Esplanade grew over 2500 feet longer than 2007.

John Curley writes the first of many beloved Blog posts detailing the everyday life of the DPW building Black Rock City

Burning Man, where you can act as spontaneously as you want to for a week at the end of August, is anything but spontaneous before and after the Burn. It’s choreographed chaos that results in a city in the middle of the desert. John Curley - It has begun …

Center Camp Cafe hosted the beginning of the annual Friday night Marching Band March Off (in the Center of the Center) where anywhere from 3-6 Marching Bands compete in categories like cleanliness, and brass to skin ratio to become the reigning champions for the year. Gamelan X, Burning Band Marching Band, Environmental Encroachment, Titanium Sporkestra and March Fourth Marching Band competed. March Fourth won setting the bar extremely high for the following year.

Other acts included
  • Kid Beyond
  • FreeBassBK
  • Thrillpeddlers
  • Electric Dollhouse
  • Gooferman
  • The Wet Spots
  • Vau de Vire
Cafe Art included
  • Burning Man 3D by Harold Baize (Silverman)
  • Captain America Dream by Burning Bruce
  • Golden Home Boy by Todji Kurtzman
  • Wake Up Call by Arthur Rudiak aka Distracto