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Aug 31st - Sept 7th





Burning Man 2009
Man atop the Tangled Bank

  • The Tangled Bank was the name given to the structure for the theme of Evolution. "Nature never made a plan, nor does it seem to copy very well. No living thing is ever quite the same as others of its kind. Charles Darwin called this Natural Variation." - Larry Harvey.
  • face: Yellow neon front with white side neon
  • Body: Yellow outline with white inner core neon
  • A red Monkey resided in the ornament.
  • The Man base included "Tubeworm", created by Jack Haye, Mike Hollibaugh, and Julie Young.

Burning Man: 2009 Burn, Dave Giordano

The Man stood atop a 25'-tall pedestal bedecked with an el-wire DNA strand, and was surrounded by a series of abstract nest-like structures of 2"x4"s forming "a tangled bank", referencing a quote from Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species". The structure proved a difficult one to immolate on Burn night, but in the end, it succumbed to the flame in pyrotechnic glory, with the whole of Black Rock City surrounding it.

Fire Of Fires by David Umlas, Marrilee Ratcliffe, Community Art Makers. Photo T.R. Folger

The Temple this year, Fire of Fires, was designed by Dave Umlas, Marilee Ratcliffe and Community Art Makers. Taking on this revered structure is a huge challenge, and the Austin-based team created a work of true beauty. With its vortex of flame burning within the center of the structure, Fire of Fires was as amazing a feat of construction and design as it was emotionally resonant for all who experienced it.

An idiot in a helicopter attempted to fly a banner advertising "nutrients" over the city, much to the chagrin of citizens who complained for months on social media about the audacity of bringing commercial advertising to Black Rock City, however an icon in Black Rock City was re-decorated with a brand name that caused much hilarity amongst the population.

A commercial wireless network attempted to provide cellular phone service on the playa by installing

...a temporary cellular tower on private land right near the Burning Man site at a hot springs called Frog Pond and There were technical challenges, and the service could offer only voice, not data, over the satellite connection... the wireless company had expected demand to be two to three times [what they encountered] and plans to remove the mobile tower next week and likely won't be back at Burning Man next year. 'Right now, I think we're going to lose money' as a result of the cost of deployment far exceeding the amount made from roaming charges, he said. 'If we can't make money, we won't be back.'

The company had approached the Burning Man organization about the project beforehand and was told that the event wasn't interested in it being there.

Elinor Mills, CNET - Phones at Burning Man: Can you hear me now?

After seven happy and creative years at 1900 3rd Street we moved about a mile south to 3450 3rd Street - which truly old school burners will remember also housed Burning Man's first real office in the late nineties.

In retrospect, Larry Harvey’s choice of “Evolution” as the Art Theme for the 2009 Burning Man event could not have been more prescient. Not only did 2009 bring about unprecedented economic and political changes in the world, the Burning Man Project itself went through some of the most dramatic changes in its history – changes that speak directly to the evolutionary concepts of adaptation and survival in the face of adversity.

In late 2008, Harley K. DuBois, Burning Man’s Director of Community Services and its Playa Safety Council, announced her intention to resign from the Board of the Burning Man Project and the Board’s members began to imagine the organization’s path forward through this impending change. A self-appointed group of senior Burning Man staffers organized a “Task Force” to undertake an in-depth look at reorganization. … One significant leap forward was the creation of a new Executive Committee, an entirely new management body, comprised of the six Board Members and five new members, selected from members of the Senior Staff.

Harley changed her course and decided she would stay with the Burning Man Project, however momentum carried forward and the systematic reorganization brought about extraordinarily positive changes in the functional dynamics of the Burning Man Project – including some very purposeful steps that would take us even further into the world beyond the orange trash fence in Black Rock City.

On the playa, Burning Man’s Department of Public Works (DPW) was once again in fine form, and appreciated being allocated additional days on the event’s BLM permit for setup, making for a more reasonably-paced pre-event operation. The BRC Planning Department, responding to the smaller population projection and complaints that the larger 2008 city size was too difficult for many participants to traverse, also returned the city to the smaller 2007 footprint. This, combined with good playa conditions, made for smoother setup, easier travel and more playa-wide activity overall.

The number of art installations on playa was impacted by the sour economy, and the total 215 pre-registered artworks and 24 honorarium art projects (down from the average 40-42) reflected the first year-to-year decline in Burning Man’s history. however, the projects that did appear on playa were stellar, in particular the Raygun Gothic Rocketship, Fishbug, Soma, Gee-Gnome, Portal of Evolution, Key Note, the Wedge, and the Fire of Fires Temple.

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Burning Man community and culture becomes less about the event itself with each passing year. Increasingly, "Burning Man" has come to be more defined by Burners taking the event’s cultural ethos with them out into the world.

Black Rock Solar has continued to sow the seeds of free and accessible solar power throughout Northern Nevada for public buildings and schools in several underserved communities; Burners Without Borders has grown to provide centralized support and resources to a wide variety of Burner-initiated volunteer efforts across the globe, and the Black Rock Arts Foundation fulfilling its ongoing mission to fund community-based interactive artworks around the world.

And while those formal organizations positively exemplify this culture’s ethos in action, the Burning Man Regional Network most broadly and immediately represents the manifestation of this cultural community every day of the year, in 89 locations around the globe as of 2009. Local Burner groups everywhere are formally and informally gathering and organizing around their connection through Burning Man, day to day and in thousands of ways all around the world.

As we were taking apart the shade, two bikes collided on the Esplanade out front and we ran over to them. The two girls involved stood up and hugged each other. No one was hurt and they went on their merry way. Only in Black Rock City do you have a "Hit and Hug". - Moze - That Heavy Sunday Moon

  • Black Rock City saw its first-ever decrease in population and fewer artworks were presented overall, due to the effects of the global recession.
  • 215 registered art projects were presented, including 24 built with grants from Burning Man
  • First-time temple builders Dave Ulmas and Marrilee Ratcliffe of Community Art Makers (Austin, TX) constructed a two-story temple titled “Fire of Fires” out of lumber and CNC cut plywood, surrounding a central translucent fiberglass cylinder containing a hand-controlled, mechanically-generated fire tornado.
  • City planners for a variety of reasons concurred with popular feedback about 2008’s larger Black Rock City plan and decreased it to its pre-2008 footprint.
  • The Center Camp circle plan featured two concentric service roads, improving vehicular and foot access to the busy theme and staff camping areas located there.
  • The location of Black Rock City was moved a half mile southwest from 2008’s location as per the Bureau of Land Management’s stipulations to alternate the spot to minimize impact.
  • The grassroots participant effort “Lawyers for Burners” once again joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada to monitor law enforcement behavior on playa.
  • For the second year, at the invitation of the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Burning Man staffed the “Air Playa Info” informational table at the Reno Airport to help orient and direct the thousands of Burners who flew into Reno.
  • Burning Man resumed selling tickets at the Box Office onsite, after not doing so in 2008.
  • 749 camps, villages, and departments filed questionnaires requesting placement, and 618 were placed as part of Black Rock City’s urban planning efforts in 2009. Overwhelmed with an unprecedented demand for space and a trend in increased camp footprints, BRC’s city plan could not accommodate every request for theme camp/village placement. The Placement department responded with stricter attention to its qualification guidelines, and were forced to turn some camps away; in all, 136 applicant camps were not awarded reserved placement.
  • The Yellow Bike Program (our fleet of 800 shared green-painted bikes) returned for its fourth year, and was a great success, with fewer bikes going missing and/or being hoarded and reports of easier-to-find community bikes.
  • The Burning Man Regional Network grew to 165 Regional Contacts in 89 locations around the globe with 54 new applicants in the wings at the end of 2009.
  • The Regional Network Committee (the decision-making guiding body comprised of Burning Man’s Regional support staff) added several Regional Contact volunteers in its strategic planning process, the first of several in-progress steps designed to engage wider Regional Contact participation in the guidance of the Network.
  • Staff from the Black Rock Arts Foundation, Black Rock Solar, Burners Without Borders and the Burning Man Regional Network sought to increase collaboration between those entities; they joined forces to create the “Culture Labs” public theme camp on the Esplanade next to Center Camp. Expanding on 2008’s “Everywhere Lane,” this collaborative environment shared art and information with participants about these and other inspiring manifestations of real-world Burning Man culture year round.
  • The Burning Man Project hosted the third annual Regional Leadership Summit at Burning Man’s San Francisco headquarters in February 2009. 100 Regional Contacts from around the world converged on San Francisco to share information, engage in coursework, hear presentations from local artists, staff, and volunteers, and make connections to enhance their efforts back home.
  • The Burning Blog was reimagined and expanded by inviting 30 writers to offer contributions hailing from a variety of geographically- and culturally-distributed perpspectives, with subjects reaching beyond the Burning Man event and into its wider cultural diaspora.
  • Burning Man's San Francisco headquarters at 1900 Third Street was slated for demolition (as had been anticipated), to make way for a new UCSF's Children’s and Women's Cancer Hospital. Under force of a shrinking countdown to the desert, BMHQ scrambled in April to shuffle core functions to a temporary location in a smaller office/warehouse nearby. Staff and volunteers, also under stress of ticking timelines, packed and unpacked the core functions, wired the new building, and shuffled seven years’ worth of files, art, and memories into storage; afterward, many took to kitchen tables and cafés around the Bay as half of the office staff were forced to rapidly adapt to the new challenge of working remotely.
  • By way of our own Evolution, the staff collaboratively identified a need for a reexamination of our business structures and operations. The six board members consulted with outside facilitators, consultants, attorneys, various levels of the staff and an internal self-assembled advocate Task Force, and set about re-imagining structure, philosophies and leadership tools that motivate us to manifest Burning Man. Ultimately, this effort assembled a new Executive Committee body, which includes all six members of the Black Rock City LLC and five members of its senior staff, and which now oversees short- and medium-term strategic planning.
  • The Executive Committee created and identified a number of standing and ad-hoc Subcommittees with wide cross-departmental membership, aimed at improving the process used to make decisions and inviting a greater selection of staff and volunteers to participate in feedback and implementation of organization-wide initiatives and projects.
  • The Board of BRC LLC continued to search for the next building for Burning Man to call home in San Francisco -- and to explore its own evolution and the larger implications of the organization’s mission statement beyond the event in the desert.