The Burning Man festival 2014 will be held in Blackrock Nevada the first week of September. It is designed to start 7 days before the Labor Day holiday and it runs through the holiday.
What Is Burning Man festival like in 2014?
Once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever. Burning Man is also an ever-expanding year-round culture based on the Principles.
Burning Man is a week-long annual event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, in the United States. The event begins on the last Monday in August, and ends on the first Monday in September, which coincides with the American Labor Day holiday. The 2012 Burning Man Festival took place between August 27 and September 3. It takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy on Saturday evening. The event is described by many participants as an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radicalself-reliance. Burning Man is organized by Black Rock City, LLC. In 2010, 51,515 people attended Burning Man. 2011 attendance was capped at 50,000 participants and the event sold out on July 24. In April 2011, Larry Harvey announced that the organization had begun the process of transitioning management of the festival over to a new non-profit called the “Burning Man Project“.
What Isn’t Burning Man?
Burning Man isn’t your usual festival, with big acts booked to play on massive stages. In fact, it’s more of a city than a festival, wherein almost everything that happens is created entirely by its citizens, who are active participants in the event.
Burning Man 2013 Recap
You can find a full list of art installations, theme camps, city plan and art theme from 2014 in 2014 event archive.
- Costs: $250-$420
- Attendance: 50,000+
Unique Artists and Self Expression Festival.
Burning Man is more of an arts and self expression festival.
Black Rock Desert, Nevada, U.S.
Burning Man is a week-long annual event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, in the United States. The event begins on the last Monday in August, and ends on the first Monday in September, which coincides with the American Labor Day holiday. The 2012 Burning Man Festival took place between August 27 and September 3. It takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy on Saturday evening. The event is described as an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance. Burning Man is organized by Black Rock City, LLC. In 2010, 51,515 people attended Burning Man. 2011 attendance was capped at 50,000 participants and the event sold out on July 24. In April 2011, Larry Harvey announced that the organization had begun the process of transitioning management of the festival over to a new non-profit organization called the “Burning Man Project”.
Wicker man on fire at the Archaeolink outdoor museum, Oyne, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
One of the roots of the annual event now known as Burning Man began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice in 1986 when Larry Harvey, Jerry James, and a few friends met on Baker Beach in San Francisco and burned a 9-foot (2.7-meter) wooden man as well as a smaller wooden dog. Harvey has described his inspiration for burning these effigies as a spontaneous act of “radical self-expression”. The event did have earlier roots, though. Sculptor Mary Grauberger, a friend of Harvey’s girlfriend Janet Lohr, held solstice bonfire gatherings on Baker Beach for several years prior to 1986, some of which Harvey attended. When Grauberger stopped organizing it, Harvey “picked up the torch and ran with it,” so to speak. He and Jerry James built an 8-foot (2.4-meter) wooden effigy for 1986, which was much smaller and more crudely made than the neon-lit figure featured in the current ritual. In 1987, the effigy grew to almost 15 feet (4.6 meters) tall, and by 1988, it had grown to around 40 feet (12 meters). Burning Man attendees informally called it “The Man,” and this name was given to each successive effigy, every year since Burning Man began.
Harvey states that he did not see the movie The Wicker Man until many years later, so it played no part in his inspiration. A wicker man was a large human-shaped wicker statue allegedly used in Celtic paganism for human sacrifice by burning it in effigy. Accordingly, rather than allow the name “Wicker Man” to become the name of the ritual, he started using the name “Burning Man”.
Once a year, tens of thousands of people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert (also known as “the playa”) to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever.
Even considering going to Burning Man for the first time can be daunting. And while it’s true that Burning Man is not for the faint of heart, with some research, preparation, and planning, an experience — and opportunity — beyond your wildest dreams awaits you. In Black Rock City, you’re guaranteed not to be the weirdest kid in the classroom. And you’ll become a part of the growing community of Burners who are active year-round, around the world … ensuring that the fire of Burning Man culture never goes out.
What’s the best way to learn about Burning Man? First, sign up for the Jack Rabbit Speaksemail newsletter to receive periodic updates and important information about the event throughout the year. Second, take a tour of this website to get a better idea of what to expect and how to get involved. We suggest you follow the links below to the Survival Guideand list of Recommended Reading, and then branch out to see how you might contribute to a theme camp, art project, build your own sturdy shade structure, turn your car into a giant spider, or paint your body to look like … well, that’s up to you. You can participate as little or as much as you want, but it is said that you really must participate to truly enjoy the experience. Finally, find the Burning Man Regional Contact nearest you, and join in the community.
In 1990, a separate event was planned by Kevin Evans and John Law on the remote and largely unknown dry lake known as Black Rock Desert, about 110 miles north of Reno. Evans conceived it as a dadaist temporary autonomous zone with sculpture to be burned and situationist performance art. He asked John Law, who also had experience on the dry lake and was a defining founder of Cacophony Society, to take on central organizing functions. In the Cacophony Society’s newsletter, it was announced as Zone Trip #4, A Bad Day at Black Rock (inspired by the movie of that name).
Meanwhile, the beach burn was interrupted by the park police for not having a permit. After striking a deal to raise the Man but not to burn it, event organizers disassembled the effigy and returned it to the vacant lot where it had been built. Shortly thereafter, the legs and torso of the Man were chain-sawed and the pieces removed when the lot was unexpectedly leased as a parking lot. The effigy was reconstructed, led by Dan Miller, Harvey’s then-housemate of many years, just in time to take it to Zone Trip #4.
Michael Mikel, another active Cacophonist, realized that a group unfamiliar with the environment of the dry lake would be helped by knowledgeable persons to ensure they did not get lost in the deep dry lake and risk dehydration and death. He took the name Danger Ranger and created the Black Rock Rangers. Thus the seed of Black Rock City was germinated, as a fellowship, organized by Law and Mikel, based on Evans’ idea, along with Harvey and James’ symbolic man. Drawing on experience in the sign business and with light sculpture, John Law prepared custom neon tubes for the Man in 1991 so it could be seen as a beacon at night.
Nevada: Burning Man festival gets bigger
Participants in the annual Burning Man Festival hang out near the “Man” at sunrise on the Black Rock desert.
The largest outdoor arts festival in North America is about to become bigger. Federal land managers have issued Burning Man organizers a special recreation permit that allows a peak population of 68,000 on the northern Nevada desert this year. After it moved from San Francisco’s Baker Beach, the inaugural Burning Man in Nevada drew about 80 people in 1990. This year’s festival runs Aug. 26-Sept. 2.
1991 marked the first year that the event had a legal permit, through the BLM (the Bureau of Land Management). 1992 saw the birth of a smaller, intensive (with 30 or so participants) near-by event named “Desert Siteworks,” co-directed by William Binzen and Judy West. The annual, several weeks-long event, was held in the springtime at various fertile hot springs surrounding the desert. Participants built art and participated in self-directed performances. Some key organizers of Burning Man were also part of Desert Siteworks (John Law, Michael Mikel) and William Binzen was a friend of Larry Harvey. Hence, the two events saw lots of cross-pollination of ideas and participants. Desert Siteworks lasted through 1994. 1996 was the first year a formal partnership was created to own the name “Burning Man” and was also the last year that the event was held in the middle of the Black Rock Desert with no fence around it.
1997 to present
Spark: A Burning Man Story explores the artistic phenomenon that takes place every year at the Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. It was a hit at the SXSW Film Festival and will be played in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on August 16th; on August 17th, the film will be released on iTunes and other digital platforms. In this exclusive clip, you can watch the intro to the film.
“We specifically set out to make a film that people didn’t see as ‘just another Burning Man doc.’ We were interested in a more universal story of what happens when people feel that they have the freedom and space to truly be themselves and to act on their dreams,” co-director Steve Brown tells Rolling Stone. “The founders sought to broaden their vision to one that would make a difference in the world while they wrestled with issues of leadership and legacy. Just as many of us experience the tension between the desire to follow our passion and the need to get by in the world, many organizations begin with passion, ideals and purpose, and then struggle to preserve their dream as they grow.”
The neon-tubed Man at the 1999 event
1997 marked another major pivotal year for the event. By 1996, the land-speed-record-holding open playa had grown to a critical mass with 8,000 attendees and was deemed too dangerous (marked with numerous vehicular incidents) to continue in the same way with unrestricted driving. To implement a ban on driving and re-create the event as a pedestrian/bicycle/art-car-only event, it was decided to move to private gated property. Fly Ranch, with the adjoining Hualapai mini dry lake-bed, just east of the Black Rock desert, was chosen. This moved Burning Man from Pershing county/federal BLM land into the jurisdiction of Washoe County, which brought a protracted list of permit requirements.
To comply with the new requirements and to manage the increased liability load, the organizers formed Black Rock City, LLC (a limited liability company). Will Roger Peterson and Flynn Mauthe created the Department of Public Works (DPW) to build the “city” grid layout (a requirement so that emergency vehicles could be directed to an “address”) designed by Rod Garrett, an architect. Rod continued as the city designer through 2011 until his death at 76. He is also credited with the design of all of the man bases from 2001 through 2012, the center camp cafe and first camp. With the success of the driving ban, having no vehicular incidents, 1998 saw a return to the Black Rock desert; along with a temporary perimeter fence. The event has remained there since.
As the population of Black Rock City grew, further rules were established in relation to its survival. Some critics of the event cite the addition of these rules as impinging on the original freedoms, altering the experience unacceptably, while others find the increased level of activity more than balances out the changes.
A grid street structure.
A speed limit of 5 mph (8 km/h).
A ban on driving, except for approved “mutant vehicles” and service vehicles.
Safety standards on mutant vehicles.
Burning your own art must be done on an approved burn platform.
Another notable restriction to attendees is the 7-mile-(11 km) long temporary plastic fence that surrounds the event and defines the pentagon of land used by the event on the southern edge of the Black Rock dry lake. This 4-foot (1.2 meter) high barrier is known as the “trash fence” because its initial use was to catch wind-blown debris that might escape from campsites during the event. Since 2002, the area beyond this fence has not been accessible to Burning Man participants during the week of the event.
One visitor who was accidentally burned at the 2005 festival unsuccessfully sued Black Rock City, LLC in San Francisco County Superior Court. On June 30, 2009, the California Court of Appeal for the First District upheld the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Black Rock City, LLC on the basis that visitors who deliberately walk towards the Burning Man after it is lit assume the risk of getting burned by such an obviously hazardous object.
At 1:25 am on August 28, 2007, at the exact moment of the Total Lunar Eclipse, Paul Addis, a well known, longtime Burning Man participant and gadfly of BMorg (the Burning Man Organization), who had previously pranked the Man as early as 1997, set the Man on fire four days ahead of schedule.
Transition to a non-profit organization
In April 2011, Larry Harvey announced that the LLC was beginning a three-year process to transfer ownership and control of the event over to a new non-profit organization called the “Burning Man Project”. The move towards becoming a non-profit organization was the result of “bitter infighting” between members of the board. At one point it looked like all of the board members were going to hire lawyers. Corporate appraisers were brought in to determine how much the company was worth, which Larry Harvey found “abhorrent” and against all of the values that Burning Man stood for.
An earlier agreement stated that each member of the LLC would only receive “sole compensation for many years of service, a golden parachute of $20,000”. But the members now agreed to an arrangement whereby each member of the LLC would receive an undisclosed sum prior to the transfer of their ownership rights to the Burning Man Project. Marian Goodell, board member and head of communication, addressed concerns about the lack of transparency with this statement: “When you’re in the middle of a storm, if you’re going to explain all of how you got there, and how you’re going to get out, it often sets more panic among the survivors than if you just sail the boat out of the darkness.”
Timeline of the event
The statistics below illustrate the growth in attendance of the Burning Man event, as well as other facts and figures. The event has experienced significant growth in popularity, changing from a small handful of people to over 49,500 attending the event in 2008. Burning Man 2006 was covered extensively for television for the first time by subscription television channel Current TV which handed out cameras to participants and broadcast daily updates via satellite from the dry lake. “TV Free Burning Man” also provided TV viewers an hour-long live feed of The Burn and was shown without commercial sponsorship. TV Free returned in 2007 and 2008; the 2007 coverage was nominated for a news Emmy Award.
Regarding the height of the Burning Man itself, it has remained close to 40 feet (12 meters) tall since 1989. Changes in the height and structure of the base account for the differing heights of the overall structures.
Year Height from ground to top of Man Location Participants Admission price Theme Notes
1986 8 ft (2.4 m) Baker Beach 20 Free None Larry Harvey & Jerry James build & burn wooden man on Baker Beach on the summer solstice, following a ritual bonfire tradition begun by Mary Grauberger
1987 20 ft (6.1 m) Baker Beach 80 Free None
1988 30 ft (9.1 m) Baker Beach 150-200 Free None
1989 40 ft (12 m) Baker Beach 300+ Free None First listing of Burning Man in the San Francisco Cacophony Society newsletter, “Rough Draft” under “sounds like cacophony.”
1990 40 ft (12 m) Baker Beach &
Black Rock Desert 500 (Baker Beach)/
120 Black Rock Desert Free None Figure erected at Baker Beach on Summer Solstice (June 21) but not burned. Man is invited to San Francisco Cacophony Zone Trip #4 on Labor Day weekend in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada.
1991 40 ft (12 m) Black Rock Desert 250 None First year of neon on the man.
1992 40 ft (12 m) Black Rock Desert 600 None
1993 40 ft (12 m) Black Rock Desert 1,000 None Theme camps: 1— “Christmas Camp”
1994 40 ft (12 m) Black Rock Desert 2,000 None First year of wooden spires and lamplighting
1995 40 ft (12 m) Black Rock Desert 4,000 $35 None Unofficial theme was “Good and Evil”.
1996 48 ft (15 m) Black Rock Desert 8,000 $35 Helco Theme featuring Dante’s Inferno/HELCO (a satire on corporate takeovers). First year the man is elevated on a straw bale pyramid and guns banned in central camp. First fatality in motorcycle collision. 3 people seriously injured in a tent run over by a car. 10 of 16 BLM stipulations violated, putting BM on probationary status for next year. An injury claim drives liability coverage up by a factor of 6. Featured in an article in Wired magazine. Theme camps 130+
1997 50 ft (15 m) Hualapai Playa 10,000 $65 Fertility: The Living Land The BM org. forms management structure, the DPW to meet strict permit requirements newly imposed. First year the city has grid streets and driving banned. Washoe County officials impounded gate receipts to ensure payment after the fire and protection fees along with more than 100 new fire and safety conditions are imposed before the event. Registered theme camps: 400+
1998 52 ft (16 m) Black Rock Desert 15,000 $80–$90 Nebulous Entity Burning Man returned to the Black Rock Desert although much closer to Gerlach than before. The “Nebulous Entity” was Harvey’s satirical concept of alien beings who thrive on information—who consume it but do not understand it.
1999 54 ft (16 m) Black Rock Desert 23,000 $65–$130 Wheel of Time Listed in the AAA’s RV guide under “Great Destinations.” Registered theme camps: 320
2000 54 ft (16 m) Black Rock Desert 25,400 $200 The Body First active law enforcement activity, 60 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and police arrests and citations. Most are for minor drug charges following surveillance and searches. Registered theme camps: 460
2001 70 ft (21 m) Black Rock Desert 25,659 $200 Seven Ages See Seven Ages of Man. Over 100 BLM citations and 5 arrests. Registered theme camps: 466, placed art: 150
2002 80 ft (24 m) Black Rock Desert 28,979 $135–$200 The Floating World First year for FAA approved airport. 135 BLM citations and 4 Sheriff citations. Registered theme camps: 487, placed art: 120
2003 79 ft (24 m) Black Rock Desert 30,586 $145–$225 Beyond Belief Dogs are banned for the first time. 177 BLM citations, 9 police citations, 10 arrests and 1 fatality. Registered theme camps: 504, placed art: 261
2004 80 ft (24 m) Black Rock Desert 35,664 The Vault of Heaven 218 BLM citations, some issued from decoy ‘art car’. Camps giving away alcohol subjected to state law compliance examinations and 1 arrest. Pershing County Sheriff’s office: 27 cases, 4 arrests, 2 citations. Nevada Highway Patrol: 2 DUI arrests, 217 citations, and 246 warnings were issued. Malcolm in the Middle used burning man in one of their episodes. Registered theme camps: 503, placed art: 220
2005 72 ft (22 m) Black Rock Desert 35,567 $145–$250 Psyche: The Conscious, Subconscious & Unconscious The Man, perched atop a “fun house” maze, can be turned by participants, confusing those at a distance who use it to navigate. Dream related art work. 218 BLM citations, 6 arrests and 1 fatality. Registered theme camps: 485, placed art: 275
2006 72 ft (22 m) Black Rock Desert 38,989 $185–$280 Hope and Fear: The Future The Man goes up and down reflecting a hope/fear meter. Voting stations were set up around the playa, allowing residents to cast a Hopeful or Fearful vote for the future of Man. If the vote was hopeful he would burn with his hands in the air- not- hands down. They voted hopeful- and his arms were raised till the end. 155 BLM citations and 1 arrest. Pershing County Sheriff’s office: 1 citation and 7 arrests. Nevada Highway Patrol: 234 citations, 17 arrests, and 213 warnings. Placed art: 300
2007 65 ft (20 m) Black Rock Desert 47,366 $195–$280 The Green Man The Man set on fire around 2:58 am, August 28, during full Lunar eclipse. A repeat Burning Man prankster, Paul Addis, was arrested and charged with arson, and the Man was rebuilt for regular Saturday burn. Addis pleaded guilty in May 2008 to one felony count of injury to property, was sentenced to up to four years in Nevada state prison, and was ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution. 331 BLM citations. Registered theme camps: 681, placed art: 300
2008 100 ft (30 m) Black Rock Desert 49,599 $210–$295 American Dream First year that tickets are not sold at the gate. The size and layout of the city is enlarged to accommodate a larger central playa and a longer Esplanade. Because of excessively high winds and whiteout conditions on Saturday, the burning of the Man was delayed for over an hour and a half and the fire conclave was canceled. Many longtime contributors opted out allegedly due to the chosen theme, jailing of dissenter Addis, and the founders’ rift. The perimeter of BRC extended to 9 miles. The BLM made 6 arrests and issued 129 citations. Registered theme camps: 746, placed art: 285
2009 66 ft (20 m) Black Rock Desert 43,435 $210–$360 Evolution: A Tangled Bank Tickets sold at the gate once again. As the result of some criticism, the size and layout of the city was returned to roughly the same as the 2007 event. The BLM officials said that as of noon Saturday, 41,059 people were at the festival, and the crowd peaked at 43,435 at noon Friday, a noted decline after years of steady attendance growth, due mainly to the 2008 stock market crash. BLM issued 287 citations and 9 arrests. Registered theme camps: 618, placed art: 215
2010 100 ft (30 m) Black Rock Desert 51,454 $210–$360 Metropolis: The Life Of Cities Attendance over 50,000 mark, for first time. The gate opened early, at 6 pm Sunday, for first time. Coincided with the inaugural Black Rock City Film Festival. BLM issued 293 citations and 8 arrests. Registered theme camps: 700, placed art: 275
2011 104 ft (32 m) Black Rock Desert 53,963 $210–$360 Rites of Passage According to Black Rock LLC, 27,000 tickets (all discounted tiers) were sold by midday the day following the opening of ticket sales. For the first time in Burning Man history, tickets sold out before the event on July 24, 2011.
2012 40 feet on a 50 foot base Black Rock Desert 56,149 $240–$420 Fertility 2.0 Due to the sellout of the event in 2011, the BMOrg opted for a complex multi-round, random selection system of ticket sales with a separate low income program. On January 27, BMOrg announced that the number of tickets requested in the Main Sale was around 120,000 vs the 40,000 that were available. In consequence a significant number of registrants would not be awarded tickets in the Main Sale. The Main Sale was originally planned to be followed by a secondary open sale of 10,000 tickets. However as the huge demand from the Main Sale left many veteran burners and theme camps without tickets, BMOrg opted for a “directed ticket distribution” instead, i.e. “manually redirect them to some of the vital groups and collaborations that make up Black Rock City” rather than an open sale.
2014 N/A Black Rock Desert 68,000 $380 Cargo Cult This year the theme is based on John Frum and Cargo Cults. Ticket tiers are eliminated and a flat rate price structure is adopted (except for low-income ticket program).
)'( is an iconic representation of The Man.
The effigy with fireworks immediately before being burned in 2011
Because of the variety of goals fostered by participatory attendees, known as “Burners,” Burning Man does not have a single focus. Features of the event are subject to the participants and include community, artwork, absurdity, decommodification, and revelry. Participation is encouraged.
The Burning Man event and its affiliated communities are guided by 10 principles that are meant to evoke the cultural ethos that has emerged from the event. They were originally written by Larry Harvey in 2004 as guidelines for regional organizing, then later became a universal criterion of the general culture of the multifaceted movement; these include: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy. The descriptions in quotes are the actual text:
Radical inclusion—”Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”
This was written with a broad stroke for general organizing meaning anyone is welcome to the Burning Man culture. Prerequisites for the Burning Man event are participants are expected to provide for their own basic needs and follow the guidelines stated in the annually updated event “survival guide.”
Gifting—”Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.”
Instead of cash, participants at the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert are encouraged to rely on a gift economy, a sort of potlatch. In the earliest days of the event, an underground barter economy also existed, in which burners exchanged “favors” with each other. While this was originally supported by the Burning Man organization, this is now largely discouraged. Instead, burners are encouraged to give gifts to one another unconditionally.
Decommodification—”In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.”
No cash transactions are permitted between attendees of the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert. Cash can be used for a select few charity, fuel, and sanitation vendors as follows: 
Café beverages such as coffee, chai, lemonade, etc., which are sold at Center Camp Café, operated by the organizers of the event.
Ice sales benefit the local Gerlach-Empire school system.
Tickets for the shuttle bus to the nearest Nevada communities of Gerlach and Empire which is operated by a contractor not participating in the event: Green Tortoise.
A re-entry wristband, which allows a person to leave and re-enter the event and may be purchased at the gate upon exit.
An airport use fee, payable at the airport upon first entry.
Diesel and biodiesel sold by third-party contractors
RV dump service and camp graywater disposal service.
Private portable toilets and servicing, which can be arranged with the official contractor.
Radical self-reliance—”Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.”
Because of the event’s harsh environment and remote location, participants are expected to be responsible for their own subsistence. Since the LLC forbids any commerce, participants must be prepared and bring all their own supplies with the exception of the items stated in Decommodification.
Radical self-expression—”Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.”
Participants at the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert are encouraged to express themselves in a number of ways through various art forms and projects. The event is clothing-optional and public nudity is common, though not practiced by the majority.
Communal effort—”Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.”
Participants at the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert are encouraged to work with and help fellow participants.
Civic responsibility—”We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.”
“Leaving No Trace”— “Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.”
Participation—”Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.”
Immediacy “Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”
Woman at Burning Man event
Art on the dry lake is assisted by the Artery which helps artists place their art in the desert and ensures lighting (to prevent accidental collisions), burn-platform (to protect the integrity of the dry lake bed), and fire-safety requirements are met.
Since 1995, a different theme has been created, ostensibly by Larry Harvey, for each year’s event. For 2006, the theme was Hope and Fear, and for 2007, it was The Green Man. The 2011 theme was “Rites of Passage”. The 2012 theme was “Fertility 2.0”. It determines to some extent the design of the Man (although his design and construction, while evolutionary, has remained relatively unchanged) and especially the structure on which he stands (an Observatory for “Vault of Heaven,” a Lighthouse for “The Floating World”). These themes also greatly affect the designs that participants employ in their artworks, costumes, camps and vehicles.
Burning Man primarily features outsider art and visionary art, though a great variety of art forms appear during the event. Creative expression through the arts and interactive art are encouraged at Burning Man. Numerous Theme Camps, registered and placed by the LLC, are created as event and residence centers by sizable sub-communities of participants and use extensive design and artistic elements to engage the greater community and meet the LLC’s interactivity requirements. Music, performance and guerrilla street theatre are art forms commonly presented within the camps and developed areas of the city. Adjacent to the city, the dry lake bed of Lake Lahontan serves as a tabula rasa for hundreds of isolated artworks, ranging from small to very large-scale art installations, often sculptures with kinetic, electronic and fire elements.
Artwork is generally viewed as a gift that the artist makes to the community, although art grants are available to participants from the LLC via a system of curation and oversight, with application deadlines early in the year. Grants are intended to help artists produce work beyond the scope of their own means, and are generally intended to cover only a portion of the costs associated with creation of the pieces, usually requiring considerable reliance on an artist’s community resources. Aggregate funding for all grants varies depending on the number and quality of the submissions (usually well over 100) but amounts to several percent (on the order of $500,000 in recent years) of the gross receipts from ticket sales. In 2006, 29 pieces were funded.
Various standards regarding the nature of the artworks eligible for grants are set by the Art Department of the LLC, but compliance with the theme and interactivity are important considerations. This funding has fostered artistic communities, most notably in the Bay Area of California, the region that has historically provided a majority of the event’s participants. There are active and successful outreach efforts to enlarge the regional scope of the event and the grant program. Among these is the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF).
While BRAF does not fund any installations for the event itself, it relies on the donations from the LLC for a significant portion of its funding, and does facilitate presentation of work created for the event in outside venues as well as offering its own grants for artworks that typify interactivity and other principles and traditions the event.
LEGO Truck at the 2011 Temple
Mutant Vehicles, often motorized, are purpose-built or creatively altered cars and trucks. Participants who wish to bring motorized mutant vehicles must submit their designs in advance to the event’s own DMV or “Department of Mutant Vehicles” for approval and for physical inspection at the time of the event. Not all designs and proposals are accepted. The event organizers, and in turn the DMV, have set the bar higher for what it deems an acceptable MV each year, in effect capping the number of Mutant Vehicles. This is in response to constraints imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which grants permits to hold the event on federal property, and to participants who want to maintain a pedestrian-friendly environment. Vehicles that are minimally altered, and/or whose primary function is to transport participants, are discouraged or rejected. One of the criteria the DMV employs to determine whether an application for a proposed Mutant Vehicle is approved is “can you recognize the base vehicle”. For example, if a 1967 VW van covered with glitter, dolls’ heads, and old cooking utensils can still be recognized as a VW van, it is considered to be “decorated not mutated” and is less likely to be approved. This criterion led to the exclusion of some “Art Cars”, which historically have been a staple of the event. There were over six hundred approved Mutant Vehicles at the event in 2010.
Bicycles and tricycles are popular for getting around on the dry lake. Mountain bikes are generally preferred over road bikes for riding on the dried silt, which is normally hard but becomes loose with traffic. Participants often decorate their bikes to make them unique. Since lighting on the bikes is critically important for safety at night, many participants incorporate the lighting into their decorations, using electroluminescent wire (a thin, flexible tube that glows with a neon-like effect when energized with electricity) to create intricate patterns over the frame of the bike. Every night during the festival, thousands of bikes and art cars drive around, creating a visual display similar to Las Vegas at night, except that the lights are mobile.
The 2011 Temple, built to be burned.
inside the 2011 temple
Oblique aerial photo of Black Rock City showing the familiar “C” pattern 2010
In addition to the burning of the Man, the burning of a Temple has become an activity at the event. David Best’s temple projects were ritually burned from 2000 to 2004. The tradition of participants inscribing on the surfaces of the piece has continued though all of the iterations and are usually of a highly personal nature.
2000—The Temple of the Mind
2001—The Temple of Tears
2002—The Temple of Joy
2003—The Temple of Honor
2004—The Temple of Stars
2005—The Temple of Dreams
In 2005, Best stepped aside to allow for another artist, Mark Grieve, to build his own interpretation of a Temple. Grieve’s temples were seen in both 2005 and 2006.
2006—The Temple of Hope
2007—The Temple of Forgiveness
In 2007 David Best took over the temple building duties for what he thought would be one last time. The 2007 Temple was named “The Temple of Forgiveness.” Best stated that after 2007, it was time to hand the Temple over to the community.
In 2008 the “Basura Sagrada” Temple was a collaboration of Shrine and Tucker Teutsch 3.0, built with the extensive help of their friends and the greater Burning Man community.
2009—Fire of Fires
In 2009, the “Fire of Fires” Temple for Burning Man was built in Austin, Texas.
2010—The Temple of Flux
In 2010, the Temple of Flux was designed and orchestrated by artists Rebecca Anders, Jess Hobbs and Peter (pk.) Kimelman who formed the Flux Foundation. This group was notable for drawing from a broad section of the Burning Man community, including the large-scale sound camps and other existing BM art groups. The Flux Foundation has since continued to make large-scale public art outside of Burning Man. The Temple of Flux broke from tradition and was highly abstract in nature, appearing as a series of landforms with canyon and cave-like spaces.
2011—The Temple of Transition
The 2011 Temple was the first Temple built in Reno, Nevada. The International Arts Megacrew, helmed by Chris “Kiwi” Hankins, Diarmaid “Irish” Horkan and Ian “Beave” Beaverstock returned to a more traditional style. The Temple of Transition took the form of a 120-foot tiered, hexagonal central tower, surrounded by five 58-foot tiered, hexagonal towers. The towers were vaulted and lofty, cut with a profusion of gothic style arches.
2012—The Temple of Juno
With the 2012 Temple came the return of David Best. David planned the most detailed temple he’s ever built. The Temple of Juno incorporated a large central tower with central altar space, sitting within a 150′ x 150′ walled courtyard lined with benches, accessed from four entrances. Intricately cut wooden panels and detailed shapes covered the courtyard walls as well as the interior space and altars.
Black Rock City
Black Rock City, often abbreviated to BRC, is the name of the temporary city created by Burning Man participants. Much of the layout and general city infrastructure is constructed by Department of Public Works (DPW) volunteers who often reside in Black Rock City for several weeks before and after the event. The remainder of the city including theme camps, villages, art installations and individual camping are all created by participants.
The developed part of the city is currently arranged as a series of concentric streets in an arc composing, since 1999, two-thirds of a 1.5-mile (2.4-km) diameter circle with the Man Sculpture and his supporting complex at the very center (40°47′11″N 119°12′23.40″W in 2012). Radial streets, sometimes called Avenues, extend from the Man to the outermost circle. The outlines of these streets are visible on aerial photographs.
The innermost street is named the Esplanade, and the remaining streets are given names to coincide with the overall theme of the burn, and ordered in ways such as alphabetical order or stem to stern, to make them easier to recall. For example, in 1999, for the “Wheel of Time” theme, and again in 2004 for “The Vault of Heaven” theme, the streets were named after the planets of the solar system. The radial streets are usually given a clock designation, for example, 6:00 or 6:15, in which the Man is at the center of the clock face and 12:00 is in the middle of the third of the arc lacking streets (usually at a bearing of 60° true from the Man). These avenues have been identified in other ways, notably in 2002, in accordance with “The Floating World” theme, as the degrees of a compass, for example 175 degrees, and in 2003 as part of the Beyond Belief theme as adjectives (“Rational, Absurd”) that caused every intersection with a concentric street (named after concepts of belief such as “Authority, Creed”) to form a phrase such as “Absurd Authority” or “Rational Creed”. However, these proved unpopular with participants due to difficulty in navigating the city without the familiar clock layout.
The Black Rock City Airport is constructed adjacent to the city, typically on its southern side. The airport serves a variety of aviation traffic, including private airplanes, helicopters, hot air balloons, ultralights, gliders, and skydivers.
Center Camp is located along the mid line of Black Rock City, facing the Man at the 6:00 position on the Esplanade. This area serves as a central meeting place for the entire city as well as contains the Center Camp Cafe, Camp Arctica and a number of other city institutions.
Villages and theme camps
Villages and theme camps are located along the innermost streets of Black Rock City, often offering entertainment or services to participants.
Theme camps are usually a collective of people representing themselves under a single identity. Villages are usually a collection of smaller theme camps which have banded together in order to share resources and vie for better placement.
Theme camps and villages often form to create an atmosphere in Black Rock City that their group envisioned. As Burning Man grows every year it attracts an even more diverse crowd. Subcultures form around theme camps at Black Rock City similar to what can be found in other cities.
The Burning Man event is heavily dependent on a large number of volunteers.
Safety, policing and regulations
Black Rock City is patrolled by various local and state law enforcement agencies as well as the Bureau of Land Management Rangers. Burning Man also has its own in-house group of volunteers, the Black Rock Rangers, who act as informal mediators when disputes arise between participants.
Firefighting, emergency medical services (EMS), mental health, and communications support is provided by the volunteer Black Rock City Emergency Services Department (ESD). Three “MASH”-like stations are set up in the city: station 3, 6 and 9. Station 6 is staffed by physicians and nurses working with REMSA, the Reno based ambulance provider, while Stations 3 and 9 are staffed by Black Rock City ESD personnel. While Station 3 and 9 provide emergency services and Basic Life Support, the volunteers are generally doctors, nurses, EMTs/paramedics, and firefighters. Both station 3 and 9 have a small fire engine available in addition to a smaller four-wheel drive fire suppression unit and Quick response vehicle for medical emergencies.
The airport with regular commercial service closest to the event is the Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Reno, NV, approximately a 3-hour drive. An airport spokesperson said in 2009 that 15,000 burners arrive to the event via the airport annually, making it the second-busiest time for them. In 2008 and 2009, an information desk for burners was organized in Reno airport.
San Francisco, seven hours away by car, is the nearest airport with a high volume of international service.
A section of the Playa is used for a non-permanent airport, which is set up before each event and completely erased afterward. Pilots began camping there about 1995, and once compelled to add structure, it was established in a form acceptable to the BLM in 1999 through the efforts of Tiger Tiger (Lissa Shoun) and LLC board member Mr. Klean (Will Roger). In 2009 it was recognized by the FAA as a private airport and designated 88NV. It is found on the Klamath Falls Sectional, using a CTAF of 122.9 MHz. Black Rock Unicom and the airport are operational on that frequency from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm PDT each day during the event. The runway is simply a compacted strip of playa, and is not lighted. Because of the unique air traffic and safety issues associated with the airport, pilots are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the published information and procedures at the official airport website portofentry.org. Because of the changes of the surface each year information about the airport is subject to change.
There are prepaid shuttles, originating in Reno and San Francisco, that move participants to and from the event. During the event there is also a paid shuttle between the event and the nearby towns of Gerlach and Empire. Exiting and reentering the event requires an additional fee, and is highly discouraged.
Participants also share rides and hitchhike.
Concerns regarding the “Leave No Trace” policy
Burning Man takes place in the middle of a large playa and while not inhabited by humans itself, the area around the playa is home to many animals and plants. Supporters of Burning Man point out that participants are encouraged to leave no trace (LNT) of their visit to Black Rock City (BRC) and not to contaminate the area with litter, commonly known as MOOP (Matter Out Of Place). Despite the BLM and LLC’s insistence on the practice of LNT, the amount of residual trash at the site has increased over the years,
[t]he number of items per plot in the City consistently increased over the 2006 to 2009(….) Although the observed trend was not statistically significant, regression analysis indicated that the predicted trend explained over 97% of the variance in the data.
While fire is a primary component of many art exhibits and events, materials must be burned on a burn platform. At one time, burning was allowed to take place directly on the ground of the playa, but this practice left burn scars and was discontinued. Burn scars left from 1996 (numbering 250) were finally eradicated in 2000 due to pressure from BLM Winnemucca district director Terry Reid, who was alerted to scars remaining by two of the founders of the Friends of Black Rock / High Rock (Garth Elliott & Sue Weeks). Some believe burn scars (fired clay-like playa surface) could take thousands of years to weather away. On the last day, public shared burn areas are prepared for participants to use. While Burning Man does provide instructions on how to build a Burn Platform and what not to burn, there are concerns on whether some participants do not follow these instructions to the detriment of the environment and the participants.
Even gray water is not to be dumped on the playa, and used shower water must be captured and either evaporated off, or collected and carried home with each participant. Methods used for evaporating water normally include a plastic sheet with a wood frame.
The Bureau of Land Management, which maintains the desert, has very strict requirements for the event. These stipulations include trash cleanup, removal of burn scars, dust abatement, and capture of fluid drippings from participant vehicles. For four weeks after the event has ended, the Black Rock City Department of Public Works (BRC – DPW) Playa Restoration Crew remains in the desert, cleaning up after the temporary city in an effort to make sure that no evidence of the event remains.
Burning Man and its effect on the environment
Burning Man’s carbon dioxide footprint is primarily from transportation to the remote area. The CoolingMan organization has estimated that the 2006 Burning Man was responsible for the generation of 27,000 tons of carbon dioxide, with 87% being from transportation to and from the remote location. The Sierra Club has criticized Burning Man for the “hundreds of thousands” of plastic water bottles that end up in landfills, as well as ostentatious displays of flames and explosions. We can also note the work of the Burn Clean Project.
In 2007 Burning Man’s “Green Man” theme received criticism for Crude Awakening, the 99-foot oil derrick that consumed 900 gallons of jet fuel and 2,000 gallons of liquid propane to blast a mushroom cloud 300 feet high into the sky.
In an attempt to offset some of the event’s carbon footprint, 30- and 50-kilowatt solar arrays were constructed in 2007 as permanent artifacts, providing an estimated annual carbon offset of 559 tons.
On-site photography restrictions
The terms of the Burning Man ticket require that participants wishing to use video-recording equipment (including, in practice, most digital cameras) sign over copyright in their images to Black Rock City, and forbid them from using their images for anything other than personal and private use. This has been criticized by many, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
A Burning Man spokeswoman replied that the policies are not new, were written by a former head of the EFF, were used when suing to block pornographic videos and ultimately arose from participant concerns: “We’re proud that Black Rock City (a private event held on public land) is widely acknowledged as a bastion of creative freedom. [B]ut that protection [of participants’ freedoms] does necessitate the acceptance of some general terms of engagement when it comes to cameras… EFF seems to think that anyone attending any event somehow has an absolute right to take photographs, and then to do whatever they want with those images without any effective restriction or manner of enforcement. While we believe that such rights do make sense for any of us taking pictures in purely public spaces, this is not true in the private space of Burning Man – if it were it would mean that Burning Man couldn’t protect participant privacy or prevent commercialization of imagery.”
The Burning Man organization has since worked with the EFF and with Creative Commons and other parties, and has revised and clarified the photography policies.
See also: List of regional Burning Man events
The popularity of Burning Man has encouraged other groups and organizations to hold events similar to Burning Man.
In recent years, burners wishing to experience Burning Man more frequently than once per year, without the need for travel to Nevada, or otherwise free from the specific restrictions of the Black Rock City event, have banded together to create local regional events such as SOAK in Oregon;Critical Massive near Seattle; InterFuse in Missouri; Lakes of Fire in Michigan; Element 11 in Utah, Xara Dulzura and Fuego de los Muertos in San Diego; Apogaea in Colorado; Playa del Fuego in Delaware; Firefly in New England; Burning Flipside in Texas; AuraMan in Indiana; Recompression (until 2010) & and Burn in the Forest BitF near Vancouver, British Columbia; Kiwiburn in New Zealand; Burning Seed in Australia; MooseMan in Ontario; Rebirth in Hawaii; Transformus in North Carolina; Alchemy in Georgia; Saguaro Man in Arizona; Freezer Burn between Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Korea Burn, in Gijipo Beach South Korea; AfrikaBurn in South Africa and NoWhere near Zaragoza in Spain.
Some of the events are officially affiliated with the Burning Man organization via the Burning Man Regional Network. This official affiliation usually requires the event to conform to certain standards outlined by the Burning Man organization, and to be substantially coordinated by a “Burning Man Regional Contact,” a volunteer organizer with an official relationship to the Burning Man Project via a legal Letter of Agreement. In exchange for conforming to these standards, the event is granted permission to officially advertise as a Burning Man Regional Event.
In popular culture
Malcolm in the Middle: “Burning Man,” Season 7, Series 130, the family goes to Burning Man.
Reno 911!: “Burning Man Festival,” Season 1, Episode 10. Reno Sheriffs Dangle, Jones and Junior go undercover as Burning Man participants and attempt to attend the event. They get lost trying to find it and run out of gas since they have no place to put their wallets (or badges or guns for that matter).
TEDx: “Gratitude, Gifting and Grandpa,” John Styn talks about some of the values surrounding Burning Man.
Homeland: Cory Doctorow’s 2014 novel opens at a near-future Burning Man.
Lucy, the Daughter of the Devil: “Temptasia” is centered around DJ Jesús’ trip to Burning Man for a performance.
Guy Fawkes Night