When the Man burns in Black Rock City, Burning Man staff members traditionally stand together as a group, chatting, smiling, and hugging as they celebrate another year’s successful effort to facilitate the creation and continuation of this phenomenal experiment in community and culture that we all enjoy. Many of those personnel congratulated one another in 2012 for surviving one of the most turbulent years in Burning Man’s history.
In 2012, one word was used much more than any other inside the Burning Man organization and across the community: tickets. After Burning Man tickets sold out for the first time ever in 2011, organizers responded to the anticipated demand for the 2012 event with a new ticketing plan designed to level the playing field for buyers, eliminating the mad scramble land-rush for tickets in previous years’ open sales. The random selection technique that was used has major unforeseen effects. Specifically, amusement parks, art teams, mutant vehicle crews, and infrastructure volunteers discovered that large percentages of their critical personnel were left without tickets.
Burning Man staffers worked hard to understand the situation as quickly as possible, and devised solutions once the nature of the problems became clear, taking necessary steps to ensure the stability of Black Rock City’s core infrastructure — always with an eye toward what would best serve the most members of our community. The ticket crisis had an influence on every area in the Burning Man organization, as you’ll see throughout this report, yet everyone stepped up big time to cope with the aftermath. The Ticketing Department Afterburn Report has a detailed summary of the ticket problem and how it played out.
Because of the rising popularity of Burning Man in general, as well as more visibility on social media and in the mainstream media, a substantial number of first-time Burners planned to visit the Black Rock Desert in 2012. According to our studies, up to 35% of participants were first-timers, compared to a regular range of 20-25%. There was widespread anxiety in the community that these newbies would not “get it,” would “do it wrong,” and that Burning Man as we know it would be destroyed as a consequence. Burning Man’s Communication Department responded with a series of communications campaigns aimed at acculturating first-timers (and veterans), including a redesigned Survival Guide with a brand new mobile friendly version and targeted messaging about trash, traffic, and other hot-button Black Rock City issues. Additionally, members of the Burning Man community stepped up throughout the year to acculturate first-timers by conducting well-attended “Newbie Orientations.” We’re happy to report that Black Rock City did fairly well in the end, demonstrating that Burning Man’s culture is robust and that the community can accept newcomers without losing its core character. On the playa, participants built a record amount of art installations for Black Rock City – over 360 spectacular works dotted the open areas within the city’s perimeter, 44 of which were honoraria supported in part by $700,000 in art grants generated from ticket proceeds. 34 of these projects were part of the Circle of Regional Effigies (CORE), which were created by teams drawn from Burning Man’s Regional Network, placed around the Man, and burned simultaneously on Thursday night of the event — possibly the largest coordinated simultaneous burn anywhere, ever. David Best returned to build the Temple of Juno, an enormously beautiful and detailed classical temple building that served as a location for Burners to commemorate and grieve those (or that) they’d lost — or hoped to rediscover. Kate Raudenbush (“Star Seed”), the Flux Foundation (“Zoa”), Matt Schultz (“Pier 2”), Dadara (“Transformoney Tree”), Zach Coffin (“The Universe Revolves Around YOU”), Laura Kimpton and Mike Garlington (“EGO”), and Otto von Danger (“Occupy Wall Street”) were among the other returning artists. Their contributions, as well as those of other artists, are an important element of the artistic canvas on which Burning Man’s culture is played out, and we are eternally grateful to them and their teams. Mutant vehicles – art automobiles so amazing that they look as mobile sculptures wandering the playa — have gradually become the stars of Black Rock City’s creative exhibition. Every year, mutant vehicle crews outdo themselves and each other, drawing on previous experience and creating even more bizarre and jaw-dropping inventions that serve as Black Rock City’s public transit system. It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind sight to see them all gathered at once around the Man on Burn Night.
Burning Man’s Department of Public Works (DPW) expanded to suit the city’s growing population, and despite 2012 being one of the dustiest years on record (due to inadequate winter rainfall), worked tirelessly to create Black Rock City’s infrastructure. After everything was said and done, the Playa Restoration crew restored the desert to its pristine state after more than 56,149 (our highest population on Friday) people came and gone, guaranteeing that we continue to be the world’s biggest Leave No Trace event.
Burning Man increased its efforts to share the ethos and principles of Burning Man with the world in 2012, with the intention to cement ours as a global cultural movement. The new Burning Man Project non-profit started the hard work of developing the administrative and operational infrastructure needed to get their ambitious mission under full steam. At the same time, the Project is formalizing its planning, developing program initiatives in the realm of the arts, civic involvement, social enterprise, education and more. If you’d like to get involved, we encourage you to learn more at http://www.burningmanproject.org.
Meanwhile, the Black Rock Arts Foundation, Black Rock Solar, and Burners Without Borders continue to make significant contributions to the realization of the Burning Man concept via their own non-profit activities.
This year, the Man stood atop the Pavilion, Burning Man’s last — and maybe most stunning — building created by Burning Man’s long-time city planner and architect Rod Garrett. Rod died soon before the 2011 festival, and his impact will be felt by everyone who ever gets the chance to visit Black Rock City. In the Burning Man organization, his vision, ability, and originality are much missed.
The conflagration generated the hottest Man burn to date when the Man burnt in Black Rock City on Saturday night. The crew, who had gathered around the inner circle’s edge, were forced to flee due to the severe heat. They regrouped at a safe distance and returned their attention to the smoking Man and the large community of participants — both in Black Rock City and abroad — who had come together in the co-creation of this revolutionary cultural experiment known as Burning Man.
We invite you to read each of the individual accounts in this Afterburn, as each one gives a picture of the work that go into creating not just Black Rock City, but Burning Man culture throughout the globe. Whether it’s the Art Department, Community Services, Technology, Administration, Communications, DPW, or Playa Safety, these people work tirelessly to make Burning Man a reality – you may be shocked at what you discover.
Thank YOU, Burners, for everything you do.