We brought you news yesterday of Burning Man’s recent presence on the front page of the Lovelock Review-Miner. Well, it seems like the Reno Gazette Journal wants to get in on the action too, showing their support today for the event with a full-page color spread.
The paper makes note of the “Renossance” term we first told you about here.
Hundreds traveled from all over the world in early April to meet in a tucked away art and event space in the Mission District of San Francisco.
A bobbing sea of top hats, fur, colored wigs and dreadlocks ebbed into rows of seats.
The room buzzed with excitement and recognition as regional representatives shared hellos, hugs and travel stories before the eighth annual Burning Man Global Leadership Conference began.
Much like the Technology, Education and Design (TED) talks and conferences, the Global Leadership Conference brings Burners together for four days to share their inspiring and innovative stories and experiences.
The goal: to continue to propel Burning Man principles, culture and artistic expression throughout the world.
“I think what Burning Man brings is an experience to enjoy life; it’s a neat journey and it has brought me outside of myself,” Boston Burner Peter Durand said. “One of the principles that resonates with me is radical inclusion. I’m a middle class, urban, white, vanilla-bread person and I surround myself with folks who have piercings, tribal tattoos, colored hair and fuzzy clothing. It pushes me because it’s all different.”
The idea for the Burning Man Regional Contact Network began in 1996 after the population of Black Rock City spiked to 8,000 people. The community aspect created at the event also left Burners feeling displaced once they returned home after a week in the desert.
They wanted to connect to one another outside of the annual event and they wanted to expose their local communities and cities to Burning Man culture.
These regional groups often base their events and regional “burns” on the 10 principles Burning Man founder Larry Harvey crafted as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture of the event. Those principles are: radical inclusion; gifting; decommodification; radical self-reliance and self-expression; communal effort; civic responsibility; leave no trace; participation; and immediacy.
“It seems like only yesterday that we wanted to be a city,” Burning Man Project education director Stuart Mangrum said at the conference. “Now, it seems like other cities want to be us.”
As a member of the Burning Man community since the 1990s, Mangrum recalled the process for determining what outside elements would be brought into Black Rock City in the Black Rock Desert.
“We had a very conscious process of thinking of the things that we wanted to take with us when we were building the city and what we wanted to leave behind,” said Mangrum, a member of the San Francisco Cacophony Society. “No one had any interest in bringing a shopping mall along, or the sports marina or performance hall. After a lot of late night discussions, bottles of wine and cigarettes, we boiled the experience down to three simple, essential items — coffee, toilets and a newspaper.”
Mangrum said that is how he was persuaded to found the playa’s first daily newspaper, the “Black Rock Gazette.”
“Here we are, 20 years later, and we are a city,” Mangrum said. “One thing that’s for sure about Black Rock City is that it’s never going to be big enough for all the people that want to be there. Demand exceeds supply for Burning Man, and I guess that’s where you guys come in and why we’re all here: how to get more Burning Man in the world.”
Throughout the past year, two Burning Man-inspired concepts have recently taken root in Reno. The first is The Generator, a community art and builder space. Then there’s the Morris Burner Hotel located on Fourth and Record streets. Both organizations gave a presentation on “Renossance” at the conference presented, showing how Burning Man has influenced growth and ingenuity in Northern Nevada.
The region is no stranger to Burning Man culture, Burners or the art and community that has sprouted out of the annual event. Tens of thousands caravan through Reno and Fernley each year on their trek to the desert.
“Reno is very much a Burner city and this is adding another level to our amazing community,” said Jim Gibson, owner of the Morris Burner Hotel. “This was an old, decrepit building, and through community involvement, we gutted it in about six months.”
The theme of what a strong Burner community can do for a city was also illustrated in The Generator executive director Matt Schultz’s talk to the conference.
“We talk about this renaissance in Reno, and I think the biggest, most important thing is this it’s not something that happened in a small city. This is fire that can catch every day in our own cities,” Schultz said. “This is something that every person in this room creates at Burning Man and we can take that collective effort and do something that will not only stun the world, but will seriously change it.”
Having attended the Burning Man Global Leadership Conference since its first year, Durand said he has seen it grow each year starting from about 60 people in an office at Burning Man headquarters.
Overall, Durand believes the focus of the conference has shifted and it’s not just about educating Burners to start regionally focused events. Instead, it’s about building leaders in communities.
“This is the really inspiring stuff and it’s here to activate and get people thinking; have people walk away saying, ‘I can do that or I should be up on stage next year,'” Durand said. “I think it really does energize people.”
From the inspiration that is created within the city walls of Black Rock City to the culture and community Burners are attempting to spread around the globe, Durand said one certainty comes out of the conference — Burning Man changes lives.
“Our innate nature is that differences are bad — that’s how we survived — we attack what we don’t know,” Durand said. “This forces me to be more open to life in a way that I had never been had I walked down the ‘normal path.’ I’m never going to space, but to be able to explore it within humanity, what I never could’ve or otherwise would’ve, is a nice thing.”
BURNING MAN REGIONAL FACTS
• There are 55-60 official Burning Man regional events each year.
• In 2013, official regional events were held in 13 countries including US, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China, Korea, Ireland, Spain, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom (London and Wales have separate events).
• The largest one is in South Africa, called AfrikaBurn, which ran April 28 to May 4. Last year, it had 8,000 participants. (www.afrikaburn.com)
• About 30 percent of official regional events on average are held outside of the U.S.
• There are currently 222 active regional contacts and meta regional contacts.
How, exactly, these regionals are going to stun and change the world… was either not on the agenda…or was reserved for late night ceremonies in underground bunkers. As Larry Harvey says “it’s a self service cult, wash your own brain”. Maybe by next year’s conference, the vision will be clearer.