Burning Man 2017 Financial Analysis, Decommodification and Flysalen [UPDATE]

Every year we bring you a look at Burning Man’s financial performance.

This year we’re also going to take a deeper look at their major assets Fly Ranch and Decommodification, LLC.

Burners.Me Previous Financial Coverage: 2012201320142015, 2016

2017 Burning Man IRS Form 990

2017 Burning Man Annual Report

Some highlights:

  • Revenue from Burning Man event $42.8 million, up over $5 million from 2016
  • Annual Surplus (Revenue less Expenses): $3,733,876
  • Donations received almost $1 million
  • salaries (including contractors) increased $2.1 million
  • Cash and receivables: $11.75 million, up from $9.5 million in 2016
  • Total assets: $27.8 million

Sales of inventory was $1,605,516. That’s a lot of ice and coffee. Ice cost $596,177.

Medical expenses were $649,000.

Their stock donation program seems to be working, with a donation of $26,517 in marketable securities.

Most of the key personnel got pay rises in 2017, though some went down:

Overall payroll including contractors is $18,703,754 = 42% of revenues.

Grants as a % of revenues = 3.8% . Note this includes the cost of building The Man, the base structure, and partial funding of Playa art projects including the Temple.

The list of grant recipients contains many familiar names.

Burners Without Borders made 4 grants, totalling $4,900. [* this is for grants outside the US and has been disputed by BWB director Breedlove. See comments. I have asked him to provide the correct information, I will add it to the post – Ed.]

The annual Artumnal gathering took in $629,404 in 2017. About $100,000 of this went to pay for the use of the facility:

2017 Fundraising Event

This is a substantial increase on 2016:

2016 Fundraising Event

Commentary

A huge thank you to A Balanced Perspective, DS and Anonymous Burner for their contributions and thoughts.

  • Artists receive less than 2% of the budget (approx $800,000)
  • Regionals receive about 4% of the budget ($1,717,766)
  • About 9% of the budget gets piled up in the bank account as cash.

Anonymous Burner says:

The art funding is constantly presented as a central tenant of the event, but is actually getting funded like an afterthought.  Artists are the face and the creativity of the core of the event, but have to carry their art on their own backs while others claim credit for making things so great for them

What does an organization trying to “make the world a better place” through art need with so much cash, into the tens of millions of dollars? Why do they spend such a tiny amount of the money given to them by Burners every year on art? Why do the ticket revenues increase 10% a year but the art budget seems to keep proportionally shrinking?

How can they justify spending $1 million a year on insurance without providing insurance for the 10,000 or so workers on site building the city, art installations and camps? Would it really kill their vision to make $3.5 million a year instead of $3.9 million, and look after their workers better?

Why does the main “charitable” organization have to spend more on the Regional Events than they give out on grants? It’s about double the art budget. Is the purpose of Burning Man to spread Burner culture around the world through art, or is it to expand their inefficient bureaucracy? Can’t the Regional events support themselves?


Population Summary (note: includes 2018)

The number of paid participants according to calculations in the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office report was 69,493.

I filed a FOIA request to get the 2017 vendor list: 84 companies selling things other than ice and coffee.

DS has also been filing FOIA requests for information about Burning Man. He was able to get this heavily redacted information for 2017, the calculations used to pay the Bureau of Land Management’s 3% fee.

Why the need for such secrecy?

The bulk of the $4,349,723 in Permits, Taxes and Fees appears to be the 9% Nevada Live Entertainment Tax. [* see comments – Ed.]


Decommodification

One of the interesting things in the 990 is the listing of “related entities”. It includes Decommodification LLC, but the share of end of year assets is $0.

Decommodification LLC is the organization that was created at the same time as the non-profit Burning Man Project, to hold all the intellectual property. As far as we can tell, it gets paid $75,000 per year in royalties from the Burning Man Project for use of their trademarks. We have no information on what other royalties it earns, for example from sales of the documentary “Spark” or the “lines around the block” Smithsonian exhibit. Google recently commissioned Burning Man to design a $2 million art installation for their campus: where does this money go? Five lucky artists will get a share, most likely the “big names” who appear in the grants list on a regular basis. Is there a royalty component to deals like this?

Decommodification LLC made two filings to the California Secretary of State on January 16, 2019. One was that “nothing has changed”, and another one requested that the company registration be canceled. It seems strange to me to file “no change” and “cancellation” notices on the same date, if anyone has knowledge of how this process works please leave a comment.

The current state of the company shows “cancelled” at the S.O.S. web site.

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, the trademarks were transferred from Decommodification LLC back to the Burning Man Project on 28 April 2018 – the day Larry Harvey passed away.

The “nunc pro tunc” is a retroactive assignment to correct an earlier ruling. Was this something to do with Larry’s estate?

What happened to the rest of the intellectual property, including the rights to future royalty streams?

Were the trademarks assigned back to the Burning Man Project for free, Decommodification LLC dissolved, and the accumulated cash of 6-7 years of royalties distributed to the members? Or was some of that $12 million cash hoard used to purchase them?

These transactions occurred in 2018, so perhaps will get covered in next year’s IRS Form 990. There is no mention of them on the Burning Man web site, despite this being perhaps the most significant thing BMorg have done since spinning off their non-profit in 2012. BMorg like to claim they’re a “leader in radical transparency”, but Decommodification Inc has always been a mysterious black box.

The 2017 Form 990 values the Burning Man Project’s intangible assets at $4.23 million, but this was before the trademark transfer. This amount first appeared on the books in 2014. We believe it represents goodwill on the acquisition of Black Rock City, LLC from the Founders.

For a good read related to Intellectual Property and Burning Man, see Culture, Capital and Copycats in a Globalizing Burnerverse by Ian Rowen, which was the keynote address at the 2018 Australia and New Zealand Burner Leadership Summit.

The “Burner Look” is not trademarked, so anyone can put an art car in a desert and appropriate our culture for “cool factor” and financial gain

Flysalen

In 2016 BMorg bought a 3800 acre parcel of land known as “Fly Ranch” with big donations and paid $6.5 million. This is why the 2016 donations were more than $8 million.

Around 42:30 in the above video, they start talking about “community ownership of land”. The communist social justice component of this vision is that “living off the land is a version of Universal Basic Income”.

Five minutes into the video, they reveal that the land has been sub-divided into 53 different parcels.

Who gets a permanent Burning Man lot? Presumably the 6 5 Founders and the millionaires who put up the $6.5 million. Will the rest be auctioned off to the highest bidder, or handed out to the most favored staff, artists, and camps? I’m tipping Dancetronauts are not on the short list.

This reminds me of an earlier post, Get Your Timeshare Slot in the Sultan. There, I postulated that the “ironic timeshare sales” brochures being handed out from a booth at the Man base was actually Burning Man’s way of bringing that in as a future reality.

The Occidental Oasis “ironic” timeshare sale was going on at the same time as very real hotel sales on Billionaire’s Row

The same thing happened with hotels, where BMorg director Chris Weitz opened an “ironic hotel” at Ashram Galactica, which paved the way for the proliferation of luxury Plug-N-Play hotel camps today.

Petit Ermitage, a boutique hotel in West Hollywood, were still advertising the pop-up Burning Man hotel they created with Cirque Gitane long after the event
People now pay up to $20,000 for hotel rooms at Burning Man with flushing porcelain toilets
Photo: Lost Hotel/Facebook

Fly Vision

Some information about the original intention for Fly Ranch is available thanks to the Wayback Machine

You can see from the plan above that the property is adjacent to another playa. Hualapai Flat is land administered by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Image: americansouthwest.net

The Bureau of Land Management is planning to dispose of some of its lands.

Source: BLM Winnemucca District Program Overview 2017, Page 7

From the January 2018 report, it looks like this deal is close to being done:

Source: BLM Winnemucca District Program Overview 2018, Page 6

Who else would want empty desert playa?


The original vision for the Fly Ranch site was a sustainable community of one acre lots for employees and affiliates, with its own airstrip. This plan talks about 9 parcels of 5 acres, each with their own access roads; and 73 parcels of 1 acre each.

Village and Residential sites

The two communities are based on Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and this will be it’s first year-round expression. Employees and affiliates may build on a ‘Homestead’ basis, or rent or buy into the Village community at the project’s north end. For others, one acre lots may be bought for home construction in the project’s central development (and separate H.O.A). These areas will be allowed to grow incrementally, with roads and utilities phased as required. Geo- thermal electricity will serve all the lighting and cooling needs of residents (and possibly the valley’s ranchers as well), and hot water will provide all heating.

Organic vegetable farming will be developed as an economic base for the village community. Geo-thermally heated greenhouse organic farming will be operated for local needs, and for transport and sale. This can supply Reno with organic vegetables throughout the year, while creating a wholly independent economy for the community.

Source: willroger.org, via Wayback Machine

Land Conservancy

Even with limited use, the grassy banks of the vernal pools are being sloughed in by bathers, the pools gradually churned into shallow mud holes. Bathers also leave tanning lotions, insect repellants, and
other contaminants behind to ill effect. The pond waters contain a species of pupfish which are isolated by the underground source and terminal outflow.

A nature preserve requires control and enforcement, accordingly this area must be properly fenced to admit access only to indigenous animals, but excluding horses or cattle which trample wetlands. Human access must be highly regulated, with trespass, hunting and public use of existing pools and hot springs banned.

Anticipating the utter destruction of too much love, together with the projected costs of controlling and insuring against increasing liability, it is suggested that a Land Conservancy that is affiliated with Burning Man be created to manage the Geyser and wetland area.

Source: willroger.org, via Wayback Machine

Restaurant, Lodge and Conference Center

Fly Lodge and Conference Center

This will epitomize the style of Fly Ranch, and become a beacon for the greater community. A restaurant, rooms and services will be available. Fly Lodge will be available for public and corporate use, while also serving as World Headquarters for Burning Man’s Regional organizations around the globe.

Source: willroger.org, via Wayback Machine

Burning Man Board Member Chip Conley’s experience with luxury boutique hotels and AirBNB would come in handy for a plan like this.


How Much For That Oasis In The Desert?

Burning Man’s balance sheet shows land, buildings and equipment of $11.9 million; net of depreciation, $9.9 million. Schedule D, Part VI lists the value of land as $7,233,545 and buildings at $979,870. In 2015, before the Fly Ranch purchase, land was $198,000 and buildings $979,780.

According to Nevada property records, Fly Ranch only cost about $2.6M. The Washoe sales records record two transactions for $2.377M and $0.240M. The water rights came under two different transactions and appear to not have specific value attached to them. The water rights transactions gave the prior owner only about 64 acre feet of water for livestock.

There were four transactions in 2016:

1)      sale of 3,381 acres that was the majority of FR,

2)      another 276 acres that was part of the FR with the geyser

These sold the mineral rights but not the water but referred to other linked sales of water rights.

3) transfer of water rights with a carve out for the prior owner for item 1).

4) transfer of water rights with a carve out for the prior owner for item 2).

Water rights in California and Nevada are fresh on my mind after all the research I did for my last podcast episode, CryptoBeast #17 – Fire, Water, Trains, Space Lasers: California Burning. It’s an arcane subject, but if you’re interested there’s a good overview here: History of Water Rights in Nevada and the Western States. This particular statement seems to be key:

Surface water rights initiated by applying water to beneficial use prior to March 1, 1905, and which have been perpetuated or continuously used through the years are known as vested water rights

The main water rights for the hot springs, Cottonwood Creek and Little Cottonwood Creek are the rare and highly coveted “vested water rights”, granted before 1905.

My source tells me that the Burning Man event draws 12 million gallons of water per year from this property (27 acre feet).


Setting Boundaries

We recently published discussion from the Washoe County Commissioner’s meeting about the possibility of redrawing district boundaries so that Burning Man would be part of Washoe County (which gets the economic benefits from event-related tourism) instead of Pershing County (which gets a massive spike in crime rates with no economic benefits).

Fly Ranch is next to Hualapai Flat. Burning Man was held at this location once, in 1997. Hualapai Flat is where Pershing, Washoe, and Humboldt Counties meet. Fly Geyser is in Washoe County.

Is the proposed Washoe Boundary move related to long-standing plans to purchase Hualapai Flat? Is BMorg sitting on $4 million from the Fly Ranch donations to acquire this land?

I guess time will tell.


[Update Feb 7, 2019 2:11pm]

The plot thickens, with this post saying that Burning Man was under contract to purchase Fly Ranch in 2009, and real estate developer Build SF helped organize their corporate restructuring to provide “personal financial security” for the 6 Burning Man founders.

In 2009, the BUILD partners were introduced to Larry Harvey and his partners at the Burning Man Organization. Burning Man was in contract to acquire a 4,000-acre ranch in the Nevada desert on which they planned to move the annual Burning Man event as well as develop a desert art center. 

BUILD facilitated a transaction that allowed Burning Man to adjust its corporate structure, manage tax requirements, protect trademarks, establish a permanent office, and provide personal financial security for the six Burning Man partners. Real estate provided an elegant solution for these complex, multi-dimensional challenges, while preserving and honoring the basic precepts of Burning Man. We are proud of the part we played as advisors to Burning Man in establishing a clear path and solid foundation for everyone’s long-term benefit, including the event itself.

I have another trusted source who drew the “intellectual property in a separate company” structure on a napkin for CEO Maid Marian. I will ask their opinion on this.

[Update Feb 13. 2019 4:06pm]

Breedlove head of BWB has updated us with some more detail:

It’s interesting to see the difference between Part III 4c & Schedule F Part 1. I don’t quite understand how they split the difference between those two sections.

What I can provide you with is that we gave 4 grants through our Civic Ignition Process coming out at 4,900$ and 21 grants through our Annual Community Micro-Grant Program coming out at 18,800$. Between the two programs that totaled $23,700.
(https://www.burnerswithoutborders.org/projects/bwb-community-grant-winners-2017)

We also provided grants for Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief at $21,317.12

There was also a series of Fiscal Sponsor funds that were raised and given out. One of those being the $30,363 for the Camp Epic Santa Rosa Fire Relief (which is in one of your screenshots above)— but I don’t have the ability to pull up all those numbers at this time.

I’m also realizing while going through my data that it isn’t the easiest to find some of this stuff unless you know where to look. So taking a note on improving our reporting systems for the future– I appreciate the opportunity to look at how we can do better at reporting in a more transparent and better to find way.

What Ever Happened To Flysalen?

Last year, BMorg announced with their usual great fanfare that they had raised $6.5 million from wealthy private donors, some of them anonymous, to purchase Fly Ranch.

A Permanent Autonomous Zone. Or, rather, a Semi-Permanent Autonomous Zone: SPAZ.

What were they going to do with the SPAZ? They didn’t know, but they were going to consult Burners.

Our process will require a balance of playfulness and seriousness, planning and spontaneity, group work and individual contributions. As you may notice, every time we learn something, it usually leads to several more questions. While we discuss our values as part of a long-term vision and project, our current planning is focused on the short term. Many of our goals are things we hope to achieve in the next 12 months. We need to focus on gathering and sharing valuable information and developing the tools to support a long term planning dialogue. Once we have reached that point, and are equipped with the tools we need, then we can begin a conversation about what Fly Ranch will become.

A quick summary of what we’re hoping to accomplish within this 12-month timeline, roughly in this order:

  • Spend time on the land and in Gerlach and Empire, surveying the environment.
  • Establish security plan and protocols for the property to dissuade trespassing.
  • Begin small nature walks in partnership with Friends of Black Rock High Rock.
  • Develop ‘Town Hall Kit’ for community leader hosted conversations and feedback sessions.
  • Engage with the community online, on calls, in person, and in Black Rock City.
  • Write a series of posts detailing our planning and ask for feedback.
  • Develop project management software, community engagement tools, and interactive maps.
  • Establish a Fly Ranch mission statement and concrete operational goals for 2018-2019.

[Source]

Well, it’s been 14 months now of playfulness and spontaneity. How much of this has materialized?

Series of posts:

We Bought Fly Ranch June 10 2016

What’s In A Gift – The Making of Fly Ranch July 21 2016

Making Sense of Fly Ranch Aug 9, 2017 – Part 1 of 5-part series

Town Hall Kit: nothing comes up in a Google search for this

Mission statement: not on web site (but a Donation button sure is!)

Concrete operational goals: unknown

There have also been a couple of private posts from BMorg Board members Ping Fu and Chip Conley.

Yep, that’s it. A few blog posts. Even I have done more than that to advance the philosophical values of Burning Man in the world over the past year, and nobody donated $6.5 million here.

400 acres of the 3800 were 3-d mapped by a volunteer with a drone:

No offense to the video maker, but this doesn’t exactly seem like an enormous contribution to the future of Burning Man culture all around the world. Whatever happened to Burning Man Earth?

All in all, this is not very much to write home about. I thought Burners were creative and self-reliant, that this was an experiment in new ways of living together as a community – A Permanent Utopia made up of the best and brightest of tech, the arts, advertising, and finance industries? Sadly, the most recent post (last week) still says absolutely nothing about Burning Man’s plans for the site. There’s fences, there’s deer and rabbits and coyotes, there’s hot water from past drilling explorations, there are signs of people using the hot springs. OK, cool – glad we could work that out in 14 months. How are we making the world a better place?

3000 people have signed up wanting to get involved. Most of them are interested in the Arts and Events; the smallest participation category is Philanthropy.

In the coming months and years (because honestly, projects of this magnitude take time), there will be many opportunities to participate in visioning the future of Fly Ranch. We will need your time, energy, expertise, and ideas. Of course this project will also need financial support to realize and explore new ideas, if you feel inspired to contribute to Fly Ranch, you can always donate to the project.

This project will unfold over a long timeline, but to give you a sense of what we re working on these days, we’re currently:

  • Mapping out what limits our Ag Zoning sets on our activities and the process for changing that
  • Researching the impacts of federally protected horses, two dams, and limitations with our water rights
  • Hosting small trips for our office staff who have never been, and doing three community events on the playa
  • Researching tools for decision-making and collaboration and making a more precise roadmap for 2018 and beyond
  • Researching and building mobile composting toilets
  • Discovering and cataloging all man made (and left) objects on the property
  • Doing important outreach and relationship building in Gerlach and the surrounding area

As of June 2017, we’ve had almost 3,000 people sign up to get involved with the project through our Participation page. You can see a breakdown of their areas of interest here:

Surely SOME of these thousands of Burners might have had ideas about what we could do with the SPAZ. If they did, I guess none of them were worth talking about. Maybe that will be “coming soon” in the next 4 out of 5 posts in the series.

According to the official Flysalen web site, as “early” as Fall 2017 (ie. next month), interested Burners will be able to go on nature walks with the Friends of Black Rock in groups of up to 20 at a time. There is nothing about this on the FOBR web site, so like everything else in the BJ, we just have to take BMorg’s word for it.

Their newsletter editions are confusingly detached from their publication dates – is this by accident, or design? 6 months ago they said:

We’re also getting ready to expand on the Community Engagement Conversations that we held at Red Lightning camp last year in Black Rock City, and will be engaging in the next phase of community dialogue at both the European Leadership Summit in Stockholm and the Burning Man Global Leadership Conference in Oakland.

We’re planning to take what we learn from these facilitated public conversations and develop a toolkit for Regional Contacts and passionate community members to begin holding their own conversations to explore what people find most exciting about the endless opportunities of a year-round venue for Burning Man. 

A Toolkit to have conversations about what people find exciting! Wow. Of course, they’re still working on it. Either they didn’t have the facilitated public conversations, or they didn’t learn anything from them, or they weren’t able to encapsulate that learning in a toolkit. Whatever the reason, we’re not yet ready for passionate community members to begin holding conversations on their own about the SPAZ.

How long does it take for a Silicon Valley organization to research collaboration tools? Installing Slack takes a couple of minutes. You need help, bra? Isn’t Burner Billionaire Dustin Mosckowets part of your brains trust? HOW CAN WE COLLABORATE WITHOUT SOFTWARE FFS!!!!!

Image: Sabo

In the past, videos from the Global and European Leadership conferences were shared online. No more. I guess Radical Community Engagement works best when the dialogue is hidden from the community, without any opportunity to comment. Or maybe they’re still getting ready to have the conversations, 14 months just wasn’t enough preparation time for the Org to talk to Burners.

Ahhh, yes. Transparency. Wouldn’t that be nice!

Fortunately, last year’s sessions at Red Lightning camp that left everybody engaged and inspired were filmed, so they could be shared.

Screenshot 2017-08-15 09.27.57

[Source]

That was last October.  We were in luck! Did the luck run out? Maybe nobody applied, or maybe nobody on the 100+ year-round Burning Man staff is able to edit videos and upload them to the Burning Man YouTube channel. You’d think with $40 million of Burner ticket money every year, and 80,000+ devoted Ten Principles followers looking to participate, they could find a way.

Screenshot 2017-08-15 09.24.18

[Source]

Governmental agencies. They’re focused on listening. Got it.

Last year, they took a small number of hand-picked groups of ultra-VIPs on private tours during the Burn:

All together about 250 guests visited Fly Ranch before, during, and after this year’s event, and were careful to tread lightly on the land. Groups remained small (fewer than 20 at a time), utilized only pre-designated walking paths, and upheld our community ethic of Leave No Trace every step of the way.

One of them was Burn.Life’s Dr Yes, who reported that the project is being heavily influenced by Esalen and Stewart Brand’s Long Now Foundation. They also took Burn After Reading mag’s Jesse “Sprocket” Janusee, who was moved to tears by the experience. Halcyon was so shocked by the journey that it turned his famous “Pink Jesus” hair white:

If you’re not one of the lucky VIPs to get a naked hot springs dip as a reward for your enthusiastic servitude to the Org, perhaps you might like to attend these sessions on-Playa this year and report back to the group. Or just donate: $6.5 million goes pretty quick in the remote desert. We need more to fuel this amazing vision, we are making the world a better place nobody has ever seen anything like this TRANSFORMATION Project. 3 blog posts, wow. Send money now!

 

Dream Big, Or Go Home

So far the most exciting announcement about Burning Man 2015 is not the $800 VIP tickets, or the “chumps and suckers” circus theme…it’s Big Imagination, who are going to bring a 747 Jumbo Jet as their art car.

747 cad drawing

This is surely the most ambitious project ever on the Playa. As we were packing up at the end of Cargo Cult, I heard a rumor that there was a plan to bring an art car that required 100 crew. I dismissed it at the time as bullshit – “what art car needs 100 crew? A cruise ship?” – but some rumors are indeed true, and this is very real.

3 stories tall, 4 buses wide, half a football field long, on 18 squishy wheels, able to carry more than 300 people. And it moves.

747Ken is one of the main instigators of the vision, and he’s someone who knows what he’s doing. He designed the very popular Charlie the Unicorn art car, and was part of the Robot Heart team.

I’m the knucklehead who dreamed up this crazy idea.

My Playa background was being a workerbee on Robot Heart from 2008-11, then I designed and built Charlie the Unicorn (with a lot of help). In the default world I have a varied background but experience in managing large, complex projects from aerospace to film.

Charlie The Unicorn. Image: Jun/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Charlie The Unicorn. Image: Jun/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Big Imagination Foundation is a arts and education non-profit. Specifically, the mission is to incubate and support projects that bold, inspiring, and visionary. We’re purposely trying to stay flexible on our first project.

As for why this big thing? I sketched this out on the Playa dust in 2009. I swore I would never do another art car after Charlie unless it was truly epic. When I found out we could get our hands on a scrap 747, welllll, it was just too good of a chance to pass up. Once in a lifetime, right? I’m not necessarily shooting for the “biggest” just because. We could do a plane-oriented project much easier with a smaller fuselage. However, the 747 is iconic, and that upper deck is spectacular. When this baby rolls down the playa, peoples minds are going to melt. [Source: Reddit]

Truly epic is right – my mind has melted already. If you have the resources, better to do something like this and share it with everyone, than sell exclusive hotel rooms with porcelain toilets to VIP guests who hand out a few popsicles.

The top of the plane will be cut open to make an outdoor lounge.

The latest design...the "mohawk look" is gone

The latest design…the “mohawk look” is gone

Despite what some Internet armchair pundits have speculated, they will not actually be flying a 747 onto the Playa. The aircraft will be chopped up and moved by truck from the Mojave Desert airplane boneyard. The route has already been surveyed for the length they are considering.

A couple of years ago, I stopped to get gas in Inglewood, Los Angeles. If you’re familiar with LA, or hip-hop music, you know that Inglewood is not exactly Beverly Hills. “The hood” would be one way to describe it. So when I saw 3 helicopters hovering above me, I was somewhat concerned. A crazed shooter on the loose, perhaps? Then I noticed thousands of people lining the freeway overpasses. What was going on? As it turned out, the Space Shuttle had been retired, and Endeavour was being towed through the streets to its resting place at the California Science Center. How did they get the Space Shuttle to LA? On the back of a 747. That’s how big this aircraft is, Space Shuttles ride on top of it.

Space Shuttle Endeavour being carried to LA on a 747. Image: Nasa HQ / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Space Shuttle Endeavour being carried to LA on a 747. Image: Nasa HQ / Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Space Shuttle caused quite a scene on the streets of LA. Image: J Jakobson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Space Shuttle caused quite a scene on the streets of LA. Image: J Jakobson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A full size Boeing 747 is 231 feet long, and its wings are 196 feet wide. Its fuselage is 32 feet high and the tail section reaches to 63.5 feet. The aircraft weighs just under 200 tons without fuel or passengers – more than enough to sink into the Playa.

This is not quite full size. They are not bringing the 4 engines, the wings, or the tail section – not to mention all the wiring, hydraulics and seats that will be removed. They will chop the Jumbo’s fuselage at 120 feet, about half the total length. In the future they may turn the tail section into another art car, able to move independently and perhaps “form like Voltron” when the 2 art cars get together at the same event. The cut-down Jumbo will weigh 55,000 lbs, which is about the same as a semi-trailer. The fuselage width is 21.3 feet, as opposed to a standard semi-trailer width of 8.5 feet and a road lane width of 12 feet. The 747 will take up 2 lanes of road for the nearly 500 mile journey between the Airplane Boneyard at the Mojave Air and Space Port (CA) to Black Rock City (NV). All care and consideration is being given to the necessary permits for transportation, and minimizing impact on the Playa. They have a moving company that has been “hauling big ass structures for years”.

A 747 dwarfs regular commercial airliners

A 747 dwarfs regular commercial airliners. Image: Airliners.Net (via Kampungkai)

Big Imagination are considering a variety of options for moving the thing around at Burning Man, including towing it behind an aircraft tug. One spokesperson for the DMV has said that the tug needs to be a mutant vehicle too, it can’t just be a stock airport vehicle. Safety third! It would be a shame if this wonderful project was green-lit by the BLM but got killed by BMOrg’s bureaucracy. Big Imagination have been speaking to the DMV and seem to have support at the right levels.

An airport tug is not exactly a small vehicle. Image: Christian Junker/Flickr (Creative Commons)

An airport tug is not exactly a small vehicle. Image: Christian Junker/Flickr (Creative Commons)

I have complete faith that these guys know what they’re doing and can pull this off. Hat’s off to Big Imagination: it will undoubtedly be the greatest thing Burning Man has ever seen, and will be the place to party at Carnival of Mirrors. Expect massive amounts of press coverage – it has started already, with stories in Mixmag, Gigwise, Bangin Beats,  Music Times, Cool Hunting, YourEDM, Dancing Astronaut, EDM Tunes, Less Than 3, EDM Nations, EDM SaucePulse RadioFestival Sherpa, Fest300…and skeptics at Airliners.Net and Yahoo Answers.

They are looking for volunteers in LA (and possiby Tucson) to help them out – that’s the “100 crew”. Get involved at bigimagination.org. Support the project with a donation.

The non-profit Big Imagination arts foundation has a broader vision than just a week’s partying in the desert:

YOU CAN CREATE ANYTHING IN YOUR MIND WITH YOUR IMAGINATION.  OUR QUESTION TO YOU IS WHAT HAVE YOU DREAMED OF?  WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BUILD?  HOW CAN YOU MAKE IT A REALITY?

WE BELIEVE YOU CAN. WE BELIEVE IN YOU! HUMANS ARE INCREDIBLE.

OUR MISSION IS TO INCUBATE AND SUPPORT PROJECTS THAT ARE BOLD, INSPIRING, AND VISIONARY. THESE PROJECTS INCLUDE A WIDE RANGE OF DISCIPLINES; FROM THE ARTS AND SCIENCES TO ENGINEERING AND HUMANITIES, AND SHOULD ALSO INCORPORATE COMPONENTS OF COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY.

747 pic 3

Here are some further comments from Big Imagination about the project:

Zero wristbands…We are focused on “radically inclusive exclusivity”. Everything will be First Class and top shelf, and everyone is invited. No private events, no “hot chicks only”, no “we don’t know you”. Hey, we WANT to know you. As long as we’re safe and not too full, everyone is welcome. And we should have plenty of space…

I spoke with the BLM this morning.  They said there are zero restrictions on weight and as long as the DMV/BORG give us the green light, we’re fine…this plane has been completely gutted.  No seats, no hydraulics, lots of wiring out, I could go on and on.  The heaviest parts left are the wingbox and and the rear landing gear.  I’d be stunned if we tip the scales over 70,000 lbs. Just to give you an idea, when the front 80′ are scrapped (section 1200 forward, I believe), it comes out to about 30,000 lbs of aluminum and such.  We’re going to section 1480, which includes the wing box and gear.  

We won’t be leaving marks any more than anyone else…

We’re aiming to drive around deep playa but could come into closer to the space between center camp and the man if a single spire of each 3,6&9 o clock trail is removed. That way, we could have a path to drive into the circle…

The 747 is a substantial upgrade to previous aviation-themed art cars.

Black Rock Air Force F-15. Image: Fest300

Black Rock Air Force F-15. Image: Ranger Twilight/Fest300

 

Playa One. Image: Sick Dog/Facebook

Playa One. Image: Sick Dog/Facebook

Playa One at sunset. Image: James Santos/Facebook

Playa One at sunset. Image: James Santos/Facebook

Radical Stagnation: A Call for Creativity

Chris Colley at Justburnus has written a great op-ed about where Burning Man is today. He also offers some ideas for the future, something I think this community needs to hear more of.

It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here are some highlights:

image from justburnus

image from justburnus

There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about how Burning Man is changing, about how it is expanding across the globe. The people who own Burning Man spoke loudly and proudly about a great change as they moved Burning Man to what was to be a non-profit. The spoke about how the regionals were the future of the burn. They lauded the actions of Burners Without Borders and Black Rock Arts Foundation as things that would spread burner culture. But through all of this, not much has changed on any front.

Burning Man seems like it is on autopilot. That might not reflect well on it, as the organizers seem to tout the fact that it is cutting edge and constantly innovating. But, even with this apparent slowdown in creative ideas it seems that Burning Man has been very financially successful. Just how that is so is a bit more complicated than “burning man is fun.”

…The hopes for this wonderland were peaked when it was announced in 2011 that burning man was going to transform in to a non-profit. There was talk about gifting burning man back to the community (though the founders now claim this didn’t happen). There was talk about a year round art center for burners near the event site in northern Nevada. There was talk about more money going to art. But, here we are in 2014 with the transition complete and not much of anything has happened. The new non-profit has done essentially nothing. Meanwhile the event is still arguably for-profit, as the tickets are sold by a for-profit LLC, and a for-profit LLC owns all of the intellectual property.

The only thing innovative the organizers have done in the past few years was in an office with their accountants and lawyers. A lot of hope for the future which they hyped went up in smoke.

During this recent period we’ve seen the embrace of for-profit operations running at burning man itself, a divisive issue in the community. The founders OK’d selling all-inclusive packages on-site. We’ve seen the ever growing amount of big dollar corporate media projects (the recent Spark film has been sold by amazon, itunes, netflix, microsoft, sony, and available on ShowBox). A founder said that Rolling Stone magazine and Vogue magazine were asked to pay $100,000 fees to make photographs at the event. With all of these ventures the organizers of burning man get a cut of the proceeds. But, little to nothing ever comes of that money which comes in.

It seems a shame that at a time of apparent unprecedented profit and success for the business that little seems to be going back in to it. The infrastructure has been mostly the same for the past 15 years. The organizers still refuse to fully fund any art pieces but The Man (3.5% of the projects at burning man get a small stipend which doesn’t cover the projects total cost).

…Imagine a burning man with a vastly different layout each year, where you couldn’t always predict that your neighbor camp was going to be next to you, because the organizers don’t even know what the city would look like next. Imagine a burning man where the art was more well integrated in to the city itself, by the organizers themselves, who paid top dollar for amazing creations that the community would have difficulty funding and achieving

Read the whole piece here.

Creativity, fun, and helping others are a great start. What other principles and ideals do you think are important? We could do so much better. Let’s mix it up a bit.

 

Big Art That Will Blow Your Mind

Fest300 have published a story on some of this year’s larger art installations.

We’ve covered some of these already:

Embrace Embrace

Temples, Temples, Everywhere

Temple Deal Falls Through

2014 Art Grant Winners Announced

Temple Debacle Highlights Hypocrisy

The only one that will actually get burned this year is David Best’s Temple of Grace.

______________________________

Re-blogged from Fest300:

 

BIG ART THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND AT BURNING MAN 2014

Article by: 
Published: July 15, 2014
Photo by: Josh Haywood

Soon the desert will bloom with art. Like a lunar cactus that only flowers once a year, the Black Rock Desert will blossom with the weird, wild, and wonderful during Burning Man. Here are a few art projects we are excited to see, and you can contribute to their success.

The Embrace by the Pier Group

The Embrace   By The Pier Group

From the artists who imagined a sand-locked shipwreck comes an enormous Embrace  fit for those fleeting Playa moments that seem eternal.

“It’s planned to be a space where people can sit, reflect, look up, feel the wind through the sculpture, and think about life and love,” says Matt Schultz, the project’s lead artist.

The sculpture is a monument to relationships, both present and past. Schultz’s stepfather died unexpectedly in 2011, and the persistent feeling of absence inspired Schultz to reflect on the moments in relationships when people know they are loved.

Embrace is also meant to explore the idea of collective consciousness, the shared beliefs and ideas that unify a society. To this effect, each of the figures’ heads will be accessible by spiral staircase and will each hold about 20 people, who will have a view out to the other head, the event, and the expansive desert. This design feature is intended as a metaphor for shared experiences and viewpoints.

You can help.

The Temple of Grace by David Best

Grace 400

One of the most renowned temple artists is no stranger to Burning Man. After the proposed Temple of Descendants got sidelined, David Best stepped up again. Known for his masterpieces The Temple of Juno, The Temple of Forgiveness and others, this prolific temple artist is very loved by Burners.

“The Temple of Grace is intended to be a spiritual and sacred space for memorials, reflection, celebration, and to commemorate life transitions. It is the latest in a long line of temples going back to 2000, which started the tradition of the temple built as a spiritual center for this art festival. It is a special work of art given to the community, and is a spiritual refuge where thousands gather, each to engage with it in his or her own way. The community comes to write their memorials and place tokens of their transitions, and it is burned at the end of the festival in a tradition of releasing them by the immolation of the temple.”

Contribute here.

Paha’oha’o by Kahai Tate

The Volcano

Sacrifice yourself in a giant volcano slide. You are a virgin no more. And this fire god approves when you hurl your flesh into the fire.

“The Hawaiian translation of Paha’oha’o is transformation,” as described by Indiegogo. “Transform into something more beautiful or elevated. In Hawaii, eruptions are viewed as beneficial, as acts of creation, and Hawaiians often see their lives mirrored in the level of volcanic activity.”

Get involved.

The Celestial Mechanica by Jessica Welz

Celestial Mechanica2

In our minds it’s the Dark Crystal meets Playa in this universal installation. Celestial Mechanica  will allow its participants to travel to a whimsical world that is our own world. You have not seen our world in this way and you will be amazed. It is a kinetic mechanical representation of our own solar system. By just walking a few steps one can travel great expanses and explore this amazing place; you are the spaceship.

Participate.

Pulse and Bloom by Shilo Shiv Suleman, Saba Ghole, and Rohan Dixit

Pulse And Bloom

Synchronize your heartbeat with up to 25 other burners with a mechanical reactive lotus flower garden.

Pulse and Bloom is an interactive art installation that visualizes the heartbeats of participants with the hope of syncing human heartbeats in a rhythmic pattern,” says the artists. “Composed of 25 mechanical lotuses arranged in a circular matrix shape with LED lights embedded inside each lotus, Pulse and Bloom is activated when individual participants physically interact with a lotus. Each lotus is equipped with a pulse sensor that, when pressed by a participant, translates their heartbeat into flashing LED lights within the lotus. As more people begin to interact with the different lotuses, visualizing their heartbeats in flashing lights, we will begin to see the effects of each person’s heartbeat on the other and the effect of meditative synchronicity unfold.”

Hayam Sun Temple by Josh Haywood

Temple Of The Sun

sun temple for Burners and sun worshippers—sometimes the beauty is in the details.

As Josh describes it: “‘Hayam’: a filigree temple of light and shelter, a spiritual retreat resting lightly on the Playa, a tiny tessellated palace named for love and open to the sky, a miniature caravanserai to welcome the weary traveller.

The Hayam embodies the spirit of Islamic geometry: intricately interwoven patterns and repeating themes that speak of infinity. Geometry is the language of the universe; in the very small the infinite can be found.”

Hybycozo by Serge Beaulieu and Yelena Filipchuk

Hybycozo

Beautiful, golden, laser-cut 3D shapes will form in the desert sands of Burning Man. In the artists’ words: “Much like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, these sculpture are meant to provide a map and a definitive set of instructions for interacting with a reality as subjective as plans to destroy the earth to build a hyperspace bypass may seem. We hope each Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone will amaze and inspire all beings that it comes into contact with it.” We have a feeling they will.

Donate here. 

Coup de Foudre Musical Lightning by Matt Faulkner and David Brown

The Tesla Coil

Stuff we love: giant Tesla coils and lightning bolts you can dance under. Enough said.

Here’s how Matt Faulkner describes the work: “Coup de Foudre is a large-scale electrical art piece for Burning Man 2014. Drawing on recent Tesla coil innovations, Coup de Foudre will produce large (10 foot) arcs of lightning that can be modulated to produce sound and respond to music. An idiom for love at first sight that translates literally to bolt of lightning, Coup de Foudre seeks to evoke awe for beautiful and dangerous forces.”

Support this project.

The Vulvatron by the Clitterati


The Vulvatron is a mobile art piece designed by a group of female artists in San Francisco.

“The Vulvatron is an interactive, immersive environment that celebrates the female experience in us all. Through an immersive multi-media experience, the Vulvatron explores the feminine identity and acts as an advocate for feminist issues. The project’s form is inspired by the often politicized and stigmatized vulva. There are two 20’ tall projection screens in the shape of labia. Our video artists will project images on these that are evocative of the feminine – human forms, elements, abstract geometric shapes, and so on. In addition, people will be able to stimulate the lighting effects of the Clitoris by touching sensors located within the installation.”

Help make it happen.

For more incredible projects and ways to support them, check out the full list of 2014 Burning Man Honorarium Art Installations