Burning Man


Name of Group: Burning Man

Other Names of Group: Black Rock City, LLC.; “the Burn”; Decompression

Related Organizations: The Burning Man Project (the non-profit group which the current organization is transitioning into); the Regional Network; the disaster relief group Burners Without Borders; Black Rock Arts Foundation; Black Rock Solar.

Estimated Membership: 100,000 plus (if one accounts for all those who attend “the burn” plus all of those in the regional groups). The annual festival is limited with a ticket cap of about 61,000 people, and has begun to sell out since 2011.

Symbols: A line drawing of a man with his arms upstretched and with a diamond shaped head.

Website: www.burningman.com

Headquarters: San Francisco, CA.

Meeting Places: The annual burn held the week before Labor Day takes place on “the playa” (a dusty, alkaline lakebed) in the Black Rock Desert in southwestern Nevada, where tens of thousands gather to participate in an experiment in art, community, and spirituality. A temporary city in the shape of a large horseshoe is erected for one week and then disappears. “Regional burns” and their associated “decompression” events (held a few days after the annual events) are held in dozens of cities on five continents.

Year Began: 1986

Founders: Larry Harvey (1948 - ) and Jerry Jones are credited with being the builders of the first Man, but Michael “Flash” Hopkins claims a founding role.

Current Leadership: Larry Harvey is the chairman of Burning Man’s Senior Staff and Executive Director of The Burning Man Project.

Sacred Scriptures: There are no Scriptures or prescribed dogma in Burning Man.

Other Sources of Authority: Traditions which have grown up in the ever evolving Burning Man culture. The “Ten Principles” are the guidelines for the annual “burn” (while at “home” on the playa) and for “burners” to take back with them to their communities (in the “default world”).

Periodicals & Publications: The What Where When guidebook is given to each burner as he enters the Gate to the playa, and lists the various events, art installations, and workshops that are available throughout the week. A number of newspapers run by volunteers are published and distributed on the playa every year.

Publishing Houses: There are no publications released by the organization (except for the What Where When guide which is printed for the event), but a tremendous amount of information is provided through a very extensive website.

Radio & Television Programs: There are a number of radio stations that operate on the playa during the week of the burn (such as Burning Man Information Radio), as well as year around Internet radio stations such as “Shouting Fire.”

Means of attracting new members: No advertising is done by the “Borg” (the Business Organization) but everything is done by word of mouth.

Mindset towards Christianity: While Christians and those practicing every other type of spirituality are welcome to both attend and express those spiritual perspectives on the playa, the prevailing mindset of most burners is that of Eastern mysticism and Paganism. It must be noted that much of the mood of Burning Man culture is that of deliberate irreverence and sometimes overt blasphemy as that culture tends to be critical of established Western institutions (such as the Judeo-Christian faith) in favor of a more eclectic spirituality. For the average burner Christianity would be seen as too “limiting” in its exclusive truth claim.

Famous Burners: Numerous celebrities are enthusiastic burners or have attended the burn, including some very powerful people from the billionaire club such as Burning Man Project board member and billionaire Chris Bently (of Bently Enterprises); multi-billionaires and Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz; the multi-billionaire Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as multi-billionaire Google Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt; and multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. Multi-billionaire Elon Musk of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX ownership fame is also a burner. Musicians – Sting, Diddy, Adam Lambert, Joan Baez, Perry Farrell, Todd Rundgren, Michael Franti. Actors – Robin Williams; Rosario Dawson; Amy Smart.