The allure of the Burning Man event in Black Rock City continues to capture the attention and imagination of the world with incredible art, big ideas and boundless inspiration. The Burning Man organization creates just enough civic infrastructure to provide a framework to support civil society in Black Rock City. Within this structure, participants enjoy the freedom to radically express themselves, often beyond what they ever dreamed possible. The playa exploded with creativity in 2014, including 311 incredible art installations — from the deep-playa Black Rock Observatory to the Black Rock Bijou movie theater to the spectacular Temple of Grace. 61 art installations were funded by BRC honoraria grants. Standing above it all was the 105-foot tall Man, which, for the first time since 1995, stood directly on the ground.
The “Caravansary” art theme included an invitation to participants to create a marketplace of ideas and gifts in the Souk surrounding the Man, and 24 Regional groups joined members of the nearby Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in offering playful interactions from their respective cultures through a wide variety of interactive “shops”.
Participants created 652 Mutant Vehicles — fantastical mobile art installations licensed by the Department of Mutant Vehicles — offering ad hoc public transportation around the open playa, where they enjoyed participatory art installations, spontaneous performance and the stunning natural beauty of the Black Rock Desert.
Meanwhile, within the City, 975 theme camps selected by Burning Man’s Placement team filled the first eight concentric circles of the city plan, where their creators offered the widest possible range of interactive experiences, performances, workshops, talks, and gifts. Aside from an incalculable number of spontaneous creative acts that happen at any given moment, participants created and engaged in thousands of scheduled activities — many listed in advance in the WhatWhereWhen guide — ranging from informative talks to pops symphony performances, a playa choir, and tutorials covering everything from jewelry-making to tantric meditation to conflict resolution, while the long-running Black Rock Scouts offered family-friendly adventures and educational programs for young Burners.
A multitude of experienced and new volunteers worked alongside staff to ensure the effective functioning of Emergency Services Department (ESD), Black Rock Rangers, Gate/ Perimeter/Exodus (PG&E), the Department of Public Works (DPW), ARTery, Arctica, Lamplighters, Café, Greeters, Recycle Camp, and other city infrastructure departments and teams. At Playa Info, the team matched 902 walk-up volunteers with 32 departments and projects during the event.
As for production logistics, we continued to refine and improve the operational planning process for Black Rock City. In order to support the long term viability and sustainability of the event, an increased effort was made to reduce vehicular traffic and improve arrival and exodus. This was achieved through enhanced carpool resources, the introduction of limited-quantity pre-purchased vehicle passes, and the expanded Burner Express bus service from San Francisco and Reno. In Black Rock City, we provided more porta-potties, longer hours for ice sales, monitored burn gardens in the open playa, and more extensive emergency services in the 3 and 9 o’clock plazas to help distribute the most-needed resources throughout the city.
The end of the week featured several monumentally large-scale burns including the burning of the Embrace sculpture at dawn on Friday. On Saturday night the massive Man burned, followed by a breathtakingly beautiful Temple burn to close the event on Sunday.
Black Rock City —whose population included participants from 80 countries—remains our nonprofit organization’s greatest opportunity to share Burning Man culture, to provide the fulcrum for transformative experience, and to foster creativity and responsibility in the wider world. A more detailed review of Black Rock City 2014 can be found in the 2014 Afterburn Report.