Participation is at the very core of the Burning Man principles. As founders of the first regional Burning Man event in Australia, we as a growing community join together to create the Burning Seed event. The people who attend this event are not merely “attendees” but rather participants in every sense of the word. We create the village, the interaction, the art, the performance and ultimately the “experience”. There are many ways to participate and in this section you can learn about ways to get involved:
- First and foremost, create your own form of participation!
- Pull together a theme camp
- Build an art installation
- Put on a performance
- Check out participant-created Seed events
- Volunteer to help build the infrastructure of the village
- Volunteer to help deconstruct after the event
YOU ARE BURNING MAN
While many participants at Burning Man help create theme camps, art projects, special events, performances and the city infrastructure, an overwhelming percentage of Black Rock's citizenry spend a great deal of time just being good participants. In other words, they create their own form of participation. A little personal story might make this idea clearer for you.
I arrived in Black Rock City many years ago dazed and confused. I started wandering around checking out the art and the life, but my enthusiasm waned because I was starting to feel overwhelmed and a bit ashamed. What if all these people knew that I couldn't even draw a stick figure or hammer a nail? They would throw me out, label me a spectator, and most importantly, cut me off from this vibrant community that I was growing to love. Surely this open-to-all community didn't mean to make me feel ill at ease? In the end, it sort of worked itself out over time. The community pushed and pulled at me over the years until finally I crawled out of my shell and did something I had never done before. I did something that I really enjoyed, and I did something that other people liked a lot.
During one of the I-just-need-to-be-in-the-shade moments, I looked at a comrade and I asked him if he wanted a shave. "Yes" was the reply, and a few minutes later I was lathering up his face and wielding a razor. Using the scantest amount of water, I shaved his face and my friend was ecstatic. A new lease on life in the hot desert is such a thrill!
Well, the next year I arrived at Burning Man prepared: I brought a pack of 20 razors and several kinds of shaving cream. When people visited our camp, I sometimes offered them a shave. It was an impulse item. I wasn't a theme camp or an art project. I didn't have a sign that said "Free Shaves." It was a personal opportunity bestowed on but a few, and no one I asked said no. What a variety of ages and chin shapes—oh my! While the guys I shaved had their minds blown that someone would give them a shave, I blew my own mind when I realized how much I enjoyed it. (The Marxist interpretation of this enjoyment lies in the fact that I spend most of my life utterly disconnected from the fruits of my labor, but alas, we are on a different topic.) My shaves were gifts—one way streets. I liked it best that way. The next year, things got a little intense when some media folks found our camp one lazy afternoon. A German reporter was posing as mister "I don't get this whole participation thing," and asking us a bunch of annoying questions. Finally I got him to shut up by asking him if he wanted a shave. "In fact, YES!" he replied. He had been so busy trying to "get the story about the event", he was ignoring his body's needs, he explained. Having a razor close to your throat will make you shut up, I thought. By the time our dear German reporter was finished with his shave, a campmate had started cleaning noses with the use of a nettie pot: a teapot filled with warm saltwater that gets poured into your nose, cleaning out the playa dust as it flows through your sinuses and out the other nostril. Well, our lucky German got his nose cleaned, too. Slowly, then suddenly, he was transformed. At last, he was part of the event, not a spectator.
He came back to our camp over and over again, expressing thanks and gratitude for helping him "get it", and to "get the story". We became friends. He gave us some fruit. I remember a sunset when we talked about the meaning of temporary community for a long time.
Whether you make a cup of coffee for the folks camped next door or help someone you hardly know unzip the back of their costume in preparation to use the port-a-potty, you can be a participant of Burning Man. Maybe you don't want to shave strangers or do a nettie pot, instead maybe you want to deliver Christmas gifts on roller skates or sing opera on stilts. I really don't know. If you reach inside yourself and figure out that part of you that can be shared with others around you, chances are you will enjoy Burning Man. I hate to make it sound so easy-but it really is simple, and it really is fun. The only way to avoid having fun is to bring nothing of yourself to the event. If you just try to take everything in, you won't "get" anything. You must give and then you get, remember? It took me some time to figure it out for myself, and I wish you well on your own journey towards self-expression and the experience of community.
"Theme camps" are the interactive core of Burning Seed. A theme camp must be participatory. It's a playful challenge and an expansion of the infectious celebratory nature of the event. They are at the core of ‘radical inclusion’ and welcoming the stranger. Here are some pointers when planning your theme camp:
Your theme camp should create an ambience, a visual presence, in some way provide a communal space or provide activity. It may be the anchor for a larger event taking place. The best camps succeed by simplicity. Concepts that are too big, too scholarly, will die from disinterest.
- Design safety into your plans. Consider wind and rain. Rain can turn a fun(ky) miniature golf course into a mud wallow, and anything on wheels becomes a site-specific display if it's too heavy to push through mud.
- All your needs must be thoroughly thought through to make your camp completely autonomous. This includes power, water and building equipment. Be prepared to haul everything out that you've brought in, including screws and nails. And (seriously) all cigarette butts. The managing principle of Burning Seed is LEAVE NO TRACE.
- Do some research into the theme. Contemplating the event’s theme through your theme camp adds meaning to the event.
- If you wish to advertise your camp or event, you may publicise your plans on our bulletin board at Centre Camp. You may also discuss plan ideas and recruit help on the website forums. You can also submit your planned event for inclusion in the WhatWhereWhen, the village event program. When advertising at the village, please remember that flyers are an unintentional cause of trash problems, but stickers or body stamps are a more practical option.
- To secure your placement in Burning Seed village you must purchase your tickets.
- There are some factors however that will affect your placement: Will people be passing through 24 hours a day or just at limited times of the day? Is the camp intended for daytime or night time activity? Do you prefer or require relatively peaceful surroundings? Contact THEME CAMPS to register.
The understanding that Theme Camps truly are the fabric of Burning Man is now common knowledge. It is a responsibility and takes commitment. Remember that what YOU do helps to create what this year IS!"
We would like to see your vision! We welcome all participants to create art at Burning Seed. You can place your artwork in your camp, but if you want it to live in the village we ask that you register it with us.
"There is a yet unnamed art movement that may prove to be of some significance, and Burning Man is close to its centre.
It often manifests itself as circus, ritual, and spectacle. It is a movement away from a dialogue between an individual artist and a sophisticated audience, and towards collaboration amongst a big, wild, free and diverse community. ... It is a rejection of spoon-fed corporate culture and an affirmation of the homemade, the idiosyncratic, the personal. It is profoundly democratic. It is radically inclusive, it is a difficult challenge, and it is beckoning."
Larnie Fox, 1997
Everyone is a Performer
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players...
– William Shakespeare
Each and everyone of us is a player, performer in the village. Burning Seed casts all of us at every moment in a heady series of unstaged productions. As one walks the streets & open village one will find at every moment of the day and night someone is shining with their talent.
As you travel through the village you might notice the absence of something that is the main focus of any other festival, a "Main Stage". At one point in the Burning Man history there was a Main Stage, and it was found that there was always this division between audience and performer. It was finally realised that the Main Stage was in competition with everything else that was happening in Black Rock City and went against the Burning Man ethos. Large stages promote spectators and we are all about participation.
Just because there is no Main Stage, should not stop you from finding an audience on a smaller more intimate scale. Maybe you have something special in mind, a talent or a skill to contribute. You may be a juggler or a musician or a fire dancer, or perhaps a costume or theatrical designer. At Burning Seed, you'll find your audience!
Check out participant created Seed events
WHAT, WHERE, WHEN
To register an event in the village information booklet, handed to all arrivals contact WORD DEPT. Keep an eye out for submission deadlines as they appear on this web site.
There will be a bulletin board located at Centre Camp. Make a visually entertaining poster to catch the eye as the boards will be full!
What is the Public Infrastructure?
- Burning Seed Rangers
- Centre Camp Information services
- Ice Queen (ice run & sales co-ordination)
- Department of Public Works (DPW)
- First Aid
- Waste/Leave No Trace
Public Infrastructure is the collaboration between volunteers and volunteer staff, which functions primarily to meet the needs of the citizens of the village during its existence. Your portal to the city is the Gate. You’ll be given a Survival Guide with a site map and sent along to arrive at the Greeters station. There you’ll be met by fellow citizens who will let you know about some of the important issues to enhance your survival and that of the community. You’ll find your camp, then you’ll settle in. If you need info or want to leave a message you might wander to Centre Camp – Village Info. You may organise ice the Ice Queen. If you forget which hood you camped in you might say ‘aloha’ to a Seed Ranger who will help you find your way. If you run into a tent peg on your way back to camp you might need to head to First Aid for some assistance. As the sun sets you’ll notice the Lamplighters appearing to illuminate the village. Heading by the toilets you’ll be pleased that volunteers have made an effort to maintain the Sanitation for all village dwellers. When you’ve finally had a chance to take it all in you can thank the Department of Public Works for working so hard to build the village. Oh and then we’ve got to pull it all down, De-construct and LEAVE NO TRACE.
There are many ways to participate in the infrastructure for Burning Seed. We are still seeking Volunteers. Participation on this level is integral to the manifestation of a safe and enjoyable event.