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Building Burning Man
The Official Journal of the Burning Man Project - Summer 1997 Newsletter

The Year of Community

Burning Man is a guerrilla war against the commodification of the collective imagination.
— The Village Voice

Participants in Burning Man are not defined according to deficiency or passive need. You are neither client nor consumer here. Ours is a society of activists and your experience of our community will be defined by two essential elements: radical self-expression and a shared struggle to survive.

The Struggle to Survive

Participants in Burning Man must bring all necessities to the desert; food, shelter, water, fuel -- everything that they require for survival in an environment that is often harsh and always challenging. These needs are detailed in the Survival Guide that you will receive with your registration packet. But, above and beyond these requirements for individual survival, we ask that each participant aid in the task of collective survival. We are not merely asking that you do a job. We're asking that you fill a role that will relate you to our community.

Build a Hearth and Home

Our new home on the Hualapai Plain is very different from our former site in the Black Rock Desert. Although this year's settlement will align along the shore of dry lakebed that is barren and devoid of vegetation, the land which forms our campground is covered by grasses and shrubs. These tracts of greasewood, sage and rabbit brush are a potential fire hazard. Accordingly, we are zoning our encampment for fire use. We are making a basic and simple distinction: play with fire (flares, home pyrotechnics, burnable art or any form of flame) ONLY on the playa. Our campground will be fire-free except for carefully contained campfires. These fireplaces must conform to certain safety standards.As pilgrims to a new land, each of us becomes a founder. No task can be more symbolic of this action, or more primal and potently satisfying, than the building of a hearth. Should you plan to maintain a fire, we request that you bring or build a fireplace that will prevent the spread of windborne sparks or embers. We also plan to provide caches of rock which participants may use for this purpose (Where better to meet your neighbor than at the community rock pile?). Before you use your fireplace, we request that you read the Survival Guide provided with your registration kit. You may also ask a Black Rock Ranger for advice.

Become a Black Rock Ranger

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The Black Rock Rangers were founded in 1992 by Danger Ranger, legendary guardian of our community. In years past it has been the principal duty of the Black Rock Rangers to seek out strays from the fold, and over the years they have mounted many search and rescue missions. They have towed and retrieved dozens of mired vehicles and guided the lost. Most importantly, they have saved lives. In 1997, however, the role of motorized vehicles at our event will drastically change. No motorized traffic will be allowed on our playa. Further, campers must agree to park their cars at their campsites for the duration of the event, using them only to enter and leave the area. We recommend the use of mountain bikes. We will also provide onsite public transit. As a consequence of these changes, the mission of the Black Rock Rangers will also change. Rangers will be given a more socially proactive role. It will be the duty of each Ranger to interact with the community: to introduce neighbors, to answer their questions, and to knit our instant culture into a fabric of responsible care. We believe the enemy of our community is not the "evil other," nor even specific bad actors. Our enemy is anonymity and isolation -- the breeding ground of anti-social actions For this reason, there will be no Rave Camp in 1997. However, devotees of continuous ambient music are invited to create quieter small-scale villages which integrate into our encampment. We will have a dance Sunday night after the burn. Please contact us for guidelines. The mission of the Rangers will be to educate us all concerning every vital issue that affects our collective survival. A second and more specific mission of the Rangers will be to guard against the threat of fire. A prominent fire-spotting tower will be established in our camp and staffed at all hours. Rangers serving as lookouts will be vigilant guardians of our community. On the ground, fire crews will be ready to respond to emergencies. Additionally, volunteers will also be needed to staff our Ranger Headquarters, which this year will serve as center for environmental information. Ranger training sessions will begin soon. Communities need heroes. Please contact our Hotline at 415-985-7471 or email Danger Ranger himself for more information.

Found a Village

The concept of a village has spontaneously emerged from the experience of Burning Man. Typically, several camps have co-located and evolved a social life together. Residents of these communal groupings have developed strong friendships and made future plans to live together during the event. A village is not merely a theme camp. It is a micro-model of community within the macrocosmic whole of Burning Man and its structure is in many way analogous to that of our greater city. The following description details plans for the "Blue Light District," a proposed village at this year's event. It forms a useful model for the planning of any village.

What is the Blue Light District?

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The Blue Light District is a village within Black Rock City that will be composed of several theme camps (or even themeless camps). Each camp is designed and organized independently of the village structure and has its own personality. However, each camp will contribute to the building of the village's unique identity. This will be done through village-based social events, such as building a communal kitchen, producing some events, and providing a central area that can be used for gatherings. Some of these events will also link the village to the rest of the city.


A theme camp is dedicated to its theme: its identity is this theme. A village encapsulates all the themes of the camps that compose it. The Blue Light District will provide social events that will create enough internal social life to create a feeling of belonging. The physical structure of the camp will also express a common identity. Camps will surround a central plaza called the Zocalo. The Zocalo will include a large blue mushroom (about 12 feet high) that will provide a shelter for the communal kitchen. About 50 smaller mushrooms (about 2 feet high) will be spread among the camps. These mushrooms will be symbols of collective unity.


Because of its small size, a theme camp is naturally open to the rest of the city. Theme camps are made to be shared. A larger scaled village incurs the risk of separating itself from the rest of the community. This is something to avoid. The Blue Light District will be open to anybody and will participate in the life of Black Rock City. Some space in the village will be reserved for people who decide to join the village at any time. Social events will also be open to anyone.


The Blue Light District will provide services to it residents. Among these will be a communal kitchen, public lights, water, bicycles, and a public bulletin board in the Zocalo. Because of the nature of the land where Burning Man will be held this year, there are more risks from unwanted fire. The Blue Light District will be equipped with fire extinguishers. A shuttle will also be maintained in the form of one vehicle kept in the parking lot for transport to and from the neighbor towns of Gerlach and Empire.
[The above description of the Blue Light Village was supplied to Building Burning Man by Eric Pouyoul.]

Villages and Burning Man

All villages are invited to participate in our Burning Pageant on Sunday night. You may wish to create banners, costumes, a float (some object to be wheeled, carried overhead, or otherwise transported in procession to the Man, that is emblematic of your group identity). If you plan a village, please contact our Hotline, or email themecamps (at) burningman (com). We will help you site your village and connect you to other village projects.

Radical Self-Expression

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Burning Man is an arena of visionary reality. Visions aren't defined by light which falls upon them. They are perceived by virtue of a light which shines out of them. A vision redefines reality in the world around it. We invite you to create such a vision: wear a costume, paint your body, performance -- anything that means what you uniquely are, what you uniquely see, or what you might become. Imagine the land and the looming lakebed of the playa as a vast blank screen, a limitless ground of being. Think of each participant as burning with a fierce and self-proclaimed illumination like a flame.

Create a Theme Camp

Theme camps are a mode of self-expression in the world of Burning Man; living fantasies that you create as a part of your campsite. They often involve costumes, props, and original architecture. Our only requirement is that you be ready to interact with others - actively include them in the fantasy that you create. Make your theme camp alluring, prominently available to fellow participants. The theme you choose is up to you. If you wish to be listed as a featured theme camp in our schedule of events and attractions, please contact our Hotline. Featured camps will also be eligible to be sited along our Grand Boulevard. The Boulevard will extend outward on an axis from our Central Camp. Like a seaside boardwalk, it will occupy the shoreline of Hualapai Playa. Residents along this strip will be afforded a sweeping, unobstructed view of the great desert and the large-scale artworks we will locate there. Please call to reserve your space, or email themecamps (at) burningman (com). Registations will not be taken after August 10, 1997 as we will need to print the listing before Burning Man starts.

Construct a Large-Scale Work of Art

We will locate large-scale works of art upon a portion of the playa that parallels our encampment. They will float in the illimitable space of this desert like ships anchored off-shore. Proposed installations for 1997 now include such works as "Das Ammoniten Projekt" -- a giant ammonite, 70 feet in diameter and 10 feet high. Ammonites are nautilus-like shells frequently found in fossil formations. This giant fossil, created by Hendrik Hackl, a German artist, will be illuminated at night. Participants who penetrate its coiled center must devolve, crouching by degrees until they reach all-fours and finally wriggle like a worm. Look also for "The Cultivator Project." This 20-foot-high sculpture will resemble a rocket, complete with launching pad. In keeping with this year's fertility theme, it is designed by artist Paul Windsor to store your DNA in a genetic ampoule. It will ultimately rendezvous, we are told, with Her Mothership. If you plan a large- scale artwork please contact us at our Hotline or email art(at)burningman(dot)com.