Radical City: Permanent Meets Temporary at the 2019 European Leadership Summit

Greetings Radical Citizens of Planet Earth!

Aarhus city activist Jeppe Spure Nielsen

Each year the Burning Man European Leadership Summit (ELS) is held in a different European city. On April 11-14, this knowledge-sharing and horizon-expanding circus will take place in Aarhus, Denmark. We, the Aarhus Burners, are eager to welcome community members from 22 countries. 

The Radical City” has been chosen and developed as a main theme for the event, and we would like to share the framing of it with all of you. Maybe you have ideas and comments on how this can be further evolved in other future projects. If so, please write them in the comments. Maybe that could even spark some last-minute “immediacy ideas” to carry into ELS2019 in Aarhus.

Aarhus Regional Contact Christian Dietrichsen

This year’s European Leadership Summit theme, Radical City, reflects the growing confluence of interest between Burning Man’s temporary city, the temporary cities at Regional Events around the globe, and their more permanent counterparts in the default world. 

The lessons of Black Rock City, as well as those of Nowhere, Borderland, Midburn and other pop-up municipalities, are increasingly relevant to civic leaders, urban planners, and active citizens worldwide. 

What is being built at the intersections of art and civic engagement, participatory government and Radical Self-Expression, placemaking and Leaving No Trace? As dual citizens of the temporary and the permanent, Burners are at the forefront of this promising convergence. 

From city user to city maker: Aarhus citizens come together at an event called Frederiksbjerg Spirer to build benches and place them all over the city. Photo by Erik Zappon

When Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey wrote the 10 Principles in 2004, he used the word “radical” three times, in each case to express the quality of arising from authentic self, from the essence of one’s true nature. In that sense, what might it mean to construct a radical city? 

It might be something as direct and immediately impactful as bringing public art into the sphere of citizen solutions. Or could it be more ambitious, a fundamental rethinking of the idea of what a city is for, its purpose, and how it is made? Could a city be, as the situationist Ivan Chtcheglov wrote, a means of “articulating time and space, of modulating reality, of engendering dreams”? At this year’s ELS we invite discussions across the full spectrum of civic possibility. 

Aarhus is the ideal location to host this conversation, and the timing is exactly right. It’s a city in the midst of a radical reimagining, with local Burners deeply involved at multiple levels. This gives us a great opportunity to tap into real projects — to inspire and be inspired — and to involve local city development stakeholders. 

In addition to the “internal” program for Burning Man community leaders, there will also be a public program called “Radical City: Dreamers, Makers and Doers” in collaboration with Maker Faire that is open to the citizens of Aarhus and is designed to facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas and experience. This will take place on Saturday, April 13 at Dokk1, the newly built main public library in Aarhus. 

With all this in mind, we invite YOU to get your imaginations going, and here follows some of the topic areas that will be covered in Aarhus under the Radical City umbrella:

  • Radical Self-reliance in permanent cities. Are there too many
    rules? And, if yes, what can we do about it?
  • Ownership of public space
  • Sustainability — the new Radical?
  • Creating conditions to catalyze Radical Self-Expression
  • Active citizenship / everyday activism
  • Fluid City — the continuous transformation of structures, systems and people
  • Permanently temporary — what is that?
  • Creating community power and collective impact while creating a city
  • Cases and practices for community organizing and self-organizing
  • Participatory urban planning and urban design
  • Is a permanent co-created city possible? Can the phenomenon of
    Burning Man be upscaled both in size and in permanence?
  • Do the 10 Principles work in a “normal” city?
  • Burning 365 days a year — what does that mean?
  • Should we leave a positive trace in Aarhus?
  • Transformative city — why all these transformative stories from Burning Man,
    and how can we support transformative experiences in permanent cities?
  • Decommodified city!!! Is that even possible? How?
  • Radically inclusive cities: What do they need? How can we create and strengthen them? How do we get people involved?
  • The sub-theme that we haven’t thought about…but YOU have.

We invite you to engage with the summit theme Radical City, including the conditions and philosophies that pave the way for creative activities in both temporary and permanent cities. Our ears are open to ideas that empower leaders to create and facilitate a more connected and creative world inspired by Burning Man’s mission.


Top photo: Dokk1, Aarhus, Denmark, photo by Dennis Borup Jakobsen

About the author: ELS 2019 Guest Post

ELS 2019 Guest Post

This text has been co-written by (among others): Burning Man Project’s Aarhus Regional Contacts Christian Dietrichsen and Lars Haahr, city activist in Aarhus Jeppe Spure Nielsen, member of the Berlin Burner community Katharina Hagg and Burning Man Project Director of Education Stuart Mangrum. We hope you will enjoy it and we look forward to hearing your thoughts, comments and ideas. 

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