Around the World in Seven Virtual Burns

Faced with the cancellation of their local Burns and ongoing lockdown, Regional Burning Man communities have thrown down the gauntlet to the coronavirus: “No place to Burn? Not on our watch!” Instead, they have embraced the challenge, taken to the intertubes and created a range of virtual Burns.

Some are getting wiggy with Zoom, Twitch or other streaming platforms, while others have created digitalscapes where costumed avatars can build art and theme camps, run workshops and parties, and have random adventures together (don’t you just miss that!?).

There is also a whole wide (virtual) world that exists in Burn2, the official Burning Man Regional in Second Life. They’re excited to open their digi-Gates to more people wanting to adventure while stuck at home.

Wanna go big and go Home? Burning Man Project is reimagining Black Rock City 2020 with a plan for Virtual BRC. If you’re keen to collaborate, let us know here.

The Oasis Burn

When: Ongoing

The Oasis Burn is an ongoing virtual space where Burners can gather, build, and run events during COVID-19. Run on the open source Osgrid platform, the digital playa opened its gates over a month ago and continues to evolve.

The Burn space is currently home to a Temple, art, mutant vehicles and a splattering of theme camps, including Wait to Eat and Baby Bloomers from Nowhere, the Regional Burn in Spain, and Winter Christmas camp from Birmingham, England.

Oasis has also hosted live bands, an Easter egg hunt, and community events such as the Vienna Burning Cafe, a monthly real-world gathering that transformed itself into a virtual one.

Click on photos to see details

Sebastian Ardnt, a German Burner based in France, came up with the Oasis Burn idea after the French Regional Crème Brûlée was cancelled in March. He could see the year stretching ahead without any European Burns, and decided to harness his previous experience in the virtual world of Second Life to create a virtual Burn.

“The idea is to give a place to Burners to be in and connect. So we’re not going to do a big Burn for a day or two; that’s not really enough. I think the need is now to get out of this shitty world we are in,” says Sebastian, who collaborated with a small group of European Burners to bring the initial Oasis concept to life.

Anyone can enter Oasis, and you don’t need mad computer skills to build things either. “You have basic things you can make really easily. Everything starts with little cubes you can band together and put textures on,” Sebastian says.

He says AfrikaBurn’s 11th Principle — “Each one, teach one”  — is also particularly prominent in Oasis, where there are plenty of people around to help you learn new skills. “So you have a first contact, you talk with people, and then you discover you can fly. C’mon. That’s great!”

You can find out more about the event and instructions for joining here

Click on photos to see details


When: May 2-3

The AfrikaBurn organizing team and community are joining forces to create a virtual burn experience. Like any Burn, nobody quite knows what lies in store, but word on the AfrikaBurn streets is that the live-streamed schedule will include mini-burns from various community members and artists, as well as performances and meet-ups.

“They say only love can break your heart, and man, our hearts broke wide open when we had to announce our event had to be cancelled,” says Travis Lyle, AfrikaBurn’s Head of Communications.

“But it’s in adversity that our spirit really shines through, so it’s been really heartwarming to see how lockdown in South Africa has spurred our community on to create a whole array of shared online activities, including Burns. We’re hosting something called HomeBurn over the weekend of what would have been our 2020 event, and it promises to be very special.”

Find out more here.

Remote Burn

When: May 15-17

Remote Burn aims to build “a bridge between the Regionals” with its digital playa. Theme camps from Europe, South Africa, America and Australia will curate multiple rooms of live-streamed events, including music, workshops, talks and more. These events will factor in the rolling sunrises and sunsets from one time zone to another. There are also plans for a symbolic Burn and a Temple space, as well as someone live greeting participants once they register and rock up to the website’s “front desk.”

“So then you come in, and the idea is to kind of recreate that circular structure from Burning Man where you have the loud zone at the top with the dance floors, and then you go down and you have the workshops and whatnot,” says Sam Delesque, one of the movers and shakers behind the Remote Burn idea.

A nomadic French/Danish Burner and software engineer, Sam calls AfrikaBurn Home since building the Vagabonds theme camp there last year. He says the idea for the Remote Burn grew from his camp’s desire to pivot around the cancellation of AfrikaBurn.

“We thought: ‘Let’s keep the camp calls going just to hang out, and then we wondered what kind of workshops we could do that would make sense online,’” he says.

Click on photos to see details

The Burn idea quickly gathered speed as the crew moved the camp’s planned program on to zoom and created the Remote Burn website where others could run workshops and mini Burn events too. They also collaborated with other European initiatives by streaming radio at Oasis and curating a room at the recent HiveBurn.

In keeping with this year’s Multiverse theme, the Remote Burn team are contemplating ways to bring the universe into people’s living rooms for the event, including a space-themed room with a live stream from the International Space Station.

“I asked my astrophysicist friend, and she sent me some live streams that we can use to connect to the station, so we’ll just need some spacey sounds and that’s it,” Sam says. “If we get to a certain scale, then we could reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, come boost the morale with some funny videos from space’.”

They’re looking for more theme camps and individuals wanting to run events, so get involved here.

Burn2 Events

Welcome to the Deep Hole playa! Amid the flurry of events going digital, BURN2 has been doing its thang as an officially sanctioned Regional Burn in Second Life since 2010 (although its origins date back to 2003).

BURN2 runs four events throughout the year, as well as occasional events in between. You can even propose your own do, whether it’s out on the playa, or in the Black Rock Saloon, Burniversity Classroom, Burns2 Sandbox and Burn2 HQ.

“It’s a unique Regional in that it is all virtual, the art is in a 3D environment, musicians and performers stream their music into Second Life, and everyone gets an avatar and can customise it to how they want to express themselves,” says Skye Silverweb, BURN2’s Communications Lead.

“It doesn’t cost any money to get an avatar and come into Second Life. We’ve had all sorts come in, and we have people happy to help acclimate newbies.”

Find out more here.

Burnal Equinox: Between the Stars

When: May 1-3

Burnal Equinox is an annual Burner tradition in the northern hemisphere, where communities mark the midway point of the Black Rock City year, and celebrate Burner culture in the dark depths of winter. It also kicks off the build season for playa projects, and many artists will bring their upcoming projects or past installations to share at the events.

The coronavirus may have crash-tackled Burnal Equinox events to the ground in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Colorado and New York, but you can still build art and let your freak flag fly at BURN2’s Burnal Equinox: Between the Stars.

“Leading up to the weekend, we post a sign-up on our website where Burners sign up to participate. Greet at the gate, build a camp, perform on stage with your online stream. And you are welcome to just come out and get virtually dusty with us too,” BURN2 writes.

Find out more here.

Burn2: Conception

When: July 10-12

Conception celebrates the birth of BURN2 in Second Life. It’s a smaller Burn event like Burnal Equinox but has all the same elements.

“We usually have a main stage (typically DJs and singers play there) and a live stage for performing acts like dance or drumming troupes (yes, we have those in Second Life!). At these smaller events, plots for building are free, although donation kiosks are available should someone wish to leave a donation. This helps us to pay for the October event when we order additional regions (i.e. server space),” Skye Silverweb says.

Stay in the loop here.

BURN2 The Multiverse

When: October 9-18

This is BURN2’s big event. Around 500 people rock up to burn the Man: yep, the very same Man that burned a month earlier at Black Rock City. BURN2 is the only Regional with permission to build and burn an exact replica of the Man.

Participants can also get their yogi on at Center Camp, light the city with Lamplighters, lean on the Rangers for community help, register their vehicles at the Department of Mutant Vehicles and tune into the absurdity of Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR). They can also visit a Temple, although this is not a playa replica.

“The October event is when we ‘echo’ Black Rock City, including having the same theme, and we try to evoke the look and feel with some familiar elements of BRC in our virtual environment,” Skye Silverweb says. “We even simulate dust storms once in a while — and avatars don goggles and masks. We really get into the spirit of things!”

At this event, the building plots are sold to help cover the cost of the additional server space BURN2 needs to purchase from Second Life.

Digital dust storms aside, Skye says if people are expecting the smell and feel of dust in every cranny of their body, then the virtual experience may not cut it for them. But you will get to experience a unique sense of presence with many other Burners who love to do things together with other like-minded people.”

Want to see the playa in action? Check out a 360-degree playa photo here, and stay in the loop about the event here.

Click on photos to see details

HouseFire Virtual Burn

When: June 5-8

This Burn is still in its early planning stages, but the organizers are aiming to put their own special touches on a website portal with links to various activities, events, workshops, DJ sets and more.

“We’re really hoping to push creativity,” says Kitty Sharman, one of the core crew behind the project. “It’s great to have the DJ mixes and the zoom calls, but what if there’s ways to amp it up? Can we incorporate snail mail? Can we incorporate phone calls? So we’re trying to set up the infrastructure for people to bring a lot of fantastic art to the table. Then we also have some stuff that we’re planning as well.”

Some of those plans include an Effigy and Temple Burn, as well as the development of safe spaces and familiar faces. There will be a digital Sanctuary that will open before the event and provide a space to feel held, heard and supported, especially during these challenging times. Digital Rangers, or moderangers, will mirror their Khaki-clad Black Rock City counterparts by acting as the Burn’s first response team, and helping out with community problems that might arise.

Kitty, a Florida-based Burner and the moderangers lead, says the HouseFire idea has been evolving organically since a series of happy-hour Zoom hangouts brought together both friends and strangers.

“It’s kind of neat: a bunch of east coast Burners that don’t know each other all that well were hanging out at my friend Blue’s Zoom parties, and it didn’t take long for us to move our conversation towards the idea of a virtual Burn: ‘How can we do something where we’re feeling like ourselves and getting weird and creative and social together?’,” she says.

Join in and find out more here.

Top photo: BURN2 Metamorphoses, 2019 (Photo by Geo Greenwood)

About the author: Jane Lyons

Jane Lyons (a.k.a Lioness) believes it takes a special kind of crazy to drive the foundation years of a Regional Burn, and she classes herself among those crazy dreamers and (over)doers who are sweating it out around the Regional Burn globe. After her first Nevada Burn in 2009, Jane spent five years knee-deep in the development of Australia's Burning Seed and its community. She built and managed Seed's Communications Team for many years, helped kickstart Melbourne Decompression and ran a range of other local events. But her Burner communities and collaborations stretch beyond the confines of her country. She helped build Temple of Transition in 2011; has worked on other big art projects on and off playa (including the Temple for Christchurch); and has run theme camps and built art at Nowhere, Kiwiburn, Burning Seed and Italian Burning Weekend. She now spends her time supporting Burning Man's Communications Team.

4 Comments on “Around the World in Seven Virtual Burns

  • santee says:

    No place to Burn? You perhaps are needing to reread our principles. Seems to me these very stories of burners undermind your idea of No place to Burn? We are far more than the BR experience.

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    • Jane Lyons says:

      Hi Santee, thanks for your comment. This post is about Burn events and their cancellation – as the first sentence contextualizes. “No place to Burn” refers specifically to the inability of Regionals to run those physical events. It is not saying that is the only place or way we apply the Principles. This story is exploring just one aspect of being a Burner during this time. We continue to write and share stories that also explore the many ways in which – yes, yes, YES – we are far more than the BRC experience.

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  • Kitty says:

    Thank you so much, Jane! I hope to see you soon in these virtual spaces. ♥️ Burn2: Between the Stars was amazing and I can’t wait to check out all these virtual events.

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  • Dragonburn in Shanghai had our own virtual Burn on May 9 with participants in China, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, and Brazil.

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