Update: Black Rock City in The Multiverse

Friends, we have a bit of an update for you. What’s up with virtual Black Rock City, you ask?

Well, at Burning Man Project we’ve been working behind the scenes to understand how to best meet this moment. In a time of transformation like this one, we see opportunity for the learnings and culture developed in the desert to serve a much broader community.

Burning Man has always been what you create it to be — but now we are all getting the opportunity to bring Burning Man into our home communities like never before. Let’s expand the concept of who is a Burner, what it means to burn, and what our community can create together.

In this time of great global change, it is this culture we are so familiar with that is poised to cultivate action. Each year we visit the Black Rock Desert and build a civic experience that mirrors what we want to see in the world. Now it’s up to you to take the blueprint of that experience and engage in ways that uplift and celebrate human potential.

So, what exactly is the multiverse? Where will it be? What does it all mean? Ah, we asked ourselves the same questions when we announced the theme in the fall of 2019, now look where we are!

The beauty of the multiverse is that it reminds us of one of the core tenets of Burner culture: That there are as many ways to burn as there are human beings on the planet. There is no right or wrong way as long as you are living the 10 Principles.

Burning Man will happen this year wherever Burners are living the Burning Man spirit — both in physical space and virtual space. Rather than convening on one virtual platform, we encourage Burners to make and share offerings for each other in person, through existing digital channels and through Kindling, our new portal for live events and content.

Before the end of June we will also recommend several virtual spaces for us to convene, and there will certainly be other Burning Man-inspired spaces that develop on their own. However you navigate the multiverse, we encourage you to explore the many parallel dimensions of Burning Man culture.

For now, start thinking about how you’d like to burn come the end of August. There are no tickets involved, just a willingness to contribute and share what Burning Man means to you.  Build week starts now.

Oh, wait, you want more?

So, how come we aren’t creating one, integrated, and ticketed virtual Black Rock City?

For a number of reasons: First and foremost, we are inspired by the idea that this year could be the most radically inclusive Burning Man yet, and we want to make sure that the virtual offerings for Black Rock City are accessible to as many people as possible.

We also want to honor the fact that many Burners are motivated to share their offerings with people beyond those who would have purchased a ticket. We decided this was an exciting opportunity to allow Burning Man culture to expand far and wide, without the limitations of a single platform to pass through.

We also have to be realistic about what kind of experience we ourselves would be able to create, given the scale of other virtual offerings and Burning Man Project’s extreme financial constraints. The outpouring of generosity we’ve received from our community has been heartwarming, but a great deal more support is needed to keep our organization going and enable us to build Black Rock City. Our focus is on getting us all back to the desert in 2021, and we feel that our energy is best spent encouraging Burners to build art and experiences for each other.

Over the next two months, we are excited to support a season of community activation within the Burning Man community. We will be amplifying voices through Kindling as well as through our brand new Burning Man Live podcast, Beyond Burning Man on Medium, the Burning Man Journal, and through Burners Without Borders, Fly Ranch and our sustainability efforts.

As has become our new tradition, on solstice weekend we’re celebrating founder Larry Harvey and the birthday of Burning Man. As we’ve done the past two years we are encouraging your radical self expression and civic engagement from exactly where you are in the world. #thankslarry

Also, don’t miss our global premiere of the new film Larry: A Burning Man Story. June 20 and 21, we’ll be hosting three live screenings of this brand new Larry Harvey documentary in three time zones — enabling you to watch it conveniently wherever you are in the world (or… more than once, if that’s your thing).

Whatever your passion, join us the weekend of June 20 to make things happen in your community. More info on this activation is coming soon.

Most of all, and most practically — like you, we want to go home in 2021. We will be launching a community fundraising effort, and if you’re called to support please donate now!

It’s happening. We’re strapping on our playa gear and getting shit done so that we can return to the Black Rock Desert. Stay tuned, we look forward to sharing more updates soon!

Let’s get to it.


Top photo: Graphic art by Tanner Boeger

About the author: Marian Goodell

Marian Goodell

Marian serves as Burning Man Project’s first Chief Executive Officer. She first attended Burning Man in 1995, met Larry and the other organizers in the fall of 1996, and in 1997 helped found the contemporary Burning Man organization. In previous roles, she was the Director of Business and Communications, briefly oversaw the Black Rock City Department of Public Works, and steered the development of the Burning Man Regional Network, which is now on six continents, with more than 300 representatives in 37 countries. Marian is currently leading the organization’s efforts to facilitate and extend the Burning Man ethos globally.

29 Comments on “Update: Black Rock City in The Multiverse

  • Nexus (he/him/his) says:

    Thank you for this update!

    With the recommendations you’ll be making, as well as our own exploration of virtual spaces, I wonder how best you’d recommend we also co-learn and support each other, specifically with regards to how we’d like to Burn and contribute in August, and particularly with regards to the opportunities for and challenges to Radical Inclusion online.

    I’m specifically thinking about, for example, one of the biggest challenge in events that I’ve participated in is making sure virtual spaces are accessible to and inclusive for Deaf and Hard of Hearing community members.

    And so would you recommend using any of the existing online forums to be able to co-learn and share in preparation for August, or might there be a space specifically dedicated to these kinds of conversations in preparation?

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  • Cranston says:

    So, nothing? This sounds like you’re doing nothing. That’s ok! Just say it.

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    • Ellen says:

      Have you checked out Kindling or the podcast? Both are new. I know the staff has been working six days a week 10 hours a day to come up with ideas and work out the logistics. Be patient and allow them to work the kinks out so they can present a finished platform that will work easily for 80K+ Burners.

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    • Dusty Wei Wei says:

      What are YOU doing to help?

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  • Lit says:

    Wake up! The burning man culture is unraveling because of its failure to address racism. You have to speak up before it’s too late.

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    • Kilroy says:

      Pick and choose your battles. Jumped right on that band wagon did ya,? Please enlighten us Dear Woke one, how do you see Burning man as being “racist”. Last I checked, when tickets go on sale everyone has the ability to purchase a ticket. So please take your race baiting bullshit elsewhere.

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    • Sammy says:

      Are you kidding? BMorg is spending 10s of millions each year to spread woke culture. It’s not their fault, as Larry Harvey said – black people don’t like to camp.

      BM is fully into intersectional cultural marxism, virtue signaling all the way like their whistling Dixie out their assholes. There’s nothing more they can do except swing by the projects with a hundred buses an pay black people $1k each to ride bikes around the playa for a week. But this is a possibility.

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  • Jumpstart says:

    Yup, “amplifying voices” and “activating” the high cost pet projects that only a handful of people give a shit about. Oh yeah, and asking for money! Same ol song and dance. The BMP shuck and jive show.

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  • Risen says:

    Seriously happy to read this post BMorg! Burners are gonna burn :) may as well support us instead of funneling us into a system. Much love!

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  • missy says:

    Looking forward to the new documentary. Can’t wait ;-) Take care and stay safe!

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  • Riblet (David M. Schneck, ESQ. says:

    I wonder what Larry would think of his posthumous canonization? About his hashtags? About the seemingly never ending tributes, documentaries, publications? I wonder when, if ever, there will be an agreement to stop looking back, and start looking forward. Stop sanitizing the past, and start building a future that is more just, more diverse, more recognizing of past errors (so that we can honestly fix them). I wonder when the principles are going to stop being treated as sacred text, and start being recognized as descriptive, in part derived from others (leave no trace originated from the reviled BLM)? I wonder when “consent” will be added to the list? The list as it stands, indicates that fighting trash is important, but preventing rape not so much? So many questions.

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  • Aug says:

    Can you make a Facebook event for Larry: A Burning Man Story. June 20 and 21

    Will be v helpful – thanks

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  • Pat says:

    Just want to say to me BM is a community melting pot. All are welcome. I’ve been camping since I was a little girl but have not had the BM experience Yet. When I first learned about BM my close friend and her spouse attended 5 years ago. The experience they shared with me made me want to attend I just did not want to come alone but the more I learned and read made me realize it’s ok if I attend alone. Nothing about what I know about BM has anything to do with ones skin color in fact I refuse to entertain such thoughts.

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  • Each update is like a breath of fresh air in such a difficult time, and it’s so good to feel that you are not alone, and we want to be together, removed

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  • sick says:

    Given the fact that federal, state, and local agencies have been making shit unreasonably hard for years AND given the fact that BMOrg has money for tons of spin off/vanity projects HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK did they not have a plan for needing to take a year off?

    This level of mismanagement screams for new leadership. Maybe some that will travel less and focus solely on TTITD.

    I certainly dont speak for all burners but i do know that many think -as do i- that Burning Man IS the city we build in the desert. Period. Full stop

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  • bmix says:

    I’d love to join one of the “Larry” showings online, but I can’t make it on Sunday due to a previous commitment. From the initial post, it sounds like one could watch the other feeds if desired (I’m in the States). Anyone know if this is correct, or will I only be given access to “The Americas” feed?

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  • Dane Murray says:

    Would be good if the global premiere of the new film Larry: A Burning Man Story was listed as the first event on the Kindling website.

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  • Mansoon Black says:

    Last night, heard an epidemiologist say something on NPR about being outside on a beach is far safer than being in a room, if there’s someone with Covid. If only there was a giant outdoor event with tons of space for distancing, people in tents where air goes through easily or are just open, an insane amount of incredibly intense sunlight at elevation, blowing winds that stir a constantly shifting layer of sterile dust that covers everything all the time and that can move objects miles away, with a population that was already wearing tons of masks, with an “you should know you might die, your choice” disclaimer where you kind of want to isolate afterwards because you have so much shit to clean and put away and recover from. If only this place’s name meant “beach,” but was apparently safer than a regular one and it’s now much safer than venturing out in your regular life. And was run by those capable of listening to science, where anybody who doesn’t like it doesn’t have to go, realizing that it wouldn’t be heavily populated by those most at risk, we have some treatments and 10 vaccines, one with 30,000 people in a 3rd phase and it isn’t even July yet, with giant pieces of art saying things like “BELIEVE” and encouraging people to put safety third in pursuit of that belief. Remember me to a place that once said it was all those things; it once was a true love of mine.

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    • Adel says:

      My thoughts exactly.

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    • The Hustler says:

      They made the decision not to build Black Rock City because of all of the work and travel leading up to the event.
      While Black Rock City can be open and airy, it also has many places with close contact and interaction; add the potentially poor hygiene (at least as far as hand washing goes) and it is a problematic.
      Contrary to the curiously popular opinion among entitled people, Black Rock City doesn’t happen by magic; it takes tons of work from a lot of people to do it.
      As of right now, USA’s first wave of infection isn’t even close to over, and with things returning to pre-covid openness, we’re in for a rough summer.

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      • Mansoon Black says:

        Yes, the reasons for the cancellation was completely obvious. (I’m also aware gravity exists, too, to clear that up). It’s just that it’s not based on science.
        The reason construction of all kinds was one of the first things allowed to come back but the CDC and public health departments was not just because if their importance, but because these are groups already used to complying with safety protocols and able to adapt. There’s been all kinds of news about outbreaks and fatalities among workers of all kinds but why not those in construction? The answer is obvious and updating consultations with any number of public health officials as this thing went on and data emerged makes things clearer than they were months ago. The losses are real and painful, but that’s the way life always will be as long as we’re still people.
        Truth is, it was never safe to hold this event and it never will be. It’s obvious that the things that happen on-playa aren’t the only way things should be measured, and there’s deaths and accidents outside as a result, and that possible cost should always be acknowledged, but the Burn always happened anyway. You want a perfectly safe life? Don’t live in THIS world. Or look at death and injury statistics sometime and hope no vehicles come through the wall while you do (have personally known 3 people to have this happen to relatives).
        When I posted something about this before, the first person to agree? A doctor. And the count grows more and more every day of medical professionals who say if you’re willing to take a risk and have low vulnerability and take precautions, you can balance your chances with information we didn’t have in mid-April. Surfaces aren’t good for transmission, the CDC now says, and probably especially surfaces coated by evershifting coat of sterile dust that provides a natural barrier, both on surfaces and in the very air itself (take a pic with a high fps on what seems to be a still night with a flash, if you don’t believe me.) Considering masks, sun, wind, etc., if Burners just bow instead of hug or shake hands, there goes a lot of the remaining likely vectors for transmission for a virus that doesn’t even sicken possibly almost half the people it infects.
        Many people die of many things all the time, some of them are friends and family, mine, too, and we still try to live our lives. When I got seriously sickened by a norovirus going around the Burn a few years ago, I was told that there has been a number of people also sickened and possibly died from the same virus, but it was hard to know because they had to be airlifted out. Did they shut everything down and send everyone home? No, they finished that Burn and had others.
        And, yes, I know they’re not exactly the same. Insisting all approximate examples have to be exactly the same in every way or they’re INVALID!!! is the cheapest of tricks to not deal with the substance of the argument. “That elephant weighs 10 tons and the other 6! They’re practically from different planets!”
        I was within feet of the guy who was killed by the dragon mutant vehicle years ago (whose page for 2018 says, “Each burn ignites in us to persevere through the turmoil of the world and the reality of mortality”). Did they cancel everything until vehicles no longer exist? No, they acknowledged it was something here to stay (like a coronavirus that will almost surely never, ever, EVER leave the planet according to SCIENCE) and adopted different safety protocols. They let people know they’re taking a chance, like they were always taking a chance with the flu, which we have some immunity for and a vaccine that’s less than 50 percent effective and killed up to 680k worldwide last year, the year of the 2019 Burn that was held anyway. People came, took their chances, like they did during the last pandemic in 2009-10, and people who didn’t want to … didn’t. They were warned right there on the ticket.
        There are giant differences in the risk to different groups. To treat them all equally is to ignore facts. It’s not a biological constant, which makes the choice actually easier to are on a personal level, one of the things the culture is SUPPOSED to be about.
        The fact is, if you’re in a long-term care facility, where the majority of fatalities are occurring in the U.S., no, you shouldn’t be participating in a build or come to the Burn. Or, take serious precautions and be aware of the risk. But, it’s not a good plan for THEM. This is a seriously at-risk group who died of infection about 380,000 times a year before all this, for a variety of reasons. But, if you’re younger and healthier without co-morbidities, your risks are literally hundreds and thousands of times less.
        My risk isn’t as low as it might have been, whether you’re talking about case-fatality or infection-fatality rates, but it will never, EVER be zero. It wasn’t zero when I was driving a giant packed vehicle (that I had spent days helping to pack) off-playa with no sleep off playa and nearly crashed it. But I accepted the risk.
        Now, I assume the “entitled Burner” thing is some Trump-style attempt at a smear aimed at disagreers whose opinion isn’t valid because it’s assumed we don’t do enough to contribute, so no one who does could feel differently.
        I mean, if it HELPS, I started volunteering at the end of my very first Burn, when I’ve only been there for 3 days. Kerosene makes me ill, and isn’t always safe to handle but took a risk. Coming back year after year, I took up outside Burn-inspired volunteer effort I still do that takes me about 30+ hours a week, 7 days a week that I did on my own I did on top of my paying job. Joined a camp and did recruitment for them, usually starting in June, so for months beforehand, answering questions and giving advice on various forums for many hours, and helping many people find tickets and a Burn home, with our camp or others. I ALWAYS work my shift and extras, if needed, at the camps I’ve been in.
        I spend all year beforehand finding things to gift at the Burn, things either fun or useful or lifesaving, paying out of my own pocket, and paying extra to fly them there. I’ve been asked multiple times to go Ranger by Rangers I ran into or got to know. I considered it, but things about the process made it clear that they were to many rigid rules where the bureaucracy wasn’t adapting to new reality of a larger Black Rock City, so I declined, even though Rangers get many amenities and a free ticket, so there’d be no sweating until the Thursday before to scare up a ticket, which I’ve literally done a couple times.
        It was more expensive — a consideration since the personal debt I have is almost exactly equal to my outlay for the Burns — less certain and it meant I had to adapt, but that’s just supposed to be something that comes standard.
        But that was OK, because I did a lot of work for my camp, only ever sleeping in the heat and cold in only a tent, with skin that is particularly sensitive to playa dust and ruining my toenails permanently, and working not only before and during for a camp that eventually numbered over 250, but staying days after, to not only break down and clean a smaller camp I eventually formally went with, but cleaning and breaking down a larger camp I didn’t even belong to, driving their equipment out and staying for a week or more to put away everything from pillows to steel girders, clean vehicles, distribute unused food to the needy, etc.
        Maybe someone who’s done things like that for 12 Burns has so little idea of the work that goes into things that they’re not even qualified to speak in some eyes. Eh.
        I personally wouldn’t think so and might do what people many in charge are doing, reassess risk and revamp procedures as well as benefits, see about getting getting crew into vaccine trials and consider progress on treatments. I’ve been out the last 2 nights and people, especially the young, are NOT waiting, they are accepting the risk and taking their chances.
        I might think that people who participate and contribute actually ARE “entitled” to speak in this community, even though it shouldn’t be a matter of that. IMHO, all ideas should be given intelligent consideration in a rapidly evolving situation for something months away, especially including the “radical” ones. At least, according to SOME principles.

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  • Natalya says:

    I wonder if many people know about a group of virtual Burners in a social metaverse world called Second life. Many people create virtual avatars and create in this virtual world. The reason I know of this is for the last 3 years I have done live musical events for this virtual metaverse platform. I bring a 7 person band that broadcasts from a studio into this metaverse world. Try looking up burningman2.org. Maybe we will see you there.. Burn on, Burn it up, But don’t burn out

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