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AFTERBURN REPORT 2001

SPECIAL EVENTS

How do we keep the Burn alive throughout the year? We create events and salons all year that keep the community connected and bring a little of the playa to our home towns!


Heat the Streat FaIRE! Decompression 2001 Photo: Jon 'Catweasel' Ross

The purpose of all our events is to provide a forum for members of the community-near and far to gather, share information, plan art on and off the playa, and create a positive environment for people to express themselves and share their unique gifts with one another. Our goal is always to throw an amazing event that celebrates the values of our community and inspires those who attend.

Part of the reality of these often surreal events, is that costs -for printed invitations, mailings, rentals, permits, security, equipment, documentation, and the like - add up. We try to break-even or make a few dollars for things needed the next time around. Profit, however, is not our objective. Sometimes we lose a little; sometimes we make a little. Most often, we break even and that suits us fine. We keep the entry price as low as we can, giving discounts to those who come in costume and we encourage whatever venue we are working with to lower drink prices or run extended happy hours to keep the night as affordable as possible. Performers, artists, DJs and theme camps perform, and enhance the environment with their art without financial compensation.

Our Special Events team is actually organized into several individual work teams: overall planning and production, and coordination teams for A/V media, theme camp, art, fire art & fire performers, stage and roving performers, and volunteers. In addition, dozens of volunteers help with set-up, light construction, stage management, MC-ing, fire safety, and breakdown. Photographers, videographers, artists and performers of all kinds bring content to the "frame" that the Special Events team creates.

Monthly, bi-monthly, then weekly meetings are held for general planning leading up to an event, with the bulk of the coordination done via e-mail and phone calls between meetings. Up to six months in advance, plans are made; spaces are scouted; and fire permits, street closure permits and other necessary paperwork is filed with police and fire officials 1-2 months in advance. A general call for participation also goes out on the Jack Rabbit Speaks at least twice for each event, usually one to two months in advance and the week before. Once the word has gotten out to the community, amazing artists, theme camps and performers always step forward to work their magic.


A Night of Seven Ages - July 2001. Photos: Anke Osterburg

We generally try to accommodate everyone who wishes to contribute something. We try to encourage performers who represent the full spectrum of participants at Burning Man, so sometimes we say no to bands or DJs in order to say "yes" to several shorter and more varied acts. In general, we tend to favor "anti-acts" that break down the barrier between performer and participant which might not normally have another venue for expression. Still, we try to accommodate everyone-and take into consideration how far in advance people express an interest, how well they relate to the specific theme, whether they have performed before, and whether or not they have been to Burning Man. (99.9% have.) We turn down any performers who are solely looking at these events as promotional opportunities for themselves. Thankfully, those are few in number.

It takes two to three months to produce each event, but the pace and amount of work is always most intense the two weeks before, when we are inundated by last minute requests to participate. That is when the meat really begins to gather on the bones. And at that point it's a full-time job handling the e-mails and calls, developing schedules, creating maps for optimal placement and scheduling things so there is an appropriate balance between things that are planned and things that simply happen.

The production of each event actually begins around noon that day. We rearrange the space to encourage interaction with optimal placement of art and theme camps. Artists and theme camps come early to set-up. We install video screens, run through sound and A/V checks, build sets of stairs, backstage storage areas, or runways for the fashion shows.

During the event, stage managers assist the MCs in making sure things run smoothly. We work extensively with security, police or other authorities that may be on hand, both before and during the event. In the past year, the police and fire departments have begun to understand the nature of our events and see us as responsible and community-minded-even if we are spinning fire or wearing body paint and furry tails! Now some fire and police officials actually look forward to our events and have grown supportive because they see how our community supports its ideals.

The hardest part of every event is clean-up. In many cases we document the before and after condition with videos of the space. It is our goal - although we're wiped out after a long day - to return the space to BETTER than we found it. It always helps when participants stay even ten minutes longer and ask how they can help. (Hint, hint.)


April Foolz Ball 2001. Photos: PleasureSean

Last year our Special Events team produced The April Foolz Ball A Night of Seven Ages in July, and October's Heat The Street FaIRE Decompression party, where participation by nearly 5000 people converted three city blocks in San Francisco to "Blacktop City" with over thirty major theme camps, hundreds of works of art, and performances of every conceivable kind by some of the most imaginative artists and performers in the world.

Flambe Lounge events and artist talks, like the Precompression art event (organized by Louis Brill and held at the SF Exploratorium), serve as venues to showcase new ideas for the playa, to learn what others are working on, and to showcase new art and performance in a salon-type environment. The Decompression Party is an opportunity to gather just after the dust of Burning Man has settled to regroup, share photos and videos of Burning Man and re-live the best moments. It is also a wonderful opportunity to bring playa art and theme camps to the city for a second life in "civilization" and to talk about experiences on the playa with people that understand just how life-changing experiencing Burning Man can be.

In 2002, the Special Events team is planning several Flambe Lounges and art events, including another Precompression art lecture at the Exploratorium. They are also working with regional organizers to help encourage more art and community in other cities. Check the Calendar of Events section of the website for updates and details. Expect new surprises and undersea extravaganzas!

We are in need of an ongoing Volunteer Coordinator for special events. We are also always in need of volunteers, new photos and videos to share, and performers or art. Contact us if you would like to volunteer, perform, or bring art or your theme camp. Thank you in advance for your participation.