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To Burn or Not to Burn

Burning Man is the premiere place for an artist to exhibit work to be set on fire, but the trend is changing. Fire art once consisted of either pyrotechnics or artwork that was consumed by fire. A few small, personal pyro shows still happen, and setting artwork on fire will never totally die out as confirmed by the 2002 event's two major burns of the Man and the Temple of Joy by David Best.

The question in 2002 was not so much To Burn or Not to Burn, but HOW artists choose to burn. This is a more complex question. Propane is becoming one of the fire art techniques of choice. Flame effects were the height of hot fun on the playa this year, in the form of personal recreational flamethrowers, handheld flame devices, devices attached to art cars, stationary art, or even harnessing a flaming whirlwind.

Since 1997, the Performance Safety Team has assisted participants in safe creation of dangerous art. Fire safety standards will always be the rule of the playa, but that does not mean that Burning Man wants to prevent you from having fun with fire. This oversight committee was created to make sure that anyone playing with fire or flame effects has an understanding of the hazards involved. These participants must understand the inherent dangers associated with any kind of flame effect, and each individual must take full responsibility for their art. This means in part testing your art and displaying it in a way that does not endanger the audience, other members of the crew, or members of the Performance Safety Team who are here to assist. The team is composed of several pyrotechnicians (who hold licenses in California, Nevada, Washington, and Canada), pyrotechnics consultants, the Fire Branch Chief, special flame effects consultants, and the Performance Director for Fire, Flame Effects, and Pyro.

For the third year in a row, the Man and its platform were positioned on top of a giant burn blanket covered with sand. Once again, absolutely no scaring resulted, despite the intense heat produced when the Man expired in pyrotechnic splendor.

We have also proved the effectiveness of public education. Information communicated to participants helped to reduce the number of burns scars in 2002 to fewer than ten. This outstanding record is proof that Burning Man and participants really do care about protecting the playa and about the Leave No Trace ethic.

Submitted by, Crimson Rose

Click here to read the 2001 to burn or not to burn report.