Burners are blazing hot and bright right now

While I’m obviously focused on the imminent release of my book, The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture, that is only one of the fast and furious developments within the vibrant Burning Man culture.
Today was the deadline for artists to submit their grant proposals to Black Rock City LLC, and many of the tribes that I’m connected to and include in my book – from the Flux Foundation (builders of last year’s Temple of Flux) to Flaming Lotus Girls to the crews of artists Peter Hudson and Michael Christian – were slamming to get their pitches and renderings done late into last night (I’m even going to meet some recovering fluxxers for a celebratory drink after I post this). I’ll try to profile a few of the projects in the coming weeks.
I’ve also been in communication with the Extra Action folks who built the amazing but ill-fated La Contessa art galleon. They brought a federal civil lawsuit against Nevada landowner Mike Stewart, who intentionally burned La Contessa to the ground in 2006, an episode I chronicled in a Bay Guardian cover story that I reprise in my book.
They sued under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act, which makes it illegal to destroy an artwork, a statute that carries a steep punitive fine that was the group’s best hope of recovering a significant financial settlement, as well as under federal conversion statutes that ban destruction of property.
But the judge in federal district count in Nevada ruled Jan. 20 that La Contessa was applied art because it was built on a functional vehicle and didn’t meet the statute’s definition of visual art, granting Stewart’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the VARA claim while leaving the conversion suit intact. The crew is planning its next move – and I’ve been playing phone tag with their lawyer – so I may have a more detailed Guardian story on this soon.
Meanwhile, Black Rock City LLC (the entity that stages Burning Man) has been busily converting into a nonprofit called the Burning Man Project and trying to move into a high-profile new headquarters in San Francisco’s mid-Market area (a quest it’s been on for awhile). The deal on the latter could be finalized at any time (it’s subject to a real estate negotiations now that could go either way) while the nonprofit announcement is probably still a few months away. I’ll post something more detailed as soon as there’s more to say. And tickets continue to sell at a record pace, indicating that Black Rock City might well top last year’s peak population of 51,000.
So 2011 is shaping up to be a huge year in the Burning Man community – not least of which because my book is comprehensively chronicling the modern burner culture for the first time. So, buy the book (which my publisher, distributor, and I will receive on Thursday), plan on coming to my book launch party on Feb. 17 at Project One (with lots of special guests and surprises in store), and check back to this blog for stories and updates on the culture.

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