All posts by Smash

It’s About Flocking Time

By Ria Greiff

Well, if you ever sat around and contemplated Burning Man in retrospect and wondered, “When will the Bmorg allow animals into Black Rock City?” your wait for that answer is officially over, because this year, there will be ruminant ungulates all over the goddamn Playa. And I don’t mean that there will be gyro stands everywhere, even though as a Greek, that might be nice, except I don’t eat animals.

What I mean is that there will be, for your adoption pleasure, a bunch of sheep roaming around. According to their shepherds’ website “all they want is to mingle with the city residents, ready and lit” and “they bear gifts of bareback rides” and “good times.” But don’t get your furry costumes out yet folks, because these baaaad boys are actually robotic.

iSheep is a Burning Man 2018 honorarium art grant recipient. iSheep can be flocking to a theme camp near you IF you adopt them to be all yours. Otherwise, you may see them come and quickly go like the mythical lime green communal bikes that supposedly also show up every year at Black Rock City never to be seen by mere mortals like the 99% of us.

And it is affordable. If your camp has at least 50 members (and if it doesn’t, you guys might already be a bit much into sheep; go meet some people), 10 bucks a head gives you a sheep that does not give head, but may consent if you ask nicely to let you play with it. I will be there at some point as an ishepherd so don’t try to pull any hard wool over anyewe’s eyes if you know what I mean.

The absolute best part is that you can personalize your iSheep, which might come in handy if some silicon bro decides to take it because he feels entitled to everything. According to Bardia Saeedi & DC Regional Artists, the team of Burning Man vets and virgins from Alexandria, Virginia that is bringing you ewe, “A group of friends or a theme camp can adopt a sheep for $500. You then get to decide what your sheep says and in what voices (you send us recordings), design their character, name them, and decide on what they look like (accessories). Send an email to for more info and to receive the application.” There’s also some additional background on the website at and at

Oh and did I mention that there is going to be an iWolf?

Burnie Goes to Washington

By Charlie

If you can’t drain the swamp, maybe you can fill it with Playa dust. The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in collaboration with The Burning Man Project, has brought “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” to Washington, DC, after a prior installation with the Nevada Museum of Art.

The Renwick is an intimate space, recently renovated, a little removed from other Smithsonian museums. Like the best art on the Playa, you have to work a bit to find it and the effort is worth it. Curators managed to fill the playa-relatively small space with a great selection to give others a taste of what it is like to go to Burning Man.

Your attention is quickly drawn to the first room on the left, where a large dioramic paper-crafted archway has four peep holes in the legs, each with something to surprise you, like a big scary spider right there. Signage on the walls gives a primer to Burning Man, complete with definitions of MOOP and sparkle pony. It also introduces the 10 Principles. Overheard conversations of those getting their first experience with Burning Man were priceless: “They have a barter economy,” “Everybody goes naked!” “They blow things up.”

The next room holds representative “Burner” clothing. A sexy white leather dress with feathers is suspect (see MOOP, above) but impressive. What dominates this room, though, is a replica of Marco Cochrane’s “Truth is Beauty” from Burning Man 2013, his glorious towering metal statue of a naked dancer poised on tiptoe, arms raised, back arched. Brilliantly lit. She’s one third her Playa size but of the original cast.

A fire-breathing dragon art car appears in the next room, made of muffin tins and other bakeware, along with a movie showing the Playa evolving from empty space to a thriving city to empty space again all in two weeks. And did I mention the movie theater art car?

Upstairs the exhibit really gets cooking. A chill space beckons, with pillows on the floor and sound-activated neon ceiling lights. Giant mushrooms from the Foldhaus Collective collapse and grow. The Man stands in his own space in a gallery next door. The show stopper is a David Best Temple that takes over an entire 5,000-square-foot room.

When I walk in, it takes my breath away and I’m overcome. I’d left a remembrance for my mother in Best’s Temple of Grace, in 2014. (I’d left the 2013 Burn just in time to be with her in her unexpected last moments.) The Renwick Temple design lives up to the beauty he achieved then, with its intricate altars, alcoves, and obelisks. Signage at the two entrances explains the place the Temple holds in Burner culture. A table nearby offers 3-by-5 inch balsa wood cards for museum patrons to write down their thoughts. Most are respectful and heartfelt, though I see a banal “LA, CA” juxtaposed with “Thank you, Larry, for all my friends (heart, heart, heart emojis).”

Outside, Mischell Riley’s “Maya’s Mind,” Kate Raudenbush’s “Future’s Past,” and Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg’s “XOXO,” among others, are all a short walk away. This public art, however, has signs saying, “No Climbing.” I tell people on the sidewalk, “At Burning Man, if it can be climbed, it will be climbed.”

I return to The Temple the next day for another look; the day before was a lot to process. I had also said goodbye to my father in the 2017 Temple Burn. He died that year, four years after my mother. It was a Monday, east coast-humid outside, less crowded. A loud Hungarian couple argue in the corner. My dad was a hot-headed Hungarian, so I’m never sure when Hungarians are arguing or just talking. I approach a docent, appropriately adorned in a blinking blue neon necklace. I ask if she understands the sacredness of The Temple, even if in a museum. She’d never been to Burning Man but had done her homework. “Yes,” she says, “But this being a public place, it is hard to keep people quiet.”

I ask her the fate of The Temple when the exhibit closes. “It is uncertain,” she says. Maybe a tour around the country, maybe some regional burns. Maybe some unknown donor will endow it as a permanent installation. The balsawood cards, however, are collected every few days and are being saved, and they will be sent to a Temple burn. Eventually. Apparently, the cards cannot be burned on National Parks lands, so they are trying to figure out where. I suggest the Playa in 2019.

We chat a bit longer. The art, she tells me, was commissioned especially for this project. Which explains why everything was so clean. All the artists have had projects at Burning Man. I was struck by the thought that maybe what our nation’s capital needs is a little more Burning Man, and a little less of the other shit going on here.

Larry Harvey: The Burner We All Knew

[Editor’s note: The following is the Beacon’s contribution to the Global Celebration and Day of Gratitude for Larry Harvey]

By Mrs. Lucky

A fox knows many things, says the Greek poet, a hedgehog knows one big thing. Larry Harvey was a hedgehog. Alone among the promiscuously creative polymaths who founded Burning Man, Harvey stayed loyal to the big picture. He molded the rituals and tended the principles. He was earnest.

“Most people would have dropped out when Burning Man just seemed like a piddling daydream,” observed artist Mary Grauberger, who knew him at the beginning. “But he was sure of it, and he was right.”

Grauberger, quoted in Brian Doherty’s 2006 book This Is Burning Man, built and burned sculptures of shore-washed junk on Baker Beach in the early 1980s. Though her art was an inspiration for the first Burn, she claims she never looked for fame. “People seem to need Burning Man, and they come from all over the world,” Grauberger continues, “But I know it’s hard on Larry’s health.”

This summer, the festival’s status in the American psyche is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. In late March, at the gala opening for “No Spectators, the Art of Burning Man,” Larry Harvey climbed the red-carpeted stairs of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. He’d left behind his Stetson, and his cap from the Empire Store. He had one hand on the polished brass rail, the other on the arm of a willowy woman in a graceful gown. Tiny horns peaked through the crown of her long, salt and pepper hair. It was a remarkable ascent for a man who described himself as “an outsider in every sense of the word.” At the top of the steps, Larry and his lithe friend paused before entering the Grand Salon, studying the stick figure that started it all.

Harvey was dating the daughter of a former Soviet spy when the first Man was built in the basement garage of her San Francisco row house. About as avant-garde as a garden trellis, with all the artistic sophistication of the guy you draw in hangman, the icon is so simple you can get it across with three pieces of duct tape. This was how he wanted it.

Of the 10 principles of Burning Man the idea of inclusion was nearest to Harvey’s heart. It set him at odds with the other principals, who held a more raw vision. A 2007 article in the Black Rock Beacon details the troubled transition of the original triumvirate into a corporate structure. Between the charismatic Danger Ranger and the elusive John Law, it seems Larry Harvey was chosen to wear the mantle of leadership because he had the least to lose.

As a kid Larry Harvey planned to change the world. He got a slow start. He was 30 before he earned a living. He had a knack for attracting supportive women. He lived with an elementary school teacher. She won the bread. He took the bus to the public library to feed his mind. He worked as a bike messenger, and with a cadre of latte-carpenters, but described himself to Doherty as destined to head Burning Man, “a job for which there was no applying and no standardized curriculum to prepare for.”

A kind of a cosmic juggler, what Larry Harvey made was plans, not for portable potties and ticket sales, but for grand themes and big ideas. None more than the elaborate Burn Night ceremony styled Release the Man: herds of fire spinners, processions of cassocked torch bears, and tens of thousands of voices chanting “burn the Man.”

Interviewing him was like trout fishing. You cast your questions into his stream of consciousness. You’d get bites on Kant and Freud. But ask about the first Burn or the movie Wicker Man and you’d get skunked. He would come by the Black Rock Beacon camp. We’d brush the dust off the least broken chair and put it at the edge of our shade structure, where he’d puff his cigarettes, ashing carefully into the container he’d brought. He was the only one who didn’t get shit for smoking at the Beacon.

Some years he’d give us the scoop on the next year’s theme. We’d make it front page news, because at the Beacon we’re hedgehogs too.

Just days after his Smithsonian triumph, Larry Harvey suffered a stroke. Lucid in the first days of his hospitalization, he was visited by one of his first buddies in San Francisco. “You’ve done what you came to do,” the old friend told him. After several unresponsive weeks, Larry Harvey was released.

Fuck Your Peak Experience

By Ria Greiff

Like all good intentions, this column’s path went straight to hell. As your mensch in the trench, my goal was to offer a monthly column. Blame it on the chocolate, blame it on the green beer, but this item took two months to get here.

So break out your bump stocks, automatic rifles, silencers, Kevlar, and legislature, and throw them all away with abandon, cause ain’t nobody gonna do anything about them anyway and instead let’s talk about peak experiences.

Over the years, people have asked me to describe Burning Man. My response has always been, “The world’s A+ humans, bringing their A game (except you, you pieces of trash, who threw whole rolls of toilet paper into the potties at Tycho’s sunrise set in the Deep Playa).” My response fell short of describing how it felt, however — until now.

Have you heard about Maslow? Have you learned about self-actualization? Most likely you have, if you are reading this right now. But does the phrase “peak experience” roll off your tongue like a keto shake? It should, because that is what your Burn is all about.

A peak experience comprises transcendental moments of pure joy and elation. It involves a heightened sense of wonder, awe, or ecstasy with such an intensity of perception, depth of feeling, and profound significance that you wonder if you are having a psilocybin or MDMA flashback; moreover, the memory of these moments is everlasting, like Sandra’s love (pronounced Sondra).

So take my words for it. If you are questioning whether you should come Home again in about 90 days, think of the GroundScore motto, “Just Say Yes!” (except you, you pieces of shit, who took apart art installations). Now go refresh your profile on the website and get your fine actualized self ready for the Burn!

Forever from the trenches – GroundScore

Editor’s note: for readers who do not speak fluent GroundScore, we offer the following elucidations:

Tycho is a San Francisco-based musician known for his DJ sets at sunrise. In 2017, he took the Dusty Rhino art car out and played a sublime two-hour set for what he called the, “absolute favorite morning of all time.”

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who was created Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization. His biggest contributions to psychology were to humanistic psychology and the modern positive psychology movement.

Self Actualization is something you have already achieved if you have attended Burning Man, but just in case you are still wondering, it is the the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities.

Keto Shake, the drink of choice for those committed to a ketogenic lifestyle. High in protein and fat but few if any carbohydrates to keep you in the ketosis zone to burn fat and build muscle.

Psilocybin mushrooms, popular recreational psychedlics, have been shown in preliminary studies to be useful in treating depression and anxiety and alcohol dependence and in aiding smoking cessation.

MDMA (methylenedioxy­methamphetamine) can be a pressed pill that is called Ecstasy or Rolls or it can be in a crystalline form called Molly. It is a psychoactive drug used primarily for recreation, The desired effects include increased empathy, euphoria, and heightened sensations.

Sandra Ann Lauer, commonly known by her stage name Sandra (German pronunciation: [ˈzandʁa] was a German pop singer who enjoyed mainstream popularity in the 1980s and early 1990s with a string of European hit singles, produced by her then-husband and musical partner, Michael Cretu, the Romanian–German musician, singer, songwriter, producer and founder and musician behind the German musical project Enigma.

A Burner Guide to Crowdfunding

By Ria Greiff

If you beg for it, they will come.

Burners seeking to bring art to the Playa have turned to the Internet to raise funds, opting in droves for crowdsourcing sites that offer several approaches to appealing to the masses who have extra cash to spare. The differing rules matter because they attract varying classes of donors and have different requirements for those looking for dough.

You might think that the Burning Man organization would offer guidance on which to pick. It does — sort of. The official statement is, “Create a fundraising project on whichever crowdfunding service best meets your needs.”

As your resident Burner from the trenches, I parsed them a bit for you.

Kickstarter is more of an innovation platform. Artists, designers, inventors, or any variation of that trifecta, can be found here. They also have been vetted, which saves time sifting through MOOP, because Kickstarter only accepts 60% of its submissions, and if the project fails to achieve its funding goal, you are given your money back instead of a coaster depicting a defunct BM project. I’d rather get Playa Dust in my metal cup than have that depressing thing next to my futon in my tent as I slightly shiver in the desert night.

Kickstarter remains one of the most-well-known platforms, however, because it was one of the first players on the block, along with its indie-headed step-sister, Indiegogo.

Indiegogo is like the Deep Playa. Anything goes. Do what you want, take whatever it will give you; additionally, like the Deep Playa, there is so much out there that you are bound to miss something (bet you didn’t see the stationary bikes in 2017). If not fully funded, an artist can take the money and run on Indiegogo. Artists are free to use the cash they receive to put a tutu on a giant flamingo on Tuesday. To assuage any trepidation a patron may have in donating to a project, an artist can keep their integrity over their greenbacks, by setting up the campaign to be an all-or-none type of scenario, as is the rule at Kickstarter. Not fully funded, no gargantuan avian tutu.

The newest darling with a super catchy name is GoFundMe. Like, “Go Fuck Yourself.” Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t said that aloud when looking at some of those campaigns! Go Fund Me is exactly that, a platform for financing personal causes. You will find individuals or a group try to raise some funds to bring their art car to BM, or construction of some camp structure. I wouldn’t look for tantalizing projects on GoFundMe unless you desire to help a Sparkle Pony lose his Burginity. If he doesn’t get fully funded however, he is not required to go the full monty while pocketing the small change he collected.

There is one other crowdsourcing crowdfunder that just hatched, and it brings more crowds to the yard than these other (vegan) bacon milkshakes. Mainly because this platform is powered by a charitable organization. Hatchfund got started as a micro philanthropy platform and then nestled into AIM (Legal Name: Applied Information Management Institute), a not-for-profit that grows, connects and inspires the tech talent ecosystem to “improve thousands of lives in the Silicon Prairie.” The prairie dogs themselves are outstanding artists who already have more than a Playa Name; they are grant, award, fellowship, or residency recipients.

HatchFund also has a MatchFund, because matching funds encourage and maximize contributions … natch. Big donors make their grants contingent on smaller pledges that they match up to a specified limit.

The projects that make their way to Hatchfund seem to be the largest among the sites. Well-played Hatchfund, you dirty ol’ silicon dog, well-played.

Most projects on all of the sites offer rewards for different levels of contributions. These can range from a heart-felt thanks to giving a big donor the entire project at the end of Burning Man.

That is almost all the theoretical that matters. Now, let’s see this in practice.

As of the end of April, Art Project fundraisers on the BMorg page broke down like this:

GoFundMe – Had five fund requests in the mid thousands of dollars
Indiegogo – One in the hundreds, two in the thousands
Kickstarter – Three in the hundreds
Hatchfund – Had two in the $100,000 range, three in the $10,000 range

So how to decide? Go with Hatchfund if you are already a rockstar and people rush to do your bidding. Kickstarter is good if you are either sure that your project is so awesome-yet-reasonably priced that you will be able to garner all or most of the funds you need from an adoring public (and, you know, make the last $500 an anonymous donation from yourself). Use IndieGoGo if you just want to raise some money and care a little about the projects listed on either side of yours, and GoFundMe if you don’t.

If You Are Stopped by Authorities …

by Rage the Bear

This provides some information about your basic rights if you are stopped by the police or other authorities, on the playa or off. It is not a substitute for legal advice.

When an officer stops you, he or she may search you either if (i) you give consent or (ii) the officer has probable cause that you have committed a crime. Officers are trained to elicit consent with forceful statements like “I need to take a look in there.” And consent may be given even when it might sound like a no, like “I’m not sure that’s OK.” You must give a clear and definitive statement. The easiest is “I do not consent to any search or seizure.”

To obtain probable cause to search you, your property, or camp, an officer must have articulable facts that lead to more than a hunch that you have committed a crime. For example, using a water pipe in the open is enough for probable cause (don’t do this).

When stopped by an officer, you must provide ID or your name as it appears on your ID. Beyond that, you do not need to answer an officer’s questions. Period. Either an officer has probable cause to search you or not. By answering questions, your answers may subject yourself to a search.

If you’d like to leave while interacting with an officer, simply ask “Sir/ma’am, am I free to leave?” If the officer says yes, calmly walk away. If the officer says no, you are being detained or are under arrest. If detained, simply repeat the first question until you are free to go and then calmly leave.

If you are under arrest, politely tell the officer you are invoking your right to remain silent, that you’d like to speak with a lawyer, and then shut the hell up!

On his way in to Black Rock City last year, the author and his partner were detained for an unlit license plate obscured by a bike rack. They were kept waiting long after their license and registration had checked out. Rage postulates they were calling for dogs. It came out they were law students. The officer waved them on. Rage took the bar exam in July.

Harvey Hints at Permanent Venue

by Curious

Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man, was deliberately cryptic and brief about one topic in the Black Rock City press conference this year. Your local Black Rock Beacon hacks sniffed and by the end of the conference pounced, as no one in the international media present had touched it.

Harvey had stated that, “We may have the opportunity in the future to create another venue. It would be something that would be rather wonderful that lasts … unlike Black Rock City.”

The Beacon asked, “Were you talking about buying a piece of property and land so it can live somewhere? You’re skirting around something, a permanent structure?”

“I don’t want to talk about real estate negotiations while we’re in the process,” Harvey answered, smiling.

“People say, ‘wouldn’t it be great to live Burning Man all year long’—literally?! I don’t advise it!” he joked. “I think it can live all year long as the place is internalized by people and then applied to daily situations—but not manic states of celebration.”

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