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Ten Principles

Radical Inclusion

Gifting

Decommodification

Radical Self-reliance

Radical Self-expression

Communal Effort

Civic Responsibility

Leaving No Trace

Participation

Immediacy

The Ten Principles of Burning Man


Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey wrote the Ten Principles in 2004 as guidelines for the newly-formed Regional Network. They were crafted not as a dictate of how people should be and act, but as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception.


Radical Inclusion


Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Gifting


Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

Decommodification


In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance


Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Radical Self-expression


Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort


Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility


We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace


Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Participation


Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediacy


Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

Red Nose District

Home to the Black Rock City circus collective and Burning Man camp of the same name, comprised of the EnHightened Beings of Leisure, The Klown Korps, the Pedalbump big top, and all of their various and sundry creatures, subsidiaries and attractions.

Metamorphoses

2019 Art Theme from burningman.org

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit” (Everything changes, nothing perishes)
— Ovid, Metamorphoses

"Energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed.”
— 1st Law of Thermodynamics

Two thousand years before Kafka’s Gregor Samsa woke up as a cockroach, Ovid, the literary bad boy of First Century Rome, was writing about metamorphoses dire and diverse. In a world caught between human folly and godly whims, his luckless heroes find themselves transformed into birds and beasts, trees and mountains, even constellations of stars. In some cases metamorphosis is meted out as reward, in others as divine punishment. And looming over every verse is the specter of death, the final transformation, a terminal point at which change is irreversibly arrested. To read these stories is a potent reminder that life is by its nature a transformative journey, where fate and character interact in unpredictable ways.

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
— Franz Kafka

Burning Man is routinely described as transformative. At the personal level, a transformative experience. At the group level, a transformative event or culture. What does that really mean?

From “It changed my life” to “it’s changing the world,” Burning Man is a million stories, and the through-line across them all is change. Mutability. A tempering or annealing, like metal in a forge or glass in a kiln. Shedding the dross, revealing the true nature within. A crucible of souls.

We look at ourselves and think: I want to change. My surroundings, my community, my company, my city, my country. Innovation, modification, diversification. Evolution and revolution. But how much of this is will, and how much destiny? Do our true selves lie within, like the form inside the sculptor’s marble, waiting to emerge? Or must we find some north star, set a course, and lash ourselves to the wheel? In a world of manufactured desire and alluring spectacle, can we trust our own instincts?

“When the butterfly takes wing, nothing of the caterpillar remains.”
— Alejandro Jodorowsky

Icarus and Daedelus, 17th-century relief (Musée Antoine Vivenel)

As much as the personal journey of change may consume us, it takes place in a broader context, a tapestry of interrelated transformations of which ours is but one thread. Looking beyond the horizon of the self, we are surrounded by and inseparable from a world in constant transition. The political landscape and the physical landscape, our planet, in a cascade of tipping points. Do we have the power to influence these changes rather than just lament them, to bend the arc of history? And if we don’t have that power, does anyone?

This year’s theme is a celebration of change, and an exploration of uncertainty. As such it invites a consideration of time; not its circular nature, or its attendant ritual, but in this case the relentless flight of time’s arrow, and an embrace of the elusive now. Memory is fickle, and the future is uncertain. None of us knows what he or she will become, but we can seek to understand where we are at this point in our transformative trajectory, this fleeting chord on the strings of existence.

Transformation happens whether we believe in it or not; but if we have learned anything in our Burning Man experience it is that we do have a say in our own futures, that agency is ours if we choose to pursue it. While we may never know the ultimate outcome, there is a shared belief that our dreams matter, and that together and as individuals we have the power to shape our own stories and transform ourselves in positive ways.

“That’s why [Burning Man] has spread so contagiously, and caused people to take it back with them, and apply it to ordinary life: because it has engineered a change in who they really are.”
― Larry Harvey

Alchemists have long sought to master the art of metamorphosis through esoteric means, transmuting base metals to gold and breathing life into the inanimate, thereby hoping to achieve transcendence over the material world and challenge the dominion of gods and kings. This year’s theme is an invitation to explore new forms of alchemy, reliant not on some elusive Philosopher’s Stone but on the limitless powers of the heart.

Orion, from St John’s College, Cambridge