In 1993 it was the year of the “drive-by shooting gallery,” where Burners shot at stuffed animals from the bed of a moving pickup truck. The first ever theme camp was born “Christmas” style, a visually stimulating communal space for Burners to interact.
In the same age, Mikel brought the first ever “art car” to the gathering, named “5:04 PM” after the Loma Prieta earthquake that caused a brick wall to collapse on the rear half of an Olds Cutlass parked in the San Francisco Bay Area. It served as a conceptual art piece representative of the powerful forces of nature. Mikel also published the first onsite newspaper, and developed a search and rescue team of volunteers called the Black Rock Rangers that began at six members and now has more than 800 members.
In the third age, Burning Man moved to Fly Ranch, trying a new approach of private land and controlled access. A test to the organization, it resulted in bad public relations and 100 percent of tickets were impounded by the Washoe County Sheriff’s office. Back on Black Rock in 1998, the first website was launched, an airport was built on site, the first temple was created, and “moop” was founded, a mantra for cleaning that meant “matter out of place” which later led to “moop maps,” a playa restoration initiative.
In the years to come, the event functioned on autopilot. Thriving with mega camps, art installations that began to travel the world, and a road trip across the country to invite new cultures. This led to the first sold-out event in 2011 at 53,963 people, exceeding the population limit set by the BLM.
With concern from an audience member about preserving the culture at Burning Man in the future, Mikel responded, “Our charter is extremely well written and designed to carry Burning Man into the future beyond our lifetime,” he said. “We’ve also been very careful about the people we’ve selected to be on the board to make sure that the philosophy and the principles of Burning Man are carried into the future.”
In 2011, Burning Man became a 501c3 non-profit, and in the summer of 2016 the Burning Man Project purchased the Fly Ranch property, 3,800 acres of land, for $6.5 million sourced from donors. It is located 21 miles North of Gerlach in Washoe County, Nev.
In the fifth age, Mikel said the seed principles of Burning Man translated into radical inclusion, gifting, radical self-alliance and self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy. “We have a government that wants to protect us from ourselves,” said Mikel. “Making more rules, more laws, don’t do this, don’t do that, this is for your own good, they don’t allow people to experiment, to find out, and I think that’s one of the things that Burning Man is teaching people is that we need to have more freedom.”
On July 1, The Nevada Museum of Art will mount a Burning Man exhibit of history and art, and in 2018 the exhibit will go to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
Danger Ranger ended his two-hour presentation with hope for future generations of Burners. “I believe the next generations will make us proud,” he said. “There’s no us and them, we’re all the same community.”