John Law left and Michael Mikel One of the roots of the annual event now known as Burning Man began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice in when Larry Harvey , Jerry James, and a few friends met on Baker Beach in San Francisco  and burned a 9-foot 2.
Harvey has described his inspiration for burning these effigies as a spontaneous act of "radical self-expression". Sculptor Mary Grauberger, a friend of Harvey's girlfriend Janet Lohr, held solstice bonfire gatherings on Baker Beach for several years prior to , some of which Harvey attended.
When Grauberger stopped organizing it, Harvey "picked up the torch" so to speak, and ran with it. In , the effigy grew to almost 15 feet 4. Harvey has stated that he had not seen the cult film The Wicker Man until many years after and that it did not inspire the action. He asked John Law, who also had experience on the dry lake and was a defining founder of Cacophony Society , to take on central organizing functions.
Meanwhile, the beach burn was interrupted by the park police for not having a permit. After striking a deal to raise the Man but not to burn it, event organizers disassembled the effigy and returned it to the vacant lot where it had been built. Shortly thereafter, the legs and torso of the Man were chain-sawed and the pieces removed when the lot was unexpectedly leased as a parking lot. The effigy was reconstructed, led by Dan Miller, Harvey's then-housemate of many years, just in time to take it to Zone Trip 4.
Thus the seed of Black Rock City was germinated, as a fellowship, organized by Law and Mikel, based on Evans' idea, along with Harvey and James' symbolic man. Drawing on experience in the sign business and with light sculpture, John Law prepared custom neon tubes for the Man in so it could be seen as a beacon at night. In its first years, the community grew by word of mouth alone, all were considered participants by virtue of surviving in the desolate surreal trackless plain of the Black Rock Desert.
There were no paid or scheduled performers or artists, no separation between art-space and living-space, no rules other than "Don't interfere with anyone else's immediate experience" and "no guns in central camp. Participants built art and participated in self-directed performances. Hence, the two events saw lots of cross-pollination of ideas and participants. Before the event opened to the public in , a festival worker named Michael Fury was killed in a motorcycle crash while riding from Gerlach, Nevada, to the Burning Man camp in the Black Rock Desert.
Harvey insisted that the death had not occurred at Burning Man, since the gates were not yet open. Another couple was run over in their tent by an art car driving to "rave camp," which was at that time distant from the main camp. After the event, co-founder and partner John Law broke with Burning Man and publicly said the event should not continue.
By , the event had grown to 8, attendees and unrestricted driving on the open playa was becoming a major safety hazard. Fly Ranch, with the smaller adjoining Hualapai dry lake-bed, just west of the Black Rock desert, was chosen. Will Roger Peterson and Flynn Mauthe created the Department of Public Works DPW to build the "city" grid layout a requirement so that emergency vehicles could be directed to an "address" designed by Rod Garrett, an architect. Rod continued as the city designer until his death, in , at the age of He is also credited with the design of all of the man bases from through , the center camp cafe and first camp.
The event has remained there since. As the population of Black Rock City grew, further rules were established in relation to its survival. Some critics of the event cite the addition of these rules as impinging on the original freedoms, altering the experience unacceptably, while others find the increased level of activity more than balances out the changes. A grid street structure. Since , the area beyond this fence has not been accessible to Burning Man participants during the week of the event.
On June 30, , the California Court of Appeal for the First District upheld the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Black Rock City, LLC on the basis that visitors who deliberately walk towards the Burning Man after it is lit assume the risk of getting burned by such an obviously hazardous object.
His death was ruled a suicide. At one point it looked like all of the board members were going to hire lawyers. Corporate appraisers were brought in to determine how much the company was worth, which Larry Harvey found "abhorrent" and against all of the values that Burning Man stood for.
Marian Goodell, board member and head of communication, addressed concerns about the lack of transparency with this statement: Although unmentioned in the initial announcement, the Terms and Conditions for ticket buyers were changed to reflect an alteration in the structure of the business.
Under the new terms it was made known that a new LLC was created, Decommodification LLC, which in the new non-profit business structure, owns all of the intellectual property associated with the Burning Man brand, including ownership over logos and trademarks, and will be responsible for enforcement thereof. After questions were raised by the community about this new LLC within the comment section on the original non-profit announcement Larry Harvey confirmed that he and the other founders were the sole owners of this new LLC.
Timeline of the event[ edit ] The statistics below illustrate the growth in attendance of the Burning Man event, from a few handfuls of people to more than 70, in , as well as other facts and figures. TV Free returned in and ; the coverage was nominated for a news Emmy Award. During those years changes in the height and structure of the base account for the differing heights of the overall structures. For and the Man itself returned to its foot configuration.