Burn Retrospective

A note from the Chair of the Board

Hello my fellow burners! Element 11 2023 was spectacular! What an event! This event really showed us some amazing things about us as a community, and as an organization. There’s a lot of topics I want to cover in this post, so I’ll dive right in (sorry in advance for the long post). Some of these topics are observations, some of them are issues we noticed and want to nip in the bud, and some of them are ideas to make sure it was better next year.

Here’s a TL;DR if you don’t want to read the whole thing: More participants = more space required – this could involve reducing vehicles or adjusting how theme camps can reserve space at the event. Effigy show – maybe more drones, maybe less fireworks, possibly different structure for fire show. Temple burn – great audience, sound during the temple burn, perimeter rules adjustments. Civic Responsibility – following laws, sound policies, consent, and our code of conduct. Open org positions. Feedback Form.

So, let’s talk about space. 

I want to begin this by going back in time to the 2021 event. In 2021, Box Elder County put some restrictions on us regarding the number of vehicles allowed into the event. We sold 1700 tickets, and half that number of vehicle passes. That year, it was much more difficult to find a vehicle pass than it was to find a ticket. In 2022, we told Box Elder County, “We need X number of vehicles.” Due to our outstanding relationship with Box Elder County, they agreed.

This year, we said the same thing, and they again, agreed. By the time the event came, we again had sold out of vehicle passes, and released a few more for sale. It seems that this dynamic has caused large portions of the event space to be turned into a parking lot, even though we changed a portion of the event space into a designated parking area. As an organization, we are examining how to address this. One very likely solution is a no-vehicle camping area, where you can drop your gear, then park your vehicle in a designated area.

Another space related concern was the large amount of space which had been set aside for Theme Camps, which was still empty as of Friday afternoon. We still had people showing up at that point, and had largely run out of open camping space to give them. It is very likely that starting next year we will implement a system like Burning Man, where once the event is officially open all space which was reserved for theme camps is considered fair game if nobody from the theme camp is there to hold the space. This should help to allow our community the space they need to attend the event.

On that note, we have been continuing to increase our population each year, and have been continuing to sell out of tickets each year. Based on participant space usage, we have largely reached our capacity for population. Further increases in the population will require significant amounts of work from the Stargazer Owners to open more space for camping. We want to continue growing the event, because our community grows each year, and Element 11 is an event which changes the context by which people live their lives. Any policies we put in place for vehicles or theme camp space is largely in service of us continuing to grow the community.

Speaking of space, but in a different way.

How about that Effigy Show! Was that awesome or what? We have heard lots of feedback about the entire show, and we want you to know that we are listening (I’ll talk more about that in a bit). First, the drone show. As an organization, we knew a little bit of what to expect, but it ended up turning out way better than I think any of us could have imagined. The sheer energy which was felt during that show was incredible. I have personally been to burn events for 13 years, and have rarely felt that level of excitement and wonder from the audience. That being said, we do know it was not a burn, nor was it intended to be a burn. While there’s nothing quite like lighting something on fire, I think that we landed on something very special as a replacement.

Then the fireworks show! There’s been a lot of speculation on how that went down, and what the actual cost breakdown of such a large firework show was. To continue fostering a culture of transparency with our community, let me say that the E11 Org only contributed $2,500 to the fireworks show, and another $500 was contributed separately. However, that show was in and of itself an art piece, with the pyrotechnician almost doubling all contributions from his own pocket as well as hand crafting the mortars and getting the supplies at wholesale prices. What we ended up with was an hour-long firework show which put to shame any other fireworks that I personally have ever seen. Not everyone enjoys all art, and this was a spectacular display of art, but some feedback we have gotten was that it definitely could have been shorter.

On the note of art shows, the fire performance this year was awesome! It is unfortunate that a large portion of the audience could not see the show well, so we are looking at possible solutions on how to address that.

As for the Temple burn.

First and foremost, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to our community for the awesome respect which was shown during the Temple burn. On top of that, the Temple build crew did a beautiful job with the temple construction, and the immense reverence shown by our community is a testament to how beautiful it was. It has been an ongoing conversation in our community regarding how to act during the Temple burn. As a memorial to what we have lost in our lives and wish to let go, it is intended to be a solemn occasion.

This year, the burn was beautiful, and the audience was so courteous. It was unfortunate that before the structure had fallen and perimeter was broken, that some heavy dance music started coming from a sound camp. It should be made clear that the burn is officially over when the Rangers break perimeter, which happens when the final structure has fallen, and the fire department has declared there is no longer a danger to participants coming up to the burn. Proper decorum would dictate that music should not start back up until that point.

On the note of proper decorum, and safety, I would like to address the perimeter itself. This year during the temple burn we had a number of safety issues present at the perimeter. While bikes have traditionally not been prevalent at E11, each year the number of bikes and e-bikes continues to grow. Having those bikes right up at the burn perimeter is not only inconsiderate, but a safety issue in case an emergency were to happen. This also goes for Art Vehicles of any size. The Rangers have specifically asked that from now on we have 5 rows of ground seated audience members directly at the perimeter, followed by several rows of chair seated audience members, followed by standing audience members. All bikes, art cars, and other forms of transportation should be at least 50 feet outside of the final set of audience members.

Some notes about responsibility.

From an organizational perspective, the event was a resounding success, with very few things we needed to deal with. It is worth mentioning though, as a Regional Burning Man Event, we subscribe to the 10 Principles of Burning Man. I’d like to specifically call out Civic Responsibility. Element 11 has an outstanding working relationship with Box Elder County. Each year we work with a number of departments within the county to make our event happen. Even though we have such a great relationship, we want to remind the community how important it is to follow all local and federal laws on the way to the event, at the event, and on the way home from the event. In order for us to continue to have a great relationship with the county, it is part of our Civic Responsibility to give no reason to not trust us.

Another part of Civic Responsibility is simply being a good citizen to our community. Element 11 exists as a place where we are removed from the default context of the world. Officially, we are an art event, and art is simply the form of personal expression each of us exhibit. There are many different forms of art, and E11 is inclusive of almost all of them. It’s important to understand though, when your art has an unintended impact on others. In the same way that it would be unacceptable to force someone to view visual art they find distasteful, so too is it important to understand consent with other types of art.

Largely, Element 11 has taken the stance of not strictly enforcing our sound policies (yes, we actually have sound policies for the event) because it has not been much of an issue in the past. As we have grown though, it becomes almost an arms race for sound camps to create bigger and louder sound systems. While many participants view the amount of sound at the event as simply “part of the experience” I feel compelled to point out that not everyone does.

Additionally, some important context around this is that we are a volunteer run organization, and 20% of our population volunteers to help run the event. Excessive sound can have unintended consequences of preventing volunteers from getting the rest they need to be able to help run the event. It’s not a solution to simply “camp further away” when many volunteers are also involved in theme camps and don’t have much choice where they camp. It is the expectation of the organization that sound camps respond appropriately when asked to adjust the volume of their sound.

While being a good citizen in our community encompasses consent, it is often brought up as a standalone topic in our community. As one of the primary portions of the Element 11 Participant Code of Conduct, we want to remind everyone that consent is sexy, in all forms. Consent talks about more than just sexual consent, but also all other forms of interaction. Everything from touching, to gifting, to even having a conversation with someone involves consent (ever told a ranger to f- off? That’s a consent conversation). Non-consensual interactions can violate our Participant Code of Conduct, and these violations should definitely be reported. Even spiking a non-alcoholic drink is non-consensual and a violation of the code of conduct and should be reported. We would encourage our community to report egregious violations of consent to our Conduct Committee for investigation. The link to the report form can be found here:


E11 Org stuff.

We have a couple of open positions within the E11 Org. These are year-round volunteer positions, with varying amounts of time required during the off season. First, we are seeking a Sustainability Coordinator to help reduce our environmental impact by holding Element 11. This position would be accountable to Jack Davis, our Volunteer Director. Second, we are looking for a Placement Coordinator. This is a cross functional role which will work with multiple departments for all things placement related at the event, including but not limited to Art, Theme Camps, Elemental Public Works, and Safety. The final role we are looking to fill in the org currently is Art Director. This role is a director level position working with artists regarding our art grant process. The four cabinet members who report to our Art Director are: Center Camp, Events Coordinator, Dangerous Arts, and Mutant Vehicles.

This would definitely be an appropriate time to mention that we love to reward our volunteers. Unfortunately, sometimes we can’t verify that someone has contributed time to the event. If you take a volunteer role at the event, we ask that you please know what that role encompasses. This year we had many of our lead volunteers not able to be found when the shifts were changed, so we don’t know how long the shifts lasted or have a sign off for the ones who completed their shifts. While we can put new policies in place to address this, we want to make sure that our volunteers have their hours properly recorded. If you have reason to believe that your hours were not properly recorded, please reach out to volunteers@element11.org and we can try to sort you out.

As a final note, I am happy to introduce something completely new. Traditionally, as an organization we have relied on receiving feedback from our community through social media. As our community has grown, this has become difficult to keep track of and manage. As algorithms regarding what posts are shown have changed, we can no longer rely on social media to give us a complete picture of all feedback. As such, this year we have a feedback form regarding our event. All feedback is welcome and requested.

The link to the feedback form can be found here: