Welcome! This is a quick and dirty document for first-timers coming into Bioluminati.
Camping with Bioluminati
Bioluminati is essentially a well run “residential” camp with a killer public offering. We don’t have a grand overarching theme, we’re not a single group of friends coming from the same city, and we’re not a turnkey camp where you pay money and everything is taken care of for you. We’re just really good at this – and now, you are part of it!
A Brief History of the Bioluminati
Bioluminati is one of the longer continuously active camps at Burning Man. We were founded in 1996 as “De Garden of Earthly Lights” by a group of friends who met through the Usenet writer’s group “talk.bizarre”. The following year camp member Paul Lord brought a massive quantity of Cyalume necklaces to the playa and we were renamed “Bioluminati”. Yes, we were the camp the first brought glow sticks to the playa before they were a thing (and long before they were no longer a thing).
What We Provide, What We Expect
Camping with Bioluminati gets you:
- A low-drama camp with an experienced all-age crew
- A central location
- Tasty breakfasts and dinners from our awesome kitchen
- Running water for kitchen use and (sometimes) hot showers
- Shade structures for your tent
- The Bicycle Mutation Station (BMS), our popular and fun public offering
What we ask for in exchange is:
- Camp dues (as of 2022, running from $325 to $475 depending on how early you register)
- 4 shifts including Kitchen and Bicycle Mutation Station work. Staying to the bitter end and helping strike camp and leave no trace also counts toward this.
- Contribution of arts supplies towards the BMS
- Packing out some trash on the way out
- A basic good attitude and mutual respect
This is the minimum list; there are certainly lots of ways that you can go above and beyond, and we will love you for it!
What We Don’t Provide and Don’t Expect
What we don’t provide:
- Structured group activities
- An art car/vehicle (although keep your eyes out for The Great Atuin )
- A nighttime public offering like a bar or dance space- although that may be changing a little in 2022
- Maid service
What we don’t expect
- Heroic Commitment To The Camp And All It Represents
- The Spanish Inquisition
We’re about getting things done with as little fuss as possible.
In exchange for modest camp dues and lightweight work towards the camp (no spectators! participants only!), you’ll get a comfortable and safe place to stay and sane, friendly campmates. It’s a fun place, but we’re not your source of fun: you are.
Lots of planning needs to happen before we hit the playa. Most of the planning is around the camp layout, the kitchen shifts, BMS, setup and breakdown.
The single best thing you can do to help the planners is to register and fill out your information.
This information contains who you are, your arrival and departure dates (needed for meal planning), what you’re driving in and sleeping in (needed for camp layout), any food restrictions (meal planning, natch), and volunteer shifts for the kitchen and BMS.
As a newcomer to the camp, you’ll also have to list your sponsor. Your sponsor is someone who is camping with us this year and who has camped with us before. Your sponsor has vouched for you as an amazing addition to the camp and is responsible for helping you navigate the ins and outs.
If you like, you can be part of the early arrival team and help get the camp set up. We prefer for folks to be there at least two days before the Burn formally opens, but it’s not a hard and fast rule; ask your sponsor or send inquiries to the Campers email list. For confirmed early arrivals who will be supporting setup we have a limited number of Work Access Passes. These passes do not substitute for a ticket, but they do allow you, in combination with your ticket, to enter Black Rock City before the gate opens to the public.
Feeding as many people as we do is quite an enterprise, and requires a team to get everything done in a timely manner. Everyone spends a few shifts in the kitchen doing something. There are four types of kitchen duties you can take: chef, sous-chef, KP, and courier.
- The chef chooses the menu, sets the number of slots needed for sous-chefs and KPs, arranges transport and storage of food, and purchases the food. Wait, what? Yes, it’s true: all of our meals are gifts to the camp from the chef. Bioluminati does offer financial support for cooks of limited means, but in general your dues are not going towards meals. All the cooking is done for the love of food, and we’ve had many amazing meals as a result. If you’re the type of crazy person for whom cooking dinner for 30+ people in the middle of a desert seems like an awesome time, then you too can be a chef! In the spirit of radical self-reliance, it is always a good idea to make sure you have what you need to survive on the playa, but we make an effort to accommodate special dietary requirements of our members. We collect a list of these (another great reason to fill out your camper registration info) and chefs are presented with a summary of the need of who will be eating their meal.
- The sous-chefs help the chef cook the food.Your chef will provide the recipes, the food, and the abuse; you provide the labor.
- KP (Kitchen Patrol) keeps the kitchen clean. Yes, this means washing dishes, but a good KP crew also keeps the working area clean and safe while the cooks are doing their jobs. This is the least glamorous but simplest of all the kitchen duties; if you don’t volunteer for kitchen duties at all, you will be assigned to KP.
- Sometimes, meals towards the end of the week may require perishable ingredients that cannot reasonably stay fresh without active refrigeration. That’s where couriers come in; they support chefs by bringing in fresh food later in the week. This usually involves doing shopping and pickup in Reno before heading into the playa. If you’re arriving on Wednesday or Thursday, you very well may get contacted by a chef requesting courier duty.
The Bicycle Mutation Station
This is our public offering to the Burn. The BMS is a do-it-yourself bike decoration area – “We provide the materials, you provide the genius!” It’s a popular, fun, and useful offering that lets folks customize their rides, and it’s also good for us because it’s very simple to operate.
We ask everyone to bring at least a couple of bags of art supplies (or if you’re traveling light and can’t bring supplies, make a Paypal donation to the head BMS wrangler) and put in a shift or two at BMS.
Donations: Now, we define ‘art supplies’ very loosely. Basically, if it could look cool stuck to a bike and won’t generate MOOP (Matter Out Of Place), then it works. We’ve had toys, lights, paint, tape, stickers, fabric, holiday decorations, knickknacks of all kinds, and so forth, and people never fail to surprise us with their creativity.
All decoration supplies must be MOOP-free! Items with tiny parts that might shed are an absolute no-no, even if the bits are biodegradable. For example, the number one most common type of MOOP on the playa is wood splinters. Examples of MOOP-producing supplies NOT to bring:
- No feathers or feather boas
- No fake fur of a type that sheds– if it is pre-cut and de-fluffed it can be ok (or even great!).
- Absolutely no glitter
- No beads, sequins or tiny bits of plastic
- No styrofoam
Shifts: A shift is basically four hours during the daytime. BMS opens after brunch and shuts down sometime around 5. Generally speaking, volunteering means bringing supplies out from storage (we don’t bring it all out at once), helping folks with questions, cleaning up, and making announcements. It’s hot work, but not difficult, and our guests are very appreciative. It’s a great way to meet people! (Warning: Heat! It gets hot out there in the sun on our reflective tarp. Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated!)
Other ways to help
There’s always more ways to help! We are not a “professional” camp – nobody’s being paid to do this stuff – so if there’s a skill you have or a need you see that you can fill, by all means sing out! Talk with your sponsor or send email out to the campers list. The fastest way to become Bioluminati is simply to become Bioluminati; you don’t have to wait for permission to participate.
On The Playa
You’ve arrived after a long drive. How do you find the camp? Especially if you are new to Black Rock City, finding a camp can be challenging! Fortunately we are one of the easier camps to find– if you know how to get oriented and how to read Black Rock City addresses. Black Rock City is laid out like a clock. The Man is at the center. The city streets span from 2:00 to 10:00. With one exception (that we won’t get into here) addresses in Black Rock City are given by concentric street name, starting with Esplanade closest to the man and then streets alphabetically named for A (Apparition in 2019) through K (Kahlo) and then the clock direction. Here is the full city map. This year, Bioluminati is on Enigma at about 6:15. We may not know which side of the street (toward the Man or toward the Mountains) we will be on until we get there.
It is important to remember that everything is approximate in Black Rock City and plans sometimes change. You may need to use your radical self-reliance, but in theory the route from the greeters station is as follows:
- Follow the Gate Road into the city
- Head straight up 6:00
- Turn left on Enigma
- If you get to 6:30 you have gone too far
You’ve found the camp. Now what?
Well, first thing is to check with the urban plan to see where you’re camping and where to park. There is a plan, and it should be available before you arrive, but plans never go, um, according to plan, so check to see what the situation is. We try to make sure that everyone has a space to stay under shade and that everyone will be able to depart the camp on their planned date, so this is actually pretty important. If you’re arriving at dark o’clock it’s cool to just crash out wherever, but don’t start driving stakes until you’re sure of your location.
You’ll be in Bioluminati for several days. Things to keep in mind:
We have two and a half meals a day. Brunch starts sometime in the morning, depending on when we can wake the chef. Dinner is always scheduled for sunset, unless otherwise announced; that way, you don’t need a watch to know when to head back to camp. Frequently around midnight we have midnight BBQ, so folks can fuel up and keep on Burning into the wee hours.
There’s a lot to say about the kitchen, and it’s going to get its own document. We will emphasize here the most basic responsibility towards the kitchen: keep it clean.
Nobody wants to get food poisoning! When you’re done using the kitchen for whatever purpose, whether you’re just making a snack or you’re preparing a full meal, the kitchen must be clean. It is incredibly demoralizing to have to clean the kitchen before making a meal for the whole camp, so please show this basic consideration.
Furthermore, if you have a cooler, you must check your ice and melt-water situation every day. You do not want your cooler to become filled with raw food floating in rancid water! If you’ve got a lot of water in your cooler, drain it and get fresh ice on the scene. There is at least one ice run done every day.
Lastly: when the chefs are cooking a meal, they are the absolute dictators of the kitchen. If you’re not on shift and you’re hanging out there, don’t get offended if they tell you to leave: the kitchen is a workspace at this point, not a hangout spot.
The Bicycle Mutation Station
BMS runs from Monday through Friday. Demand is really high on the first couple of days and drops off sharply as the week progresses, which makes sense; you’re only going to decorate your bike once, and you want to do that early in the week so you can identify it from all the other bikes throughout the rest of the week. The BMS public area is kept separate from the Bioluminati private area; please keep folks from wandering in unescorted or trying to go into the art supply storage area!
Oftentimes folks come by asking for repairs. We can direct them to the repair camps, and we have some very basic tools – monkey wrenches, pumps, etc – but the tools should be returned as soon as folks are finished with them. They are not public tools!
We have a new shower system and may have an honest-to-goodness tankless water heater (more likely after 2022). Keep in mind, however, that since the air is so dry in the desert you will still get cold in the smallest wind. The system blows through water pretty quickly, so if you want to take a more leisurely shower you can still use a personal solar shower bag, if you want.
Shower water is not provided by the camp. You are responsible for providing any water you wish to use for your showers. The reservoir will hold 3 gallons of water. The system is designed for “Water In = Water Out.” In other words, once your water has been consumed, you will get no more hot water until you add more water to the reservoir.
We have a trash/recycling area in front of the kitchen with many different types of receptacles for glass, aluminum, steel, etc. Please use it!
Since trash has to be hauled out, please do not let the trash barrels become over filled. No one likes cleaning up moop that has blown out of one of the cans. We have many plastic bags to hold manageable volumes of recycling.
Plan to transport your empty plastic water containers. Do not expect them to become a group responsibility.
One of the reasons we get such amazing placement in Black Rock City is that we have a spotless track record of leaving no trace going back almost 15 years. Camping can be messy. The Bike Mutation Station has the potential to create significant debris. As a camp, we are extremely careful not to let detritus hit the ground and if it does, to pick it up immediately. Avoiding MOOP (matter out of place) is serious business in Black Rock City and this is something we need to be a little OCD about. Every unwanted little bit of paper or tiny splinter of wood needs to be put in an appropriate place and taken off the playa when we leave.
We have a central bike rack area and a bike pool. You are not required to use the bike pool if you have your own bike, but we do ask that you use the bike racks.
Being a Great Camp Mate
It is important to keep in mind that Black Rock City is a land of extremes. It can be extremely hot, freezing, windy, dusty, muddy, and absofuckinglutely gorgeous. You will likely work hard, play harder, push your limits and test your boundaries– all of that before breakfast. Just wait to see what happens at night time! All this extremity can be hard on relationships: both close personal ones and new ones you may form on the playa. At any given time, you and the camp mates around you may be operating well outside their comfort zone. As such, patience and communication are of the utmost importance. In a communal group in extreme circumstances, some amount of conflict is unavoidable. If you have a difficult interaction with someone, instead of immediately reacting, take a moment to give it space and then attempt to gather information on what is really going on. People rarely intentionally do things to piss people off (especially in OUR camp). The Black Rock Rangers use a system to resolve difficult situations called FLAME. This stands for Find out, Listen, Analyze, Mediate, Explain. While we don’t expect everyone in camp to act like a Ranger at all times (even the ones who *are* Rangers), keeping these steps in mind can be a great way of minimizing the impact of conflicts. Find out what really is going on. Truly listen to everyone involved. Approach the situation with a mediator’s mind-set– or ask someone else to mediate if it is necessary. Try for closure and positive resolution by explaining to each other where you ended up.
If you have a problem with another camp mate that you feel you can’t resolve on your own, there are a few resources available to you. First, you have your camp mates. We are an awesome supportive group and can hopefully support each other in difficult circumstances. Your sponsor is likely more experienced in the ways of the Playa and may be a great resource. The Bioluminati Council guides planning and building of our experience on the playa and may have wisdom to offer. You can approach any of the council members and ask for help and they will either provide it, or suggest who would be better. Finally, the Black Rock Rangers are a volunteer organization that has had playa-specific training in conflict resolution. We have had as many as 5 camp mates who serve as Rangers in a given year.
Under the “No Drama” heading, we have the expectation of all Bioluminati members that they will make an effort to play well with others and do their best to use the available resources to resolve conflict when it arises. Only a very few times over the last 20+ years have we encountered conflicts that it was not possible to resolve using these resources. We will not tolerate harassment of any kind. If you are camping with Bioluminati, it is a requirement that you take responsibility for your actions especially if you are artificially altering your state of mind by chemical or other means. Your sponsor has vouched for you, so don’t let them, us, or yourself down.
Generally, most everyone in this camp is completely awesome and it is a perpetual orgasm to be one of the Bioluminati!
Tired, sunburned, and (hopefully) happy, it’s now time to go. But wait!
DO NOT JUST FUCK OFF AND LEAVE THINGS FOR THE EXODUST CREW.
Camp breakdown is a difficult time. People are tired, frequently sad or cranky, and want to go home – but when folks leave without taking care of their responsibilities, those responsibilities don’t just go away. Instead, they get piled onto the shoulders of a dwindling number of campers. Have mercy on these folks; they’re literally raking the dust before they leave to get up every piece of moop. Every year we get a ‘green’ rating from the Burning Man organization, which helps guarantee our awesome placement year after year. Let’s keep it going!
- Exodus. Unless you’re leaving before the Burn, please plan to assist in breaking down the camp. There are tasks that you can assist with throughout the final weekend! Ask the Exodus leader if you don’t know what to do.
- Your food. Please take it with you. There is no ‘donating to the camp’. All food belongs to someone, so if you think that folks will be interested in your unopened bag of chips, that’s great, but someone has to take personal responsibility for accepting the food, and if they accept it, it’s now their problem if nobody eats it.
- Our trash. Everyone gets to take with them at least one souvenir bag of trash! If you cannot, for some reason, take trash with you, then find someone who will take it for you. There are several convenient places to dispose of trash for a small fee along 447.
- Check lost and found. We have a lost and found box in the shade structure. Make sure you’re not leaving something behind, or else it may wind up as an art supply for next year’s BMS!
- Want to really feel the love? Join the Exodust Crew! If you’re there until Monday, you may be one of the few, the proud, the Exodust Crew. This is really hard work and it can be melancholy, but there is an undeniable satisfaction and camaraderie to be had in making sure that the land is returned to the condition we found it. If we have 8 or more members of this crew, then our yearly disappearance from the Playa can feel like magic!