BitF 2022: Genesis Sound Stage Report

Dear Community,

Here are the details of the actions that led to the shutting down of the Genesis sound stage on Saturday, September 17th, at our event, Burn in the Forest (BITF). Over the past few days, we took time to gather information directly from the individuals involved, and we are grateful for your patience. We wanted to ensure that we had a thorough understanding of what occurred, both to inform the community and to learn for the future. 

GVIAS recognizes the enormous efforts and amazing artistry that Genesis gifted to BITF participants. No one in the GVIAS organization ever wants to see a camp shut down, and many efforts were made to prevent this unfortunate result. GVIAS also recognizes the huge sense of disappointment for all participants who had eagerly anticipated a wonderful show on Saturday night. For continuity and the future of our events, participant understanding of the importance of compliance and communication with the persons responsible for safety is critical.

All GVIAS events have to follow provincial and federal safety regulations, as well as contractual and insurance obligations. BITF has an Art Safety Lead and a Certified Electrician who were responsible for ensuring that sound camp setups and electrical systems were safe and aligned with regulations, our contract, and our insurance. BITF Production (Curation, Sound Lead and DPW) communicated with all of the sound camps prior to the event to determine their needs, to help their vision become a reality, and for the purpose of producing a well-curated, safe event. 

For the first time this year, sound camps were inspected by both the Certified Electrician and the Art Safety Lead. BITF Production is committed to working with sound camps to troubleshoot and ensure all of the parameters for their safe operation are met, in the spirit of communal effort and civic responsibility. In fact, extra patience and assistance are freely given for newer stages.

We recognize that some of the communication between Production and the sound stages prior to the event was not clear. Our contract with the site had added electricity use requirements, which caused particular frustration for Genesis due to their needs, and what was available to them at their placement. To further complicate the situation, Genesis had experienced, uncertified electricians, who believed their proposals were safe and within industry standards, but our electrician was upholding a higher standard required by our contract with the site. 

During the build, several incidents occurred that were cause for concern, but the electrical issues ultimately led to the shutdown of the Genesis stage. The electrician (also a burner!) hired by GVIAS worked several additional hours solely to help Genesis. Upon arrival, Genesis was originally not given enough circuits to fully operate their sound stage and peripherals. They were also placed in a unique spot without a prefabricated power box, which made their setup and finding solutions, more complicated.

Multiple detailed conversations occurred between Genesis, the electrician, and the DPW Producer about how to remedy the situation. While Genesis offered several solutions which they saw as feasible, our electrician deemed them all unsafe and became more skeptical of a suitable, safe resolution as further suggestions were made. Genesis did in fact perform dangerous modifications to an electrical panel and was warned thereafter not to do any further unlicensed electrical work. The electrician also highlighted the risks involved and informed the lead that their electrical setup put GVIAS in non-compliance with safety regulations and contractual obligations and could void our insurance. 

Over time, the electrician’s trust in Genesis’ intentions to stay in compliance was slowly eroded. When he came back to inspect the electrical setup without a Genesis member present (spot checks on Friday night, then Saturday morning), he found that a different, also dangerous change had been made to the electrical setup and ultimately shut down the power for safety reasons. The Production Team and GVIAS Board were kept informed of the situation throughout and later voted unanimously to shut down the stage entirely.

To be clear, if the stage did not meet safety or contractual obligations, that would mean, someone could get seriously hurt, a fire could be started on the property, and/or GVIAS might not be able to renew its contract to have further events at the venue. Further, if the insurance was voided, GVIAS could face catastrophic financial consequences. GVIAS is ultimately financially responsible for this event and thus has the authority to assess the safety of a sound camp’s setup and take appropriate action for the benefit of the society and the community.

Post-event conversations with the parties directly involved have revealed gaps and misunderstandings in communication on site. The Genesis camp lead stated he would have appreciated a conversation with production/the board before the final decision was made. Ongoing conversations are happening, and we are taking steps toward improving processes, communication and procedures for future events.

The GVIAS Board and the Production team are listening to the community’s feedback. GVIAS has received offers of support to improve participant relations at future events; with the return of BITF, we look forward to renewed engagement and increased participation in our leadership ranks. We invite community members, who wish to help the society continue to grow, to apply for a leadership position in the coming months. We are stronger together – especially to support your vision for future creations! 

Please do not hesitate to contact us with further feedback at: [email protected]


The GVIAS Board

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We are guided by the 10 principles of Burning Man. These principles guide our interactions with one another and the environment and have a strong ethos of participation. As such, our events and the society are entirely dependent upon community participation.

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