Burning Flipside 2022 ran from Thursday, May 26 to Monday, May 30. This was the 22nd edition of Burning Flipside, after skipping 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our theme and our effigy this year carried over from 2020. The explanation of the theme, given in our 2020 Survival Guide (which was produced and mailed in mid-March 2020, right around lockdown), is as follows:
From the dusty corners of the liberal arts, Sacred and Propane is a French sociological theory-based pun on the “sacred-profane” dichotomy. By this theory, the rites and beliefs held sacred by communities are defined by their counterpoint to mundane drudgery, and the way the sacred is created and celebrated by communal action that transcends the individual.
How many of us have enjoyed spiritual experiences as a part of this community and the art and spaces we build and burn collectively? This thing we do at Flipside is special, in part, because it exists outside of the default world. And there is no way it works unless we all hold it sacred and do it together.
Math rules the universe. This year, may you be inspired to build monuments not only to the beautiful logic of sacred geometry, but also to the ephemeral, chaotic intuition of community, and the wild transcendence of fire.
Although the USA loosened some pandemic precautions in the summer of 2021, many of Flipside’s normal milestones were completely omitted or delayed.
To minimize the potential for Covid-related surprises, the ticket-request window, which is normally three weeks in January, was delayed until mid-February, and ran for only two weeks. The pause between the end of the ticket-request window and the day when requests are processed was also shortened. This left a compressed timeframe for participants to register theme camps and art projects.
In addition to working within this compressed timeframe, Flipside’s organization, which had settled into a rhythm of planning milestones throughout the year before the pandemic, worked to recover its muscle memory for event planning after two years of disuse.
Tickets & Attendance
In 2022, approximately 2300 tickets were sold and 2103 were used, for a no-show rate of 8.7%. This is higher than the last several event-years, in which it averaged about 4%. There was some number of people who opted not to go at the last minute due to positive Covid tests.
Ticket demand at the time of our ticket-request window was slightly less than 2000 tickets. The low ticket demand meant that the organization was fairly loose with additional sales afterwards. If demand bounces back next year, tickets will likely be harder to obtain outside of the normal ticket-request process.
Intense rain in the early hours of Wednesday morning right before Flipside raised concerns, but weather during the event itself was fairly mild, with afternoons getting into the mid 90s, overnight lows in the 60s, and tolerable humidity. Water was very low in the San Gabriel River. Strong winds on Sunday raised concerns about being able to burn the effigy, but there was a window during which winds were low enough for a responsible burn.
There was one ambulance transport during the event. The relatively mild weather no doubt contributed to this low number. There was one known medical transport in a privately owned vehicle.
There were no external sound complaints. There was considerable internal debate caused by a sound cart.
There were no ejections this year. As always, if you experienced or witnessed a problematic interaction, check out the Interpersonal Incident FAQ to see how the organization can respond.
There were two small unplanned fires that were quickly dealt with by the Pyropolis Fire Department.
There were two attempts at entry by unticketed people. These were both intercepted and turned away quickly.
In addition to the effigy, there were three burnable-art pieces: the Temple de Alegria, the world’s-highest effigy burn by Blue Space Virgins/PastaX, and the Wee Burn, which for the first time was a miniature representation of the effigy itself.
There were a total of 57 placed art projects on the map, and 32 registered art cars.
Although ticket money is not used to fund art projects at Burning Flipside, there have been a number of independent art-granting bodies associated with Flipside over the years, with the current one being Ignition Philter. Participants have the option of sending a contribution to Ignition Philter along with their ticket request. This year, Ignition Philter raised $6277 from these contributions, and made grants to 14 projects at Flipside.
Theme Camps & City Planning
There were 111 registered theme camps on the map, plus an unknown number of informal camps in the Badlands. Due to the reduced population, the section of the property known as “the corral” was closed this year. There was still plenty of space.
Participants leaving their cars in the event space rather than in the parking lot continued to be a problem. To discourage this, the organization tagged many cars for towing, towed four, and booted one.
Work Weekends & Site Prep
In normal years, we schedule four work weekends. This year, we scheduled five, in case the land needed more work after a long absence. It turned out that the Omicron variant surge and weather forced us to cancel the first two work weekends, but the land was still in pretty good shape, so it was ready for the event in time. A lot of new folks participated in work weekends, and they were enthusiastic about seeing the land transform for the event.
Load-in, the Saturday before Flipside when we ship all the event’s infrastructure out to the event site, had a good turnout this year.
As in 2019, we rented two trucks the day beforehand to move some of the effigy pieces to the land in advance. This helped load-in day go much more smoothly. Trucks were hard to come by on load-in day though, and some of the trucks we rented were smaller than usual—16’ rather than 26’.
Exodus went remarkably smoothly this year, with everyone who should be off-site by the official close of the event actually being off-site.
Restoration & Load-out
The Saturday post event is when we return our infrastructure to storage and conduct a last round of Leave No Trace cleanup. This consists of a crew on the land to load trucks and perform line sweeps, and a crew at the warehouse to unload trucks. There was a great turnout at the warehouse, which was able to unload each truck quickly and then wait around for the next truck to arrive. The turnout at the event site was able to load the trucks efficiently. LNT operations may have been lightly staffed, but the land seems to have been left in good shape. Work on-site wrapped up by the early afternoon.
Church Nights, Art Nights, and in-person Combustion Chamber meetings were cancelled for most of the year leading up to Flipside, resuming in early March when Austin reached “stage 2” according to Austin Public Health.
Fall Town Hall was cancelled, and Spring Town Hall, normally in early February, was delayed until late April.
As with Flipside, Safetyside was again an in-person event after a two-year hiatus during which it was held as a Zoom conference. Attendance was roughly 120 people, down somewhat from previous in-person events.
Vendors and vendor pricing were a problem in 2022 in ways they had not been before. We frequently found that major vendors had raised their prices by 60% or more. Some vendors that had been reliable sources of equipment were unable to supply all our needs due to other customers monopolizing their resources. Rented equipment was more often in poor condition. In some cases, these price increases motivated us to find new vendors, or will motivate us to do so in the future.
Perhaps surprisingly, Flipside was relatively unaffected by the dramatic rise in lumber costs, simply because much of the wood for the effigy had been bought before the pandemic.
Event insurance is always problematic but was especially so in 2022, as some major event insurers will no longer consider issuing policies to Flipside or any burn event at any price. In the end we obtained a policy at a reasonable price, but this will be a concern for future events.